NTSA President RAdm (ret.) Jim Robb is interviewed by Halldale Group Editor Marty Kauchak in the run up 2022 I/ITSEC. 

With the Covid pandemic mostly in the “rear view mirror”, other high- and low-level economic, political and related developments continue to challenge the S&T industry. Of little surprise, NTSA president Jim Robb noted his concerns at the macro level are led by an awareness and the ability of the US to counter what is clearly a “total war approach” by Russia and China to replace the US as the global leader. The association leader noted his three top concerns at the lower, “operational” level are: the effects of inflation on government spending power, the lack of continuity in supply chain as magnified by new policies emphasizing returning critical supply chains back to America, and the community’s ability to develop and field relevant capabilities in a timely manner. 

Training Readiness Expectations

Focusing on what training readiness capabilities he expects I/ITSEC presenters and exhibitors to offer to meet these challenges, Robb responded that the importance of training to all fighting forces has been demonstrated by the superiority of a much smaller Ukraine armed force against a much larger Russian adversary. “Ukraine is better trained, better connected and is using western armaments, many of which have been developed and fielded in the last decade,” he pointed out, and added “kamikaze drones are an example.” 

Noting we are also seeing the effects of precision and a great battlefield awareness of the enemy’s position due to widespread availability of shared intelligence and commercial satellite imagery, Robb further noted, “You see the Ukrainians taking western equipment and employing them in very short times, many times training as they fight.” Of significance, the NTSA leader emphasized this year’s I/ITSEC will highlight the evolving strategies of warfare and the unique training capabilities that allow not only quick adaptation of new technologies but the use of virtual environments that allow soldiers to do repetitive training utilizing XR technologies. “We also see the power of next-generation communications, imagery, confidence-building activities and a will to die for your country. I/ITSEC will also showcase the ‘Metaverse,’ which is the confluence of Internet 3.0, digital twins, and 5G speed.”

Fielding Enabling Technologies

The association leader is clearly in-tune to the US DoD enterprise continuing to compress the acquisition timeline – in order to receive its systems, equipment and other content faster. Indeed, he also revealed the speed of assimilation of new technologies inside government is one of his greatest challenges as president of NTSA. “Over my tenure, we have championed Live, Virtual and Constructive solutions, Big Data and Analytics, Artificial Intelligence, XR technologies, and the need to transform training and education.” 

To further address this need, Retired RADM Robb created the “Next Big Thing” committee as a new structure within the I/ITSEC framework to bring together the best minds to discuss what technologies we need to focus on and highlight at the show. “Last year we drilled down on XR technologies and began a community-wide discussion of the Metaverse. We had an entirely separate track within the show dedicated to these dynamic capabilities and education and debate on their use in military training. This year we will have invited very high-level military and civilian leaders to help us understand the military metaverse.” 

The NTSA president also emphasized conference attendees will see the latest in VR/AR technologies, state-of-the-art simulations, many of which are integrating AI into their offerings, a second year of the cyber pavilion and much emphasis on digital twins and digital transformation. “Our ‘I/ITSEC-verse’ demo will show the power of a 3D internet, 5G wireless and powerful enabling software. We have a wide variety of medical simulation applications being demonstrated. The conference is extremely rich in serious games and wargaming, synthetic training environments, and training for space warfighting, something new to the conference.”

Forecasting Record-Breaking Conference

“I/ITSEC 2022 is on track to break records,” Robb declared. While NTSA sold out the show floor by September, “Registration is also ahead of last year by 50 percent and is on track for us to host over 17,000 this year in Orlando.” As for the list of high-ranking and senior industry leaders expected at this event, NTSA reported it has “43 all-star special events that include the head of the Space Force, the Air Force Vice Chief and senior leaders from Office of the Secretary of Defense, Department of Homeland Security and NATO. “It has become clear that the training and simulation community has a critical mission and is capable of doing agile development and acquisition, making I/ITSEC a place where technology, talent and tenacity come together, push our capabilities and skills to the next level and ‘accelerate change’,” he concluded.

Exhibitor Quick Looks

Here's a sampling of what’s in store on the I/ITSEC exhibition floor. 

Immersive Display Solutions, Inc. (IDSI) (booths #1087/#1768) will show seven different display technologies, “the most we have ever presented at an I/ITSEC,” George Forbes Jr., the company’s CEO noted. The executive continued, “Our exhibit will include solid-state (4K) projectors with both front- and rear-projected displays, including a hard-shell dome, a rear-projected faceted acrylic flat screen, a reverse-pressure fabric transportable dome, a direct-view LED display, an augmented-reality head-mounted display (HMD) coupled with a green-screen display, as well as a new ‘synthetic monocular depth display.’” 

In addition, the company is supporting Bohemia Interactive with IDSI’s trailer-based Mobile/Joint Fires Trainer system. The trailer is a self-contained mobile classroom inclusive of an IDSI VisionStation3 dome visual display. Additionally, IDSI’s ecosystem is expanding with more than 15 industry leaders on its partnering roster. On the hardware side, IDSI’s longstanding projector partners (Barco, Canon, Digital Projection, and Norxe) will all be represented. On the software side, IDSI will exhibit IG partners Aechelon, Battlespace Simulation Inc. (BSI), Bohemia Interactive, CATI and Wartsila. 

As a lead-in to Red 6’s focus at the conference (booth #1213), CEO Daniel Robinson asserted that with even more dramatic drops to pilot production capacity, now 1,650 pilots short, “the pilot training paradigm has failed to keep pace with innovative learning technologies resulting in an insufficient number of experienced pilots in fleet squadrons.” Accordingly, the Red 6 Platform, ATARS (Airborne Tactical Augmented Reality System) + CARBON (Common Augmented Reality Battlespace Operational Network) + Augmented Reality Command and Analytic Data Environment (ARCADE) introduces a dedicated synthetic adversary training resource. Robinson explained, “This will provide better training outcomes with fewer instructor pilots, fewer aircraft, resulting in decreased maintenance needs and significant operational expenses. We can now rapidly increase the production output of new combat aviators, while simultaneously achieving compelling financial and environmental offsets across the DoD.” 

The company will also be showcasing the 4.0 version of the ATARS AR-enabled helmet as well as the latest integrations and partnerships. The CEO told MS&T that ATARS enables the most realistic training during all stages of a pilot’s career, from initial flight, through to advanced tactical training of large groups of air combat forces. “The Red 6 AR headset EVE 4.0 will deliver the widest field-of-view lens in the industry. With 160 degrees diagonal FOV it’s 110 degrees wider than the HoloLens 2 and 95 degrees wider than the Magic Leap 2.” 

Epic Games/Unreal Engine’s event page “will be evolving every week towards the event as we release user spotlights showing details about key simulation players using Unreal Engine at the core of their solutions,” Sébastien Lozé told MS&T. Lozé is UE Business Director, Simulation. Epic Games will be exhibiting at booth #1815.

“Our team will illustrate how Unreal Engine is transforming the simulation industry through innovative real-time solutions by presenting several live demonstrations of simulation solutions,” said Lozé. “Simulation has always faced challenges with scalability and interoperability. We’ll be showing a variety of interactive solutions, including co-simulation with high-fidelity, multibody dynamics and spatial and cloud distribution. In addition, non-visible spectrum solutions for IR and NVG will be showcased for the first time at I/ITSEC.”

“The Antoinette Project, which we will demonstrate in our booth, is a comprehensive set of resources that supports the creation of the next generation of flight simulators,” he added.

Saab. “At Saab, we believe that the most realistic training, coupled with immediate feedback and detailed evaluation, is the best way to prepare for any mission. That’s why we put the individual at the centre of our training operations, and build the systems around them,” stated Magnus Palmér, Senior Communications Manager.

Experience is key, he explained. “By exposing trainees to realistic and varied training situations, you are building that experience, allowing them to use it to make the right decisions at the right time.”

At I/ITSEC 2022 (booth #1238), Saab will be showcasing a wide range of live, virtual and blended solutions to support hi-fidelity training. Demonstrations will include developments in Live Training solutions including EXCON, Vehicle Systems, Soldier Systems, Anti-tank weapon simulators, Indirect Fire solutions as well as Operators/Controller Toolbox in addition to UAV Concept Simulator. The products on display will also include the latest generation Virtual Ground Combat Indoor Trainer. 


Saab's new Ground Combat Indoor Trainer for the Carl-Gustaf M4. Image credit: Saab.

Eduworks’ COO, Dr. Benjamin Bell, told MS&T they will be showcasing (booth #2434) its advanced capabilities for capturing human performance data and calculating impact on readiness. The Talent Cascade platform is built on their open source Competency and Skills System (CaSS), a proven framework for enhancing training through data that is being validated in programs for the US Army, US Navy, US Air Force, National Science Foundation, and in the airline industry.

Eduworks is also announcing at I/ITSEC a new program in partnership with AFRL and sponsored by AFWERX, to demonstrate their CaSS working with metrics derived in a Pilot Training Transformation environment. This project, called CHECK-SIX, builds on previous work under the OMEGA project.

MVRsimulation (booth #1187) will be demonstrating its Deployable Joint Fires Trainer (DJFT) and Part Task Mission Trainer (PTMT) simulators. Integrated with the Varjo XR-3 mixed-reality headset, MVRsimulation’s new-generation DJFT supports datalink messaging to execute Link 16 and VMF Digitally Aided Close Air Support (DACAS) in accordance with current joint tactics, techniques, and procedures. This mixed-reality system is designed to provide a quick-deploy capability for Joint Terminal Attack Controllers (JTACs) and Forward Observers (FOs) to train alongside fixed-wing, rotary-wing and RPAS aircrew within a fully immersive, joint training environment. The DJFT has been integrated with battlefield targeting and communication hardware and software, including the Android Tactical Awareness Kit (ATAK) and its equivalent for the windows operating system, WinTAK. 

At I/ITSEC, visitors to the MVRsimulation booth will be able to experience mixed-reality DJFT and PTMT training scenarios within a virtual, geospecific world created by MVRsimulation’s VRSG, with 3D models and culture. 

Norxe (booth #2314) is continuing developing projectors dedicated for the S&T market, pioneering the use of HLD in simulation with their P1 products, and now developing and innovate further with NXL illumination and Native 4K resolution.

Espen A. Olsen, Co-Founder and Vice President Global Sales, told MS&T, “We launched the P50 earlier this year, and the Native 4K resolution combined with high frame rate (240HZ at full resolution) has already proven itself as a very appealing product for a variety of simulation applications. Norxe has, together with partners AMST, managed to deploy P50 High-G in Motion Systems rated up to 15G Motion.”

At I/ITSEC, Norxe will focus on their Native 4K projectors. The P50 Native 4K will be displayed together with the P50 n-shifted 6K version. P50 has the Full Native 4K DMD with a pixel count of 4096x2176 and 4K resolution up to a stunning 240Hz.

“We will also show the bigger brother: P60,” said Olsen. Native 4K – 5000 RGB Ansi Lumen.

The new Norxe Unify electronics platform is designed to support both high-resolution and high-speed image processing simultaneously. It has the power to process 4K, 6K and 8K content and comes with a powerful embedded warp and blend engine. 

CAE USA does not plan any major product launches this year, but is featuring a demonstration of their SCARS (Simulator Common Architecture Requirements and Standards), for which they lead the development for the USAF. SCARS is designed to provide the Air Force an Enterprise Solution that implements use of a common, cyber-resilient infrastructure specifically designed to support the Joint Synthetic Environment and Distributed Mission Operations training across all Air Force major weapons systems.

Brightline Interactive (booth #1332) will demonstrate the Multi-Verse Training Environment (MVTE), an end-to-end immersive solution that leverages innovative technologies to collapse space and time, and deliver context and content simultaneously thus providing for faster and more effective training.

Andy Kasinski of Brightline’s Strategic Immersive Solutions, said the MVTE technologies allow non-technical instructors, users, and decision makers to have full control and create custom training scenarios for multiplayer simulations and to deploy those scenarios to multiple users connected to a 5G AT&T network. 

In the demo simulation, two of the users will be operating ground-based vehicles via the NOVA simulators and one other user will leverage mixed reality (Varjo XR-3) to interact with the immersive environment with instructor-led live controls (e.g., this user can evaluate the simulation from multiple perspectives in full immersive and can trigger distractions in the environment). A fourth individual will showcase the ability to author scenarios on a laptop and display some of the interface functions from the live editor control build through NVIDIA’s Omniverse.