DSET 2024 – A Unique Event for the S&T Community

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DSET-2024

DSET 2024

Uncompromising

Military training is a diverse endeavour and whatever technology brings to bear it is still very much led, designed, delivered and evaluated by people. Apart from the wider social dimension, it is right then that DSET’s organisers Ruddy Nice took an uncompromising approach to diversity and inclusion for its speakers and themes making it a truly unique event in the MS&T calendar.  DSET 2024 was truly diverse and inclusive, from its varied themes, gender balance, young and less young, different perspectives and themes, military and industry/academia, and online accessibility. This recipe encouraged a very much open forum atmosphere, and it was evident that the Ruddy Nice team worked hard to make the whole event a personal and family affair; their enthusiasm for the task was infectious. The emphasis on Serious Games and Wargaming, the involvement of the younger generation and alignment with charitable causes is also noteworthy and sets DSET apart.

DSET Grows

The value of shows is not just about numbers, but they do indicate the demand for such events.  Also, a good indication is the trajectory and yet again DSET is growing, indeed speaking to the keynote audience Tess Butler Ruddy Nice’s CEO said that: “we have grown enormously over the last three years.”  MS&T were told that there were 1,700+ visitors across the week from 44 countries with 150+ speakers and a total of 82 exhibitors and sponsors. This depth and breadth helped facilitate new personal connections and strengthen existing ones and Butler continued: "we want to give you an environment to create connections, collaborate and actually action it.”

What are the Training Challenges?

In no criticism of Ruddy Nice, one was left wondering, with all the highly capable people and technology on display, what are the hard training problems the community needs to solve and what are the priorities for solving them? This is principally a customer issue and perhaps there were issues due to the forthcoming UK election at the time which can restrict what was said. Hopefully for DSET 2025 there will be more emphasis placed on expressing the training challenges that must be solved and less on customer internal progress updates.

Unique Content

Nevertheless, putting that issue to one side there was plenty of rich content to take in that resonated with the DSET theme of people, collaboration and action. The event began with a virtual Industry Showcase Webinar on the Monday featuring interactive presentations and demos. The Tuesday included a Wargaming Conference, specialist seminars, and a defence-focused conference, concluding with the Defence Women’s Action Board social event. Wednesday's highlights were the second day of the Wargaming Conference and ongoing defence sector debates at the DSET Conference, ending with a networking hospitality evening and awards ceremony. The final day included serious games and XR panels and a careers fair. It is not feasible here to mention every event but there was plenty for MS&T to cover and the layout of the Ashton Gate venue and the parallel sessions meant plenty of walking from area to area.

Keynote Day One – Flexibility, Focus and Drones

DSET had two keynote sessions on the Tuesday and Wednesday. Maj Gen Chris Barry, Director Land Warfare started off the proceedings addressing the British Army’s evolving needs and strategies for recruiting soldiers, emphasising the importance of flexibility and adapting to the skills required in modern warfare. Of note was that of a soldier’s knowledge, skills and behaviours the Army might in future recruit on the basis of the first two and then afterwards inculcate behaviours through training. Barry said: “we shouldn’t start from the position that every single capability we need to train from scratch, it’s about allowing the recruiting and basic training engine maximum flexibility to bring the skills in that populate our ranks.” Barry also spoke about more flexible training, “not everything has to be a long course based upon the speed of the slowest learner, we would much rather have a fixed mastery standard and variable time,” he said.

Lea Kirkwood is the USAF PEO and Director Agile Combat Support Directorate and in a wide-ranging speech reflecting her portfolio she emphasised the importance of integrating testing and training to maintain high levels of readiness. Kirkwood told her audience that “we have stood up a program of record for our Joint Simulation Environment or JSE. It started out as the test bed for the F-35, and we’re now going to transition it because we think we can get a lot of really good training out of that system ... and actually give more lifelike training.”

Simon Pearce of the Defence Equipment & Support (DE&S) provided an update on wider changes in his organisation. Of particular interest was the consolidation of training system procurement within a single one-star area. “For the first time, we have a single focus within DE&S for training and simulation, ensuring coherent and unified oversight", Pearce said.

The final keynote came from Pete Morrison, BISim’s Chief Product Officer, giving an industry view on warfare and technology trends. Looking at the war in Ukraine, he foresaw that “mass production of autonomous drones will be as important as the mass production of ammunition, maybe even more so.” As drones have the potential to autonomously navigate using only 3-D models of the real world, Morrison foresaw that "terrain data is simply going to be mandatory to win in future conflicts.”  He also believed that augmented reality technology will rapidly advance and together with drones “we will soon see a headset that’s acceptable for soldiers to wear in combat ... and the ability for the soldier in the trench to have a direct feed from that drone that’s flying 100 feet above is going to be a massive force multiplier,” Morrison said.

Keynotes Day Two – Integration, Frameworks and Revolution

Commodore Jo Deakin OBE on the second day keynote session emphasised the Royal Navy's integration of personnel and training directors and stressed the need for future training to meet the demands of modern warfare, including autonomy, increased lethality, and sustainability, while improving service personnel experiences. Brigadier Kirsten Dagless OBE discussed the new Ministry of Defence’s (MoD) Defence Skills Framework, which aims to manage skills across the armed forces and MoD Civil Servants. The framework will be a single data source for career progression and will help address recruitment challenges by identifying skills gaps and tailoring training, supported by data analytics. Finally, Professor Carolina Cruz-Neira from the University of Central Florida advocated digital twins in military training explaining how they could revolutionise training by creating integrated, interactive models reflecting real-world scenarios, enhancing decision-making and operational readiness through immersive environments.

Exhibition and Venue

For those who attended the early DSET events the exhibition space seems to get larger and larger and was busy most of the three days, albeit with the typical quiet last day afternoon. It also felt nicely oriented around SMEs rather than primes. The food and catering were more than adequate and free flowing. It was a shame that the conference AV felt a bit shaky throughout and is perhaps a lesson that with all the training and simulation technology on display sometimes even the basics are tough to get right.

10th Anniversary

DSET 2024 felt to be a successful and vibrant DSET show which pushed the boundaries of what such exhibitions can provide their customers. MS&T is looking forward to attending DSET 2025 which will be held 2-5 June at the same venue. Having run continuously since 2016 it will be its 10th anniversary event.

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