Unlocking AI’s Potential for Military Maintenance Training

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Almost daily there is a policy or strategy pronouncement from the Pentagon on its way forward to integrate artificial intelligence into its broad enterprise, covering its bases from intelligence to logistics to learning (training and education) and beyond. Indeed as this article was being prepared, the US Air Force noted an effort to develop AI for language translation and localization.

This article is the start of a series of updates on efforts by military organizations and their industry partners around the globe to use AI across their defense learning portfolios. In this first piece, we’ll examine two developments in maintenance training programs.

Two Industry Insights

AI’s potential to upend military learning models is significant. While large numbers of students may be served across the defense learning enterprise, envisioned ROIs from using AI-enabled learning content continue to expand.

Yet, to manage expectations, while leaders from the Pentagon “E Ring” down to units and staffs in the field are focused on AI, service-industry teams are proceeding in a measured, deliberate, forward-leaning manner to embrace this learning enabler. Among the largely unresolved challenges facing AI adopters and advocates are security, ethics, privacy and AI-based instructional design – for starters.

The F-35’s underpinning maintenance training system utilizes a hybrid curriculum, one that advances students through classroom, online and hands-on training to build the initial skills to support the F-35 fleet. Erik “Rock” Etz, Director, Strategy and Business Development for F-35 Training and Logistics at Lockheed Martin, added a bit of context to the program’s student population, reflecting on the number of national partners (eight) and foreign military sales customers (10). “To date, our current approach has produced 16,065+ F-35 maintainers across 10 nations.”

Etz then pointed out his team looks “forward to introducing improvements and optimizations that AI will bring,” and outlined several expectations from investments in AI for learning. “In military training, AI is a tool that can provide real-time feedback for instructors and students to understand students’ retention of the curriculum and help them advance through the training system.” The executive added, within training and logistics solutions at Lockheed Martin, the OEM is also exploring ways to use AI to solve complex, multi-variable challenges in pilot, land and maritime training. “For F-35 maintenance training, we can repurpose lessons learned and technology developed for these purposes to advance the training system.”

The core technology used in the F-35 Aircraft Systems Maintenance Trainer is developed by Lockheed Martin and continues to evolve with user feedback and technological upgrades.

Remaining in the aviation maintenance sector, Andres “Dre” Fournier, Vice President of Growth at HTX Labs, told MS&T the demand for generative AI integration into its EMPACT platform continues to rise, particularly for military maintenance training. To point, the learning community expert noted HTX Labs has developed a prototype of the EMPACT AI Assistant, designed to interact with weapons platform like the B-52 bomber, T-6, and C-130J.

“Our approach involves training the AI model using the most up-to-date technical orders by integrating EMPACT with the Air Force's Enhanced Technical Information Management System (ETIMS). This integration aims to provide students with an ‘AI copilot’ to assist them throughout their training,” Fournier said.

As significant, HTX Labs has also explored AI-driven assessments to reinforce procedural-based training and is considering incorporating AI into competency-based training. Fournier emphasized while these capabilities are still in the prototype phase and have not yet been productized, “we are actively developing them in collaboration with our largest customer, the US Air Force.” The corporate vice president concluded, “Significant iteration and development are needed before these features can be fully integrated into our platform, but we are committed to advancing these technologies to enhance military training.”

Looking for Your Feedback and Insights

The author looks forward to posting periodic updates on the military-industry team’s use of AI across their training and education portfolios.

Community members with suggestions and ideas on the topic may contact the author at marty.kauchak@halldale.com

The demand for generative AI integration into HTX Labs' EMPACT platform reportedly continues to rise, particularly for military maintenance training. In one case, HTX Labs has developed a prototype of the EMPACT AI Assistant, designed to interact with weapons platform like the T-6 (above screen capture).

Source: HTX Labs

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