MS&T's Senior Correspondent Walter F. Ullrich interviewed Colonel Wolfgang Kralicek, Head of the Simulation & Training Equipment Section of the Austrian Ministry of Defence about the state of simulation and training in the Austrian Armed Forces. Colonel Kralicek was co-chair of NATO’s MSG Symposium held at the National Defence Academy, Vienna.

MS&T: Colonel, in October 2019, the NMSG met for the first time in Austria. Apart from the extra work, what added value did the conference provide for your area of responsibility?

Colonel Kralicek: It was a pleasure and honour to host the Business Meeting and the Symposium. I am proud that we had nearly 80 participants in the BM and about 120 attendants at the Symposium. I have represented Austria in the NMSG for 10 years, and I cannot remember this high level of participants.

The Business meeting and the Symposium in Austria meant that Austrian Armed Forces could participate with more people than usual, without travelling costs. Nearly all countries are facing the same challenges and are searching for possible solutions in quicker development times.

MS&T: In which other multinational or bilateral training and simulation activities are the Austrian Armed Forces engaged?

Colonel Kralicek: Besides NATO, Austrian Armed Forces are engaged in EU multinational training and simulation for example in the tactical helicopter training of European Defence Agency.

However, most of our international engagement in simulation activities is bilateral or trilateral. The cooperation reaches over all classes of simulation. For instance, we train:

  • Our pilots in Germany, USA, Sweden, Czech Republic and Italy using their flight simulators.
  • Our commanders and staffs in Germany, Switzerland and Czech Republic on their constructive and virtual simulators.

Our Mobile Combat Training Centre (MCTC) for live simulation is interoperable with the German Training Centre (GÜZ) in ALTMARK and other MCTCs, such as that of the Netherlands. That allows us to connect our live simulation systems and train together or undergo a certification for a mission.  For international partners participating in field exercises in Austria, we have additional simulation equipment available, which we can install on their weapon systems.

MS&T: Could you briefly outline the mission of your section?

Colonel Kralicek: My section is responsible for planning all land and air simulators, simulation systems and training equipment used in training, mission preparation and mission, and partly in research and development. We are also responsible for using the systems correctly, effectively and efficiently.

MS&T: What are currently the most important programmes in your area of responsibility?

Colonel Kralicek: Concerning live simulation, we are to finish the extension of our infantry systems and the midlife update of our Exercise Control System under a contract with Saab. We are also establishing a convenient instrumented urban training centre.

The main project in virtual simulation is to enhance the capacity of our Combined Arms Tactical Trainer. We are in the process of integrating NBC Defence, Logistics and Communication Simulations. Other smaller projects are seeking a helicopter simulator for rental, and a flight training device for the Diamond DA40 aircraft.

Our constructive simulation system “GESI” is used as often as possible. To train regional commands in their garrisons we are exploring the use of Wi-Fi to enhance flexibility.

MS&T: What projects will the Austrian Armed Forces (AAF) be addressing in the coming years; where will priorities be set?

Colonel Kralicek: AAF has a huge investment backlog but I hope for investments in digitalization, cyber defence, drones and helicopters. Investments in simulation will be influenced by this situation.

MS&T: But if the AAF do not receive more money, is it not a solution to reduce costs by using more simulation?

Colonel Kralicek: We do develop our simulation to reduce the costs of field exercises, live flight hours or travelling, although there are limits such as the minimum live flight hours for pilots. Decision makers are now more aware that modelling and simulation (M&S) is essential for effective and efficient training of commanders and staffs. We will work hard to provide the best support for training, mission preparation, operations, and R&D through the use of M&S.

Austria in a Nutshell

The Republic of Austria is a Federal State in Central Europe with nearly 9m inhabitants. In 2018, military expenditure came to around 2.9 billion euros, or 0.7 percent of the GDP. The armed forces consist of about 14,000 soldiers, 8,000 civilian employees and 25,000 militia soldiers, some 47,000 in total.

Austria is a permanently neutral state. However, the nation’s neutrality was narrowed in 1995 by joining both the European Union (EU) and NATO's Partnership for Peace.

Austria’s military is engaged in peacekeeping and humanitarian missions in UN peace missions in Lebanon, NATO forces in Kosovo, and the EU Mission in Kosovo.