Evolution, the incremental maturing of forward-learning technologies, and the expansion of portfolios into adjacent high-risk training sectors were evident during visits with companies, their defense customers and other stakeholders on Day 1.    

M&S Caucus: China, Semiconductors and More

The opening Congressional M&S Caucus Special Event allowed caucus members the opportunity to share several “inside the Washington DC Beltway” perspectives with an overflow audience, consisting primarily of industry members. 

A loss to the US M&S community will occur when Rep. Stephanie Murphy (Florida 7th District, Democrat) retires at the end of this Congressional session. Murphy has been a simulation and training community proponent during her three terms in the US House and before that an unbiased, truly professional House staff member. 

The Orlando-area representative built the urgent case for bipartisan cooperation to meet the expanding threat and competition posed by China. The Biden administration was noted to have two concurrent policy efforts in motion that are of importance to the M&S community – “keep away” and “run faster.” In the former strategy, selective industrial policy expansion and export controls are among the efforts in place to allow the US to retain or earn technical dominance in semiconductors, artificial intelligence, supercomputing and other technology thrusts. “Run faster also means investment in people – increasing R&D budgets and such,” Murphy added.

Rep. Jack Bergman (Michigan 1st District, Republican), focused on the private sector, small companies in particular, when he first noted that the role of a good bureaucracy – government – is to create a level playing field for industry: ensure markets are in place; industries can be profitable and such. Turning to the S&T industry he challenged companies to look at cycles, to learn to improve on and move beyond mistakes. “And sometimes we need to work together. My question for you is who will be the first company to design AI with a moral code?”

Small business was also on the mind of Orlando-area Rep. Darren Soto (Florida 9th District, Democrat), who focused in one instance, on the dearth of workers in the M&S and adjacent technology sectors due to US immigration policy shortfalls. “We need to increase the labor pool. This is hurting small business. We need more high-skill visas to allow more qualified workers to enter the US,” he asserted.”

The fiscal year 2023 US DoD budget remains in conference with the prospects for a new National Defense Authorization Act being signed by President Biden anytime soon remaining uncertain. The caucus members mentioned a number of scenarios that would adversely impact the M&S industry if the budget is not soon delivered to the president for signature. Some of the possible unpalatable outcomes include operating on a continuing resolution (from FY2022) and even writing a “clean sheet” FY 2023 NDAA – forced by the Republican takeover of the US House at the start of the 118th Congress this January.

Exhibition Floor Snapshots

Evolution and not revolution was the impression after a survey of the exhibition hall floor and initial discussions with exhibitors. That is not meant to dismiss the array of new products and systems on display for delegates to view and place “hands on.” At the same time, industry is also expanding their offerings with forward technology enablers and eyeing opportunities in adjacent high-risk training markets.

Norxe is pushing its technology envelope with ever more capable and efficient, projectors and underlying electronic components. On the “new” side of the product lineup, the Norwegian firm was showcasing its P60 for community comments and feedback this week. Kjell Oslen, CEO, opined the new product would most likely be available for delivery “at the start of 2024.” 

Norxe is also bolstering its legacy products – attempting to meet the more rigorous requirements of defense, commercial aviation and adjacent sector operators and training enterprises. In one case, the executive pointed to his legacy P50, introduced this May, of having an illumination LT (designed maintenance free) rating of greater than 100,000 hours. 

MS&T and its companion publication CAT are monitoring the fast-paced developments in the advanced air mobility sector. Enter ZedaSoft’s Mockingbird Drone Software. Fred Fleury, the firm’s Vice President - Corporate Development, first noted the reconfigurable, networkable product allows the operator and training enterprise to simulate UASs/RPAs, from the Bayraktar UAV in service in the Ukraine-Russian War to more capable, higher-order US Air Force air vehicles, and ground control stations, including pilot and sensor operator interfaces. 

The rigor Mockingbird brings to training was demonstrated at the corporate booth during a “buddy lase” scenario. In the fire mission, one platform lased a prospective land target, and handed off the picture to an airborne AH-64. The fire mission could also have been completed by an artillery battery or other weapon. 

ZedaSoft is also allowing the commercial UAS market to step up its R&D pace by using Mockingbird. The company is collaborating with Texas A&M (Corpus Christi)’s Lone Star UAS Center of Excellence and Innovation to, in one instance, expand operations – Beyond-Visual-Line of Sight Operations. The center is a designated FAA test site for advancing UAS technology underpinnings.

One of the more intriguing stables of emerging technologies in a corporate toolkit was evident at C2 Technologies. In one case, the company uses AR and VR for US Air Force Maintenance Next Training. C2 is also using digital twins in various programs, and 5G, AI and AR in a Pentagon smart warehouse use case. Dolly Oberoi, CEO, explained the demanding warehouse scenarios include loading, unloading and inventorying, among other tasks.