One of the most significant US Navy training projects in development is Carrier-Advanced Reconfigurable Training Systems (C-ARTS). The project is designed to immerse the crews of this sea service’s carriers into next generation learning experiences. Group editor Marty Kauchak reports.

Expandable, Mobile and Reconfigurable

C-ARTS’ genesis took shape following I/ITSEC 2016 and subsequent discussions. The project’s initial, major milestone was the award of a contract to Cape Henry Associates, Inc. (CHA) by US Navy PMS 378 (PEO Carriers New Acquisition Program) for the construction, outfitting and operations of C-ARTS units to support USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78)-class training requirements associated with Contractor Furnished Equipment (CFE) systems. Neal Jefferis, C-ARTS Operations Manager, and a CHA employee supporting the CVN 78-class training efforts, recalled this early effort was led by Mr. Kelly Schneider, the PMS 378 Manpower Personnel and Training Manager. He continued, “With over 30 new systems and with throughput projects limited during the earlier years of the CVN 78-class’ service life, the decision to mandate a reconfigurable training system approach to providing training when and as required was a critical component. The result was the 53-ft [16m]-long, expandable, mobile and reconfigurable training unit called C-ARTS.”

Early on, the Navy’s requirements included the forward-looking decision to address the learning modalities of today’s sailors. Jefferis explained this strategy included making the C-ARTS units technologically advanced with a Learning Management System (LMS) capable of working with eXtended Reality (XR) technologies (Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), Mixed Reality (MR)), video, adaptive manufacturing (3-D manufacturing) and similar technologies increasingly used in training systems today [see accompanying MS&T 3/2020 article “New Realities for US Navy Training”]. As significant, beyond this technology mix, “it was also an intentional design concept from the government customers that training would always be instructor-led even as various computer technologies were used to enrich the learning experience.”

C-ARTS was established as a two-unit pair, an advanced Electronic Classroom and a Maintenance Laboratory. The C-ARTS Operations Manager explained, “This enables the students to perform a variety of skills-related tasks using actual equipment and or training enhancements or augmentations leveraging the XR, video and adaptive manufacturing technologies,” and emphasized, “The combination of the Electronic and Maintenance Laboratory pairs of units with the instructor-led training and the technology applications, provides the CVN 78-class sailors a robust and dynamic blended training approach supporting the variety of learning modalities of today’s sailors.”

A number of companies and government resources worked with PMS 378 and CHA. These included Huntington Ingalls Industries’ Newport News Shipyard (HII-NNS) and Technical Services Division’ Fleet Support Group (HII-FSG), CACI, the Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems Division (NAWCTSD) and the Naval Information Warfare Center (NIWC). Jefferis further noted, each organization has contributed to the overall robust, technically advanced curriculum of the C-ARTS Courses and technologies.

Advances in Capability, Affordability & Application

As the C-ARTS technologies become more mature and affordable, the Instructional System Designers (ISDs) who author the Curriculum Content are learning about the possibilities to innovate. The C-ARTS Operations Manager pointed out that at the same time that “Finding and purchasing the appropriate software and hardware for the training task and then finding as many reasonable uses for those software and hardware applications are critical to being fiscally responsible”. Continuing, he told us “A small paradox occurs where the ISDs are not ready to commit to the use of a software or hardware that is not already acquired and validated in its applications. However, the … shorter and less expensive developmental process continues to expand the opportunity to make the decision to buy and apply them in new efforts.”

C-ARTS Expansion

Additional C-ARTS units are expected to be procured to support CVN 78-class ships; the Pre-Commissioning Unit John F Kennedy (CVN 79); and the future USS Enterprise (CVN 80) and USS Doris Miller (CVN 81). The industry manager concluded, “As these ships are added to the fleet over the next decade, the need to retain and expand the flexible, advanced and reconfigurable Training System that is C-ARTS will remain. The technology within C-ARTS will be updated as similar technology advances and is updated in other government and industry applications, but the C-ARTS units themselves are designed to accommodate such changes.”