MS&T Group Editor Marty Kauchak trekked to their close-by workstations and attended the Training & Simulation Industry Symposium 2020 Virtual Event. Day 1 highlights follow.
Margaret Merkle, PM at the Innovation Cell, Simulators Division, Agile Combat Support, AFLCMS/WNS, updated delegates on her recently established group’s activities. The S&T experts in this cell are bringing to bear their research efforts in a number of technologies to help advance to a new generation of simulators, referred to as the Lightweight Simulator Ecosystem. Merkle explained the simulator initiative seeks to take commodity hardware and software, similar to the content used in the Air Force’s Pilot Training Next project, and build a lightweight simulator.
“These are modular systems, that can have components that can be exchanged, so, if technology in the industry changes to use different headsets or different software, these modular sims can adapt to those new technologies,” she added. Further, the new simulator construct also seeks to reuse components, building the 3-D models and visuals the aircraft requires, and being able to reuse them for additional simulation projects and lesson plans.
The Lightweight Simulator Ecosystem is also envisioned to be built on a service-based architecture, where the managers will be able to share back-end services for components, such as terrain, weather and threat entities, allowing them to come in as software components integrated into the system. The cell also envisions to share back-end services for cyber security, authentication and data management. Merkle continued, “This is so we can build these lightweight simulator systems as individual applications in a larger ecosystem, and every system does not have to build its own technology stack and deployment stack.” The cell’s roadmap additionally calls for merging other best-of-breed strengths from the gaming and simulation industries.
Business development teams, take further note! US-based small businesses will have another opportunity to raise awareness and educate US Air Force S&T experts about their technologies and competencies during the 2-3 December Simulators Division Pitch Day at I/ITSEC 2020. And yes, the possibility of a live I/ITSEC event was advanced by NTSA President Jim Robb during his TSIS Day kick-off comments.
Pitch Day takes advantage of the Small Business Innovation Research program, but specifically targets S&T projects. Ms. Merkle explained the Pitch Day concept, “is an attempt to engage the Air Force Simulators Division’s research and development dollars under the SBIR program, to move at a much quicker pace than the existing SBIR process has – we’ve compressed [SBIR] Phases I and II into an approximate 12-month prototype event. And then we move into Phase III much quicker.”
Technologies of interest to the Pitch Day organizers are expected to migrate as underpinning capabilities to the overarching Lightweight Simulator Ecosystem initiative. Of significance, the list of baseline capabilities includes: VR/AR/MR/XR; gaming technology and gamification; multi-player/aircraft/role environment; realistic, physics-based effects; advanced synthetic entities; secure COTS hardware and software for cyber purposes; remote training instruction; cloud computing capabilities for storage, computing power and distribution applications; and AI and data analytics.
Perspective Pitch Day participants are encouraged to monitor the Air Force SBIR STRR website www.afsbirsttr.af.mil/ to remain current about program milestones and deadlines approaching this summer and Fall.
Other USAF S&T Programs
Colonel John Kurian, Senior Materiel Leader, Chief - Simulators Division, Agile Combat Support, AFLCMC/WNS, spoke to the delegates from a position of supporting 2,383-plus training devices across 64 programs. Kurian pointed out his office further has responsibility for two lines of effort in the service’s overarching Operational Training Infrastructure 2035 Flight Plan, which describes the Air Force’s vision for a realistic and integrated operational training environment and incorporates the desirable characteristics of a comprehensive strategy. “One is the synthetic-to-live capability through our Live, Virtual, Constructive program. The other is through the common architecture line of effort better known as the SCARS [Simulator Common Architecture Requirements and Standards] program.”
Kurian then pointed out challenges his division is attempting to solve, and more significant, needs industry’s help to succeed. At the top of the colonel’s list was more fully integrating 4th- and 5th generation platforms into training. “We need to figure out some of the common cross-domain solutions and the multi-level security-type solutions. We also need common threat environments, weather models, terrain, and determine how do we tackle obsolescence, and how do we include our coalition partners in this environment.” Beyond these broad challenges were some specific opportunities for industry, most of which are familiar to MS&T readers – in SCARS as well as LVC. The division chief continued, “I also want to emphasize model-based engineering, and I would include digital engineering as part of that digital mix. You will see a lot of our upcoming simulator contracts put a lot of emphasis in those two particular areas.”
Lt. Col. Ricardo Jaime, Material Leader, Operational Training Infrastructure, Simulators Division, Agile Combat Support, AFLCMS/WNS noted his office was on the cusp of a major award – to a new prime contractor for SCARS. “We have been working hard to get as many platforms, training systems and networks, and training sites to be ready to integrate with SCARS. We’re also adding training systems outside the WNS portfolio under the SCARS umbrella, such as the F-22.”
SCARS increment 1 will begin once a prime contractor is onboard, with the roll out of common infrastructure and other materiel across the sites, and other activities. The division’s work in LVC includes support of a service-wide study on the feasibility of integrating the capability on F-35As. US Air Force F-35A Initial Operational Capability was declared in 2016. The service’s vision for expanding Distributed Mission Operations includes integrating the new KC-46A, and additional C-17s and KC-135s. Of interest, the first KC-46A was delivered to McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas on 25 Jan. 2019. The aircraft is undergoing operational test and evaluation on the way to IOC – with the date not specified on the service’s KC-46 fact sheet.
[Editor’s note: Briefing slides from all TSIS presentations, in particular those with detailed service contract content, will be posted on the NTSA web site www.trainingsystems.org/]