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MILITARY TECHNOLOGY (MILTECH) is the world's leading international tri-service defence monthly magazine in the English language. MILITARY TECHNOLOGY is "Required Reading for Defence Professionals". Follow us on Twitter: MILTECH1

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04 December 2014

I/ITSEC 2014: A SWORD for New Zealand

Not, in this case, a replacement for a mere, a wahaika, a kotiate, a taiaha or a toki pou tangata, (all of which, are, in fact, Maori weapons) but a constructive simulation from Paris-based MASA Group.
The story starts at I/ITSEC 2013 – just one year ago – when Major Michael Chivers  from the Mission Command Training School (MCTS) in Linton, New Zealand, had a first hand demonstration of MASA’s SWORD command post training simulation system. In very short order, the New Zealand Army obtained a trial set of SWORD for the school and progressed with it so rapidly they had the confidence to use it to stimulate the existing command and control system in a multinational exerice held in New Zealand last September.

Colin Huston, Executive Officer of MCTS (which is itself fairly new, having been created in October 2012 from the New Zealand Army Simulation Centre, itself established in 2001), gave an audience on the MASA Stand at I/ITSEC 2014 on 3 December a flavour of how quickly and how effectively SWORD was integrated into MCTS activities.

The speed of acquisition in this case is pretty typical of MCTS’ freedom of action, according to Huston, since the School has its own budget and the authority to spend freely up to certain thresholds. This was helped by the fact that the procurement was fairly small – just 12 licenses – and was initially operated on a lease model as the school evaluated the potential utility of SWORD, though Huston confirmed that a more permanent arrangement is now being negotiated.

In September this year, SWORD was deployed by MCTS in support of Exercise SUMAN WARRIOR, an annual land-based tactical level command post exercise held under the auspices of the Five Powerv Defence Arrangements, comprising the nations of Singapore, United Kingdom, Malaysia, Australia and New Zealand. Some 180 military personnel participated in the exercise, hosted by New Zealand at the Linton military base at Palmerston North on North Island.
The SWORD simulation was used at brigade headquarters in combination with Systematic’s SitaWare command and control software, with local firm Eagle Technology providing the middleware to facilitate connectivity and interoperability.

In effect, SWORD was used to stimulate SitaWare and the exercise participants worked off the New Zealand Army’s own command and control system. In fact, the participants found the system so intuitive and immersive that they almost forgot there was a simulation running, according to Huston, focusing on action rather than means. Which is a pretty powerful definition for immersive training, when you come to think about it.

New Zealand uses NATO doctrine, which meat the SWORD needed practically no modification in order to provide immediate and tangible benefits to SUMAN Warrior. Perhaps the proof of the pudding is that in the post exercise report, rather than pages of critiqwue and evaluation of the contribution SWORD made to the event, brigade headquarters limited itself to the apparently laconic but definitely sincere comment “It worked really well.” Four words that speak volumes.
Tim Mahon

I/ITSEC 2014: New Field Artillery Tactical Trainer from Elbit Systems

Elbit Systems Limited announced at I/ITSEC 2014 in Orlando, Florida this week the emergence of a constructive Artillery Tactical Trainer (ATT), which is soon to enter service with the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF).

Describing the system as “a complete virtual-constructive and networked solution for force-on-force training of field artillery gun crews ranging from individual weapons to multiple battalion formations,” the ATT allows artillery units to prepare for current and future battlefield challenges, effectively and affordably.

The mobile simulator allows effective training of joint fire real-time decision making – anyplace, anytime – by connecting to the operational C4I and communications backbone of ‘live’ weapons and platforms.

“It is the latest addition to our family of embedded, independent and appended simulation and training solutions for land warfare platforms," said Alon Afik, VP Training and Simulation Business Line at Elbit Systems Aerospace Division.

The simulator incorporates a wide variety of computer generated forces – both friendly and hostile in nature – and accurate models of C4I systems, weapons, munitions and fire control units, embedded in an easily transportable shelter. The system also inegrates seamlessly with existing target acquisition and range determination systems such as Elbit’s own ATLAS LT and the Skylark I unmanned aerial system (UAS).

According to Afik, the simulation system’s principal advantages are twofold: “Firstly, the virtual-constructive training system delivers a realistic and immersive simulation that reduces training costs to an absolute minimum, while enabling artillery crews, teams, batteries and regiments to significantly increase their operational readiness. Secondly, through its use of modular interfaces, gateways and datalinks, the ATT provides a highly flexible and scalable solution that can easily be adapted or reconfigured to meet specific customer requirements and infrastructures. This is perhaps one of the most important considerations for modern armies as the technological capabilities of field artillery continue to evolve.”
TIm Mahon

I/ITSEC 2014: So what have you done for me today?

Like the members of almost any other business to business or business to government community, members of the training and simulation community of developers, designers, creators and – yes – marketeers – spend a considerable amount of time and energy exploiting the networking, group contact and effective discussion facilities offered by conferences such as I/ITSEC. Their parent companies invest significant resources – cash, of course, but also time, effort and human capital in the runup to, participation in and ‘after action review’ of every such show – particularly one as dominant and important in its sector as this one. And that AAR inevitably includes questioning from management as to what the tangible, immediate results of the investment are: “So what have you done for me today?

Sometimes it is difficult to persuade the people who “weren’t there” that the results, though perhaps intangible and needing time to be massaged to full fruition, are real and will have the desired beneficial effect on the business. In our world, where engaging the customer, exercising persuasion and seeking conviction take what may seem to be others to be an inordinate amount of time, the perception the community has of one’s participation in a show like I/ITSEC is a critical component of gauging success. It must therefore be particularly gratifying to a company when its efforts are recognised by its peer group and fellow members of the community. An award – one that is based on meaningful criteria and recognises the success of specific efforts or offerings – enhances the perception (dare one say it creates augmented perception?) of the company among its customers, competitors and partners.

Cubic must therefore be gratified to be able to announce that at I/ITSEC 2014 in Orlando it was awarded Best Tutorial for demonstrating excellence in its entry “Bridging the Gap: How to Build Effective Game-based Training.” The selection of the Best Tutorial represents the culmination of the conference.

Cubic’s tutorial describes how to leverage the vitality of commercial games in serious game-based training to create a more effective learning experience. Cubic’s virtual reality courseware is being developed to help underpin the effectiveness of the U.S. Navy’s new Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) once they are deployed on operations and to enhance the training of the sailors who serve on them. Designed from scratch, the innovative solution fully leverages the latest advances in simulation and learning technology. Studies estimate a 40 percent increase in retention of knowledge by using the experiential learning method found in Cubic’s technologies, as compared to the traditional courseware model that focuses on memorization.

This award is a validation of Cubic’s commitment to creating exceptional training experiences and putting our customers first. We continually strive to deliver innovative, best-in-class solutions and the highest degree of service possible,” said Bill Rebarick, general manager of Cubic Advanced Learning Solutions. “Cubic’s game-based virtual reality courseware is an example of how the use of simulation technology is offering efficiencies and improvements in today's military training.”
Tim Mahon

I/ITSEC 2014: Hard hat of the future – or steel helmet?

Los Angeles based DAQRI is a developer of augmented reality software, applications and devices, providing systems designers with enhanced capabilities, superimposing computer generated graphics on the real world. A first time exhibitor at I/ITSEC, the company has been showcasing its 4D Studio product and a new wearable heads-up display unit, designated Smart Helmet, designed to be worn and operated across a broad spectrum of industrial environments.

Described as “the first true creative tool for augmented reality” by Brian Mullins, DAQRI’s CEO, 4D Studio offers developers access to a variety of tools to create compelling and engaging ‘campaigns,’ whether the subject matter is a new diet soda or the decision-tree process for a tactical situation faced by a platoon commander. The fundamental nature of the system means that, as opposed to virtual reality – in which tools such as headsets and goggles create a specific simulated environment – in an augmented reality application any object can become a ‘target,’ to which augmentation is then applied, building and rendering data in four dimensions.

The potentially game changing technology embodies in Smart Helmet has been a four year ongoing programme since the company was founded in 2010. The principal target market at which it is aimed is the blue collar worker – a potentially huge market and one which has given rise to the sobriquet of “hard hat of the future” being applied to it. But the capabilities for increased realism in mission critical or complex systems training must hold significant interest for the military. It will be worth following up with DAQRI in a couple of months to see whether their investment in exhibiting at I/ITSEC is beginning to pay dividends.
Tim Mahon

I/ITSEC 2014: Saab new mortar simulator

One of the abiding lessons learned from operations in Bosnia, Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere has been the importance of organic firepower at the lowest possible level. Although battlegroup or higher level artillery support and close air support are much heralded as providing quick and effective fire support, they never seem to be quite quick enough for a company commander facing an opposed obstacle crossing or a platoon commander finding his egress from a village blocked.

There is therefore a resurgent interest in the humble mortar: humble, but increasingly effective due to the emergence of advanced, capable, multi-pupose ammunition, such as Saab’s 81mm MAPAM advanced mortar round, developed by Saab Bofors Dynamics Switzerland Limited in Thun. Along with the ammunition, which is generating considerable interest, a parallel initiative has been undertaken to develop a new and innovative mortar simulator.

At I/ITSEC 2014, Saab showcased the new simulator, which overcomes some of the limitations imposed by more traditional solutions. In most if not all existing  mortar training solutions, the simulator is a replication of the relevant weapon system, which requires unloading the round after every simulated discharge. In other words, the mortar round is dropped down the barrel – and then needs to be removed before the firing process can be restarted and retaught. Effective for procedural training – but not that effective in instilling the skills required for real life employment of small infantry unit fire support, in which a single round is rarely enough.

The requirement against which the new simulator has been developed – currently on show in its 60mm variant – is for ‘fire for effect’ salvos of between three and five rounds. The rapid nature of seuqwntial firing of a number of rounds is facilitated through the use of a simple but ingenious mechanism. The lower half of the mortar tube is cut away so that the round, once ‘fired’ and reaching the firing pin, can be easily extracted and a fresh round dropped down the tube immediately. Extraction of then ‘fired’ round is achieved automatically, with an electronically activated carrousel accepting the round on a vertical spindle and rotating it to a safe position, while bringing another spindle into position to accept round two – and so on.

Developed by Saab’s Training and Simulation division in the Czech Republic, the mortar simulator currently exists in an indoor training version only, but work is already well under way on an outdoor training version, which will bring increased realism to the ambient environment in which effective training can take place. The 60mm demonstrator will shortly be joined by similar devices in 81mm and 120mm calibre, covering all the common mortar calibres of NATO forces.
Tim Mahon

I/ITSEC 2014: Radio simulator bridges gap for ADF

Calytrix Technologies Pty Ltd (Perth, Western Australia) recently completed delivery of a 400-seat radio simulator to the Australian Defence Force.

The requirement brief was a relatively simple one. The client wanted to increase the effectiveness of basic radio operation and procedure, using simulation as an alternative to ‘live’ training due to a lack of sufficient numbers of radios. “Basically, the ADF wanted to be able to train a class of 20 trainees with each one having access to the kit, rather than sharing four radios between a class of twenty guys,” said Tom Pokorny, Calytrix’ Chief Technology Officer during I/ITSEC in Orlando on 3 December.

Calytrix developed a customised skin for the training solution, specific to the equipment and always cognisant of the part of the brief that said “make it feel like a radio.” Great attention has been paid to the look and feel of the skin so that transition between the virtual and real environments offers trainees minimal disruption.
Tim Mahon

I/ITSEC 2014: XPI Simulation to build driver trainers for Scout SV

In an award that signifies a ground breaking development for the deployment of simulation in British Army service, Thales subsidiary XPI Simulation has won a five year contract from General Dynamics UK, valued at £20 million ($33 million) to supply driver training simulators for the SCOUT Speiclist Vehicle (SV) family of armoured reconnaissance and support vehicles.

The ‘first of breed’ nature of the programme reflects the fact that the British Army has not hitherto made use of a vehicular simulator employing six degrees of freedom in its motion component. XPI is to provide General Dynamics with a total of 28 simulators – both full motion and static devices – which will train drivers on all six variants of the Scout SV family. The ability to develop better driver awareness and familiarity with tracked AFVs is vitally important due to the increasingly complex nature of the vehicles. Simulation will help to develop future generations of SCOUT SV drivers, while allowing for quantitative evaluation of driver aptitude and ensuring that live training in the vehicle is of maximum value.

The UK Ministry of Defence’s (MoD) Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) in 2010 set a target of completing 50% of all training using simulation by 2020 – with the aim of reducing vehicle costs, reducing environmental impact and saving fuel. The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) recently produced a ground-breaking study which showed that driver training with a high-fidelity simulator was as effective as training with a real vehicle.

Simon Skinner, Managing Director of XPI Simulation, said: “This significant contract for XPI Simulation confirms our position as the pre-eminent supplier of driver training simulators in the UK in both the military and civilian domains. Combining XPI’s flexibility and agility with the financial strength and in-depth expertise of Thales provides our customer and the MoD end-user with a professionally delivered innovative solution.”

Peter Hitchcock, Vice President of Avionics at Thales UK, says: “This contract signifies an important step for XPI and Thales as we continue to deliver on our ambitions within the military land training and simulation market. We look forward to working with General Dynamics UK and providing the British Army with a best-in-class training capability for the SCOUT SV.
Tim Mahon