Navy Leaders Push Simulator-Based Training
Navy leaders believe high-tech simulators that can provide realistic training will help the service meet its goal of optimal manning on its ships.
* Better computing power and globe-spanning connectivity of satellite communications enhance the realism and scope of simulators.
* CNO’s Task Force SIM will study alternative acquisition strategies and use of simulation and simulators.
* Navy’s new DD(X) and Littoral Combat Ships “will have simulation embedded in them from the start.”
To meet the surge deployment goals of the Fleet Response Plan (FRP), the U.S. Navy must keep its ships and air wings at a more constant state of high readiness.
The underlying purpose of the FRP is to get more sea power to world hot spots quickly by adjusting scheduled maintenance and training periods to provide greater responsiveness during crises. But tight budgets that limit steaming days and flight hours, and the shortage of training ranges that provide realistic air combat exercises and live-fire gunnery or bombing, will make it harder to get the necessary training in the traditional ways.
A solution to these inter-locking challenges, Navy officials said, are the rapidly improving high-tech simulators that provide realistic training in individual, team and even battle-group skills, tactics and decisionmaking – at greatly reduced costs.
“Not only are you saving money by not having to do all the training at sea, but the time you spend at sea is enhanced by the use of simulators ashore,” said Rear Adm. Mark J. Edwards, director of surface warfare on the Navy staff.
Similarly, new simulators that allow realistic air combat training outside the formal ranges will improve and augment the intensive air wing training at Naval Air Station Fallon, Calif., said Capt. Larry Howard, program manager for aviation training systems for the Naval Air Systems Command (NavAir).
“This is to provide better training in preparation for Fallon, so when they do bring the air wing together at Fallon they can get the best out of that and then can maintain the edge,” he said.
The naval services have used simulation for training at least since the 1930s, when crude Link trainers were developed to teach basic instrument flying to student pilots. With quantum leaps in computing power and the globespanning connectivity of satellite communications, the realism and scope of simulators are reaching new heights, providing better training at lower cost.
The surface warfare community, Edwards said, faces the dual challenges of improving training in its next generation of ships and in its legacy fleet. “The new ships will have simulation embedded in them from the start,” he said. The planned DD(X) destroyers and the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) “will have the ability for total ship training, at one time, in port.”
The new San Antonio class of amphibious ships will have similar embedded trainers for the ship’s company and integral and portable trainers for the embarked Marine force, said Daniel Patton, deputy director of surface and expeditionary programs at Naval Sea System Command’s simulation and training systems division in Orlando, FIa.
The new amphibious ships also will have a Battle Force Tactical Trainer System that will allow the Navy and Marine staffs to conduct war games and simulated shore assaults, Patton said. The Marines also will bring aboard their own simulation systems, including computer-operated marksmanship trainers for small arms and TOW and Javelin missiles, he said.
For LCS, Edwards said, the training systems will be embedded in the sea frame and various mission modules, which will enable coordinated training when the module is on board and separate instruction while the module is ashore.
The Navy has a legacy fleet that will be around for decades, but lacks the embedded simulation. To provide it, the Navy plans to give each ship an integrated bridge trainer system that would allow junior officers to practice conning the ship “into any port, anywhere in the world,” while sitting at the pier, he said.
The ships will have PC- or laptop-powered simulators that provide realistic training in engineering emergencies, damage control and “virtual firefighting,” Edwards said. The Navy also plans to increase the availability of the battle force trainers that can connect all the ships in a battle group, even if they are in different ports, so they can do a simulated war game as if they were all together at sea.
That means sailors will train on their own equipment, and ships will be able to complete some of the required exercises in port, and thus to complete the training syllabus in less time, he noted.
“And when they go to sea, they’re better prepared,” Edwards said.
Simulation also is helping to solve the shortage of live-fire gunnery ranges with the Virtual At-Sea Training system. Developed by AAI Corp., of Hunt Valley, Md., and BMH Associates Inc., of Norfolk, Va., the system allows gun crews to fire at a computer-generated land mass, observe the impact and adjust fire in the open sea far from land.
The enhanced training that simulation provides will be a major help in meeting the Navy’s goal of optimal manning in its ships, said John Freeman, the director of surface and expeditionary programs in Orlando.
The Navy’s new F/A-18 trainers are the early fruits of an aviation simulation master plan, which will for the first time provide sophisticated simulators to the fleet squadrons, in addition to the fleet replacement units, he noted.
In cooperation with the Air Force, NavAir also is buying the Tactical Combat Training System, a combination of airborne and ground-based units that will equip air stations and aircraft carriers worldwide. Built by the Cubic Corp., San Diego, the system will create “a rangeless range, that provides the ability to do autonomous training” outside the few instrumented fixed ranges, Howard said.
Aircraft-carried pods produce sensor information and data-link connections to enable air-to-air and airto-ground combat training, which can be monitored live on portable ground stations or recorded on removable memory cards for playback after landing.
NavAir also is developing a new concept in training for the ground technicians, using relatively low-cost PC-based simulators in place of the old, expensive “hardware” trainers, he said.
Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. Vern Clark gave the effort added impetus in his “CNO’s Guidance,” which ordered the Navy staff to examine “options for expanding simulation” to improve training at lower cost.
The CNO also ordered Commander Fleet Forces Command (CFFC) to “establish Task Force SIM to study alternative acquisition strategies and use of simulation and simulators to enhance training and efficiency and replace outdated training systems.”
The task force stood up in February in Norfolk, with participants from a wide array of operational and support commands, according to Eric seeland, a director for joint training and training technology for CFFC.
Copyright Navy League of the United States Dec 2004
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