MS&T Group Editor Marty Kauchak provides the US Army-focused highlights of proceedings from Day 3 of the Training & Simulation Industry Symposium 2020 Virtual Event.
Army Leadership Perspectives
MS&T has editorially been in lock-step with the US Army’s Synthetic Training Environment (armyfuturescommand.com/ste/) since program inception. Maj. Gen. Maria Gervais, the Director of the Synthetic Training Environment Cross-Functional Team, provided delegates with a brief, but wide-ranging update on the program’s quickening pace of activities.
The Orlando, Florida-based two-star general built the business case for the US Army’s training enterprise to migrate from an evolutionary to a revolutionary mindset, initially pointing out, current service training technology has numerous limitations. “We are limited in our ability to train combined arms operations because these systems were developed in a stove-pipe, proprietary manner. We have numerous terrain formats because they all use terrain differently,” she continued, and added this service technology has additional problems with concurrency, and is challenged to be designed and updated to conform with service compliance directives. And while “These systems are also facilities-based and have a high overhead and long exercise lead time,” they are also resource intensive to operate and maintain. More significant, Gervais asserted the Army cannot effectively replicate the operational environment for the future, and cannot keep up with some of the operational changes on today’s battlefield.
Enter the Synthetic Training Environment, in which a unit may train, and which Gervais said, will give back to the leaders some of the time they have spent in planning, preparing, executing and assessing training. At the end of the day STE will be “the next revolution in US Army training.”
The foundation of this training leap ahead, is the STE Information System. Gervais noted the way to think about STE IS, is it will be the Army’s revolutionary training platform. “This will be the platform on which to build Army virtual, live and next generation constructive training. The STE IS will be similar to the operating system which was fielded with the iPhone.” When the iPhone was released it had eight standard apps developed by Apple. Fast forward to today, when Gervais noted, “there are more than two million apps available.”
STE will have three baseline apps – training simulation software, training management tools and One World Terrain. In one of several opportunities for industry and academia noted during this presentation, Gervais said the Army needs help to continue to develop the STE at large and the content it will need to train.
Of importance, STE is also taking on the challenge of training soldiers in multi-domain operations (MDOs). Gervais further emphasized, it is imperative that the Army develops an MDO training environment in which soldiers and their leaders may attain “sets and their reps” necessary to ensure their success of their mission. She continued, “We must also flesh out the skills which will help us to attain the highest return on our investment in the soldier as a system. Intelligent tutoring via personalized digital twins (avatars), will help train how we train our soldiers and leaders, especially in MDOs. Developing innovative personalized digital twins (avatars) techniques is another great example of where industry and academia partners can help the STE Cross Functional Team solve some very tough problems.”
“the Synthetic Training Environment … will give back to the leaders some of the time they have spent in planning, preparing, executing and assessing training”
Of no surprise to regular readers of MS&T, one of the US Army’s biggest training readiness challenges, and one for which service senior leaders have told their subordinates to accelerate solution solving efforts, is revolutionizing the live training environment, for both force-on-force, or force-on-target capabilities. Gervais established the datum point, noting the challenge will be to realistically simulate MDO training from the soldier up through brigade combat team, at home station, combat training centers or deployed locations in a live training environment. She added, “Near future live training will be a convergence of the live and synthetic family of systems that is affordable, uses emerging technology, is interactive with legacy systems, and is implemented before divestment of current systems. It will enable players in both the live and synthetic training environment to see and interact with each other.” The service training leader again emphasized this specific revolution provides another opportunity for the S&T industry, because “it is overdue time to change a 1970s technology [MILES] which has evolved, which no longer meets our needs.”
Doing business with the STE CFT will also be revolutionary, as it migrates beyond the government paying a supplier for a product. Gervais said a true partnership is when both parties, government and industry, benefit from the technology and have both government and commercial applications. She continued, “STE is unlike most other Army and DoD programs. What the CFT is developing has direct and immediate uses in the commercial market, for example, industry and academic learning, HR management via avatars, network in 5G for distributed training, intelligent coaching, and many others.”
Another huge opportunity for industry and academia is on the horizon. The STE Technology Integration Facility, co-located with other Team Orlando commands and organizations, will enable large and small businesses to bring their research and good ideas to bear in order to help solve training challenges across the military services and federal government. Contingent on the COVID-19 pandemic, a formal/grand opening for the TIF and adjacent offices, is scheduled for the week of this 20 July.
Gervais added, “The STE TIF mission will be to serve as the STE technology integration center. It will be focused on examining capability gaps, innovating and integrating solutions from across DoD and industry, and demonstrating those solutions for exploitation by our materiel developer. Potential solutions will be brought to the STE TIF for integration, testing and assessment, using STE architecture and infrastructure.”
Ideas, software and designs to revolutionize Army training and made available for evaluation at the STE CFT TIF, may be initially submitted through the Army Futures Command’s Army Applications Laboratory portal aal.army/.
Gervais finished her briefing with a few words about the pandemic and its implications for innovation and distributed training. COVID-19 has shown the “the power of distributed operations and it is also shown the Army the potential power and the value of STE” and “has presented as an opportunity across our entire Army build on this momentum”.
Simulation Paving the Path to AI and Machine Learning
An editorial topic of increasing importance to MS&T readers is the convergence of simulation, artificial intelligence and machine learning. One outcome is the increased reliance on simulation beyond training, indeed, using the capability to help protect and defend weapons platforms and systems against increasingly agile and nimble attacks.
Matthew Schumacher, Principal at Booz Allen Hamilton, framed these developments through the prism of several warfare threats.
In one instance, he offered the imperative to protect and ensure resilience of mission critical systems (satellites and others) as attack vectors in the cyber domain evolve. Schumacher, speaking from the perspective as a member of industry and member of the Army Reserve, said simulation can be brought to bear in these scenarios, to model satellite architecture, identify vulnerabilities, harden the satellite and complete other tasks. “This is really where simulation comes into play and makes applying advanced AI models feasible, as we simulate the adversary, attack vectors and get into more sophisticated cyber defenses. Simulation enables us to be able to protect the system – satellites and other weapons systems that are in the battlespace.”
In another use case, information warfare, Schumacher called attention to US adversaries increasingly using AI to obtain advantages in the battle space. The corporate executive noted the issue is how to cease the “spectral high ground”, and deny US enemies what they are trying to do in terms of IW. “AI is providing some incredible capabilities in this area. From a simulation perspective, simulation provides the data sets used in training environments, and test beds so we can build more effective IW capabilities and adapt them on the fly – near real time.”
Marine Corps Commandant General David H. Berger has included Education & Training among the top five focus areas in his Commandant’s Planning Guidance. Of particular interest to MS&T readers, the document notes the service’s “training facilities and ranges are antiquated, [and it] lacks the necessary modern simulators to sustain training readiness,” and further asserts, “We must change the Training and Education Continuum from an industrial age model, to an information age model.” The service is putting money against these requirements. In the follow- on and enabling Marine Corps Force Design 2030 document, it was reported “Initial results yield a potential savings of $12B to be reallocated towards equipment modernization, training modernization, and force development priorities.”
The service’s 21st Century Learning method is the method to educate and train a naval expeditionary force in readiness in order to operate inside actively contested maritime spaces in support of fleet operations. Peering into the near term, a critical learning capability of note in the 21CL construct is the embryonic Marine Corps Training Environment (MCTE) – one which MS&T readers will certainly read more of as the concept matures.
Colonel Luis F. Lara, PM TRASYS, explained, “MCTE is a full complement of Marine Corps’ capabilities to plan, prepare, execute and assess training with the ability to integrate live, virtual and constructive systems across time and space to maximize individual proficiency and unit readiness, and professionalize the way we train.” The maturation of MCTE is a PM TRASYS focus area, and with good reason. Lara emphasized, “MCTE is the pinnacle of the Marine learning cycle. It is where Marine units comprised of creative and proficient Marines experience the realistic challenges to improve upon operational readiness.”
[Editor’s note: briefing slides from all Day 3 TSIS presentations, in particular those with detailed service contract content, will be posted on the NTSA web site www.trainingsystems.org/events/2020/6/16/01t0]