Naval Training Market Undergoes a Renaissance
In the world of military training and simulation, there is rarely as much said about naval training as there is about the airborne or terrestrial environments. MT looks at maritime training solutions.
Training solutions for a fleet of modern aircraft or for land forces demands a sense of scale and scope that does not necessarily apply to the development and implementation of training systems for ships and submarines. Yet, this disparity in apparent size conceals the fact that naval training requirements, combined operations or ground combat training, are no less complex and demanding. The simple fact – sometimes forgotten – is that naval vessels (and therefore naval warfare training) are not just travelling containers of advanced weapons technology; they are integrated, stand-alone entities, capable of independent action, as well as joint or combined operations.
They are complex combat and operational entities but above all else their successful and effective operation depends, to a very large degree, on close-knit and well-honed coordinated activity on the part of a relatively small team or crew – to which the most exacting standards are routinely applied.
In this sense the naval environment is very different, but at the same time it displays broad and compelling similarities with the requirements for military aviation and ground combat training. Indeed, in some respects the similarities become even more important due to the necessity for single vessels to operate solo and therefore in an utterly self-reliant manner. One of the challenges confronting training planners in the air domain is how to integrate UAS into air operations. Consider how much more important it must be for the commander of a carrier battle group, for example, to be able to integrate UAS flight deck operations with manned aircraft in one of the most complex air traffic management environments known to Man.
Solutions Large and Small
Within the training and simulation community, this situation is well recognised. As naval planners wrestle with the increasing demands placed upon them by the growth in operational complexity and the ever increasing demands for independent action often thousands of miles from home port, companies are stepping up to the plate with potential solutions for training regimes, ranging from the cohesive, overarching and integrated solution to the most niche, focused and specialised training systems.
CAE is just as active in the terrestrial and marine environments as it is in the air. Using its powerful R&D efforts to support the continued evolution of training systems for purpose, CAE leverages such established assets such as the Common Database (CDB) – an accepted norm for open systems in training architectures today – to weld integrated training solutions for the worlds naval forces.
Consistent with its strong desire to deliver training solutions rather than training devices, CAE offers its naval customers and integrated concept it dubs the ‘Sea Virtual Task Force,’ in which the entire gamut of activities can be provided for a naval client, based on open standards, ‘best of breed’ solutions and established practice while being carefully refined and focused on the unique requirements of the individual Navy’s doctrine, projected operating conditions and class of vessel. Covering the entire spectrum of requirements from training needs analysis and instructional design through training devices and support to the provision of learning management information systems and configuration management, the virtual task force is designed to provide naval forces with a truly holistic, integrated and seamless training solution.
Database Generation for Maritime Simulation
Simulation users have become accustomed to the high visual quality provided by today’s computer games, which led to increasing importance of serious games in the simulation and training industry. However, with traditional tools and modelling techniques results are not as convenient, as simulation projects have constrained budgets, especially taking the demanded large virtual terrain dimensions into account.
The Berlin-based company TrianGraphics has developed a novel database generation system that meets these demands for quality and quantity through an extraordinary high level of automation. Besides traditional landscapes for flight, combat, or driving simulation, Trian3DBuilder now also supports large-scale maritime terrains for simulation.
A typical terrain project is set up by applying a multitude of input data, typically satellite imagery, and height and vector data in miscellaneous formats. Depending on the input attributes generation features can be applied and a terrain is written for a visual database with Meta-data for various additional simulation tasks like computer generated forces (CGF).
In terms of maritime simulation, so called ENC vector data is imported, containing all information that can be found in nautical charts. The standard formats used are S57 or the encrypted S63 format. The data is sorted based on the ENC code and all attributes are used on import for post-processing and preserved for later use.
Modern software tools like Trian3DBuilder drastically simplify the generation process for large-scale 3D terrains. Now, maritime simulations with their very special demands are also targeted, enabling users to generate densely populated landscapes of unlimited size. This demand cannot be fulfilled with traditional modelling tools through technical limitations, and even less due to the huge amount of handiwork that would be needed to be invested. TrianGraphics’ solutions meet all demands for quality and quantity, giving the user what he really needs.
Balancing Capability Requirement Against Budget and Resource Availability
Step in SeaOwl Group, a private company with its own naval training vessel – a former North Sea platform support ship – which offered a wide range of services ranging from at-sea crew seamanship training to naval aviation operations, combined operations and SOF training.
SeaOwl fitted their vessel – VN PARTISAN – with several unique components enabling it to provide varied services. These include a helicopter platform for live naval aviation and combined operations training, an aviation control room and a close combat module to provide facilities for training in boarding actions, anti-piracy operations and hostage rescue, among other training serials, PARTISAN is a valuable asset for the French Navy, which has been using SeaOwl’s service since 2011.
Under the Plastron contract, the Navy uses PARTISAN for up to 100 days per year, and according to Shane Biggie, the company’s Director of Strategy, “not the least important driver is the element of cost savings.”
Initiatives like SeaOwl’s will become more routine and even expected as the balancing of capability requirement against budget and resource availability continues to exercise training planners. Some of the larger companies certainly recognise this, but there is also a growing trend towards cooperation and partnering between companies large and small, each element of the resulting partnership contributing to enhanced operational effectiveness for the naval training procurer.
Naval vessels operate in self-contained environments, in which ‘sealed systems’ to protect the vessels from CBRN attacks create an enclosed, isolated environment in which complex operations must be conducted, under immense physical and psychological pressure and often in circumstances in which critical decisions need to be taken in seconds, rather than minutes or hours. Providing training solutions that accurately reflect the pressures and circumstances in which naval crews must operate presents its own challenges for training systems providers, which could be considered to bring an advantage to companies with the scale and breadth of experience of CAE and its industry peers.
Requirements Increasingly Varied
One of the issues, though, is the fact that – as the demands for a wider variety of operational capability are placed upon the world’s navies – the requirements are not only constantly growing in volume but are also increasing in what might be called bandwidth. Naval vessels are not only military assets, they are also visible instruments of international power, a deterrent force and in today’s geopolitical environment, an aid to non-military policies espoused by their respective governments.
Mediterranean navies, for example, have been thrown into the deep end in recent months in learning how to deal sensitively but effectively with issues arising from the flood of refugees and immigrants escaping the war torn environs of Syria and other regional areas of unrest. Such operations have stretched capabilities more than a little, according to the anecdotal evidence recently given in Italy by one former frigate captain with recent pertinent experience, and have also revealed a shortcoming in training for such events.
To a degree, this is a parallel circumstance to that in which ISAF commanders and the civilian support teams found themselves in the early days of the operations in Afghanistan. The civil components of the Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRT), tasked with managing the process of mitigation and integration support in the country’s outlying areas, certainly had the experience and knowledge pertinent to dealing with a wide range of cultural, religious and even commercial issues and sensitivities.
But operating in a hostile and occasionally extremely dangerous environment, it was the military’s task to provide not only overwatch and security but also to become closely involved with the PRT’s in their work at the local community level – and the troops had no such experience or knowledge. Why should they? They had received little or no training in an aspect of operational science that was to become increasingly important throughout the ISAF presence in Afghanistan.
Fraught with a level of risk that innocent comments or action might give offence and hamper, if not ruin, the PRT’s efforts, it quickly became obvious that a system of ‘cultural awareness training’ was required. This gave rise to a huge increase in the activities of small, niche capability providers such as Alelo, a specialist provider of language and cultural training that came to prominence in the industry in a very short space of time. It is beyond any degree of doubt that there is a vibrant future for inserting such training capability – with its attendant distance learning and e-learning facilities – into the naval training field.
There are other aspects too in which simulation and device-based training is not only appropriate but de rigeur.
heinmetall, for example, has provided control room action trainers for the German Navy’s submarine training school at Eckernförde, near Kiel. Closely replicating the environment of a submarine control room at sea – complete with appropriate motion capabilities – these maritime equivalents of a full flight simulator are in constant use training crews and commanders in ‘whole crew’ training scenarios.
From Norway, Kongsberg has, as ever, leveraged its experience with fulfilling home nation requirements to develop expertise and solutions in a number of niche training areas. After developing a solution for the rarefied arena of sonar operator training – a field in which there are very few providers who can claim true recent experience in any depth – the company is now promoting sonar training to a wide variety of potential customers, and getting some immediate traction and high level interest as a result.
Thales has been chosen by the French Navy to provide through-life support (TLS) for almost all of its simulators. The six-year contract with the Navy’s fleet support department (SSF) calls for the support of 41 simulators at six naval facilities in France. These simulators cover a broad spectrum of operations and all deployment contexts, from shipboard system maintenance to surface vessel crew training as well as firing simulators for the MISTRAL missile, 12.7mm and 20mm guns and other weapons. They are used to train the crews of all French Navy surface vessels, including its multi-mission frigates, air defence frigates, and the CHARLES DE GAULLE aircraft carrier.
The naval training systems arena is alive and well and full of prospects, according to one American industry executive recently interviewed. The biggest prospect on the immediate horizon will be the competition for an integrated training system for the Canadian Navy’s future Combat Surface Combatant (CSC) programme. As a programme whose scope might be a potential 15 ships at $21 billion plus, the CSC programme is already attracting a great deal of interest from training providers – with an emphasis increasingly towards training provision rather than simply the sale of training devices. Although it has never been completely invisible, the maritime training systems market may be about to undergo something of a renaissance.
For more information please see MILITARY TECHNOLOGY #12/2016, available at the show on booth #2729; and frequently check back for more NEWS FROM THE FLOOR.