Live, Virtual and Constructive: the three pillars of the training world
The training world is changing no more slowly than the entire defence and security picture. Indeed, some would argue that the changes endemic to the larger picture – an extended threat envelope, mission creep, uncertainty over the genre of the next conflict, shrinking manpower, reduced budget and resource availability – are driving training to change even faster in order to meet the emerging requirements for more effects-oriented and cost-effective solutions. The gradual transformation of the three pillars of the training world – live, virtual and constructive or LVC – have gained a fourth partner initial. Integrated LVC (I-LVC) is the new buzzword on the lips of planners, developers and operators alike.
But is it really new, or is it a solution looking for a problem? Does the mere fact of integrating solutions to present users with greater flexibility but arguably less choice really offer a game changing scenario? And if so (or even in the opposite case) what, if any, are the concomitant challenges? How is the training and simulation community planning to wrestle the future for I-LVC into submission?
The Heart of the Matter
“Live is the most technologically demanding domain with this type of training,” says Amit Haimovich, Head of Marketing and Business Development for the MLM division of Israel Aerospace Industries, referring to the ‘premier league’ of training – force on force aircrew training. “That means companies like ours have a depth of experience and know how on which to draw in order to create something new and useful to the end user.”
It is that know how that is key to understanding the emergence of one of the most serious challenges the widespread adoption of I-LVC faces: a technical issue that will depend on an as yet undiscovered ‘silver bullet’ solution to be entirely resolved but which in the meantime exercises the best brains and stretches the limits of the technically possible in the search for the Holy Grail. “The pillars of LVC are well understood. The issue is conceptually clear and crystallised. The building blocks are all available,” Haimovich points out. “But not every requirement is going to need a high level of integration; more importantly, not every training provider is going to be capable of delivering a fully integrated solution on their own. At the heart of the matter is network capability and management. Without that you have fragmentation of effort and can only deliver partial solutions to problems that are becoming more and more complex and – unfortunately for some – far more common,” he concludes.
What this means is that the scale of training requirements has increased significantly in recent years. Tactical engagement simulations originally designed to cater for small infantry unit training at platoon or company level, are now being enhanced to provide a solution for battalion, regimental combat team and even brigade sized units. In fact, on a recent visit to training facilities in Rio Grande do Sul in southern Brazil, MONS saw the MASA SWORD simulation being tasked with a division scale exercise. The impact of this is the huge increase in demand for the number of entities involved in any one simulation. With friendly and hostile forces, third party players such as civilians or emergency services personnel, vehicles, aircraft, helicopters, buildings and infrastructure to be represented in the simulation, a designer can find him or herself confronted by the necessity to have 5,000 individual entities – in some cases far more – represented individually in the scenario. This puts pressure on network management, particularly in the area of ensuring sufficient bandwidth is available.
There is an additional issue that exacerbates the problem, too. The after action review (AAR) lies at the very core of the value proposition that force on force or tactical engagement training offers the operator. Bringing troops in fresh from the experience, with the memories of sounds, sights and sentiments still coursing through their minds, reinforces and helps to cement the very lessons the training exercise set out to teach in the first place. At the British Army’s training facility in northern Kenya recently one field officer told MONS: “I want the guys in the AAR within minutes if possible, I want them there with their hearts still racing, with the adrenaline still pumping and with the sounds of shouted commands still ringing in their ears. That speed, that immediacy, helps to ensure the lessons we are here to learn are understood and appreciated – which is why we are here. Just as important – immediacy in the AAR seems to encourage more active participation, I’ve noticed.”
The massive increase in entity count and the imperative for immediacy, combined with the increasing complexity of the weapons and sensors that form part of the exercise scenario, place huge and unprecedented demands on the network management facilities. High capacity becomes an essential, and ensuring the backbone of the training scenario is robust enough to survive the rigours of multiple exercises and deliver the anticipated effects-oriented training to the students and their commanders becomes the new imperative. “It’s not enough just to glue the components together and call it integrated,” Haimovich points out. “You need to have a developmental approach and to innovate: the solution demands a flexible, tuneable network configuration – and I see that as the biggest challenge LVC faces in the short and medium term – or at least one of the top three.”
Updates, Throughput, Trade offs….
Considering the air to ground mission, for example – one of the more complex and demanding roles for a simulation-based training solution – it quickly becomes obvious that one of the inalienable demands of the mission is for a very high update rate. Without this the entire scenario snarls up in server lag and latency issues, leading to the potential for negative training and the waste of a great deal of effort, time and money. “To a degree, you can trade off capability against absolute numbers of entities and achieve a workable solution,” says Haimovich, “but there’s not very much you can do about update rate without wholesale reengineering.”
The issue therefore becomes one simple to stage and infinitely more complex to resolve. How to provide operators with a more robust network and the capability to manage it. Effectively, seamlessly, unobtrusively (hiding system complexity for the end user is essential) and above all affordably. The problem is not the components so much as their integration: digital transceivers are a must, as are advanced signal processing capabilities and an ability for very rapid switching – often requiring transmission and switching of extremely large data packets.
“We routinely deal with the equivalent in one hour in a major exercise of the entire volume of data transmitted on D-Day in 1944,” one NATO commander recently told MONS. Tightly coupled datalinks are needed from platforms and sensors to exercise control (EXCON) and a hitherto unimagined (and certainly unachieved) level of flexibility is required in order to ensure the tools fit the task. It is critical to ensure the training system and all its components, reliant on a highly capable and reliable network backbone, can be tuned to the exact requirements of today’s exercise. And tomorrow’s.
Although the air to ground scenario illustrates the complexity, the air to air combat scenario flips the observer’s perspective somewhat and highlights the issue of flexibility rather than absolute capability. Previous training regimes for aerial combat emphasised the requirement for much of the action – some protagonists believe as much as 80% – to be focused on ‘dogfight’ capabilities. The problem is that that ‘knife combat’ aspect of aerial warfare – the ‘Top Gun’ approach beloved of Hollywood – has all but disappeared. Today’s airborne warrior flies by computer rather than the seat of his pants, trusts to screen displayed icons rather than waiting to see “the whites of the enemy’s eyes,” and engages using beyond visual range air to air missiles rather than relying on an embedded automatic cannon. That, of course, is a generalisation and therefore easily countered by pundits with personal experience. Nonetheless, that is the way doctrine has evolved – and that means that is the way in which training has to evolve too.
Staying in the air warfare environment, CAE is one of this community’s preeminent players in the field – although it leverages its considerable expertise in the land and maritime warfare domains too, as witness several recent contracts in the Gulf, for example. Nonetheless, it is in the air that the company established its enviable reputation and Chuck Morant, Vice President of Global Strategy and Business Development for CAE Defence and Security, recently shared his views with MONS during DSEI in London in September.
“There is certainly a wide variety of challenges confronting the evolution of LVC solutions, not the l sat of which lies in the integration aspect, as customers become more savvy about the way in which they want their training to provide end to end solutions,” he commented. “The real problem is trying to determine which are the most important- and whether those are the challenges that can or should be addressed first.”
Uncertainty is a destroyer of planning in this as much as any other aspect of human endeavour, and there is a huge degree of uncertainty affecting the training community right now as it tries to define the nature of the next conflict and to prepare for it, rather than prepare to relight the last one. NATO, for example, faced with the prospect of resurgent Russia, is trying to decide whether to prioritise large scale armour warfare again – something most of its member nations have not contemplated for close to two decades – or to continue to train for low intensity, hybrid, asymmetric and expeditionary warfare.
That uncertainty translates into confused priorities and poor communication of intent, which makes industry’s task somewhat harder. “I-LVC addresses the issue of uncertainty to a degree, in that it provides us with a more flexible capability to cater for the unknown,” Morant told MONS. With a global clientele, CAE has to maintain a very broad spectrum capability to deliver appropriately crafts solutions to an individual customer. And that demands the development and maintenance of a very broad range of technological abilities and operational experience.
“A very big challenge for anybody playing in this field is the necessity to keep up to date with the changes and the sheer volume and pace of them- in systems and equipment, in doctrine, in attitudes,” Morant points out. “The cyber dimension is a good example of the speed with which things change – in the US Cyber Command has now become a combat command! And that carries with it a whole suite of challenges in changed thinking and experience, let alone the requirement to develop technologically advanced solutions that can and will interface with legacy systems, most of which were designed before cyber was the buzz word it is today.”
All this is true – and is reinforced by initiatives at customer level, too. In the United States, the J7 Joint Force Development Directorate of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has put great effort into crafting the Joint LVC Vision 2020, while the US army is pursuing its own Live-Virtual-Constructive Integrating Architecture. Increasingly sophisticated users – of which an excellent current example is the armed forces of the United Arab Emirates – are already generating advanced and far-sighted requirements aimed at providing their military services with vastly enhanced mission readiness and preparedness through integrated LVC training.
Regrettably, perhaps, this is it the case everywhere. “There are lots of initiatives in place right now and quite a lot of them stand a chance of speaking to each other eventually. But with the unassailable truth that all future operations are going to be not only Joint but also multilateral and multinational – with very few exceptions – we face enormous challenges in being able to connect , for instance, fifth generation platforms with legacy systems and getting the entire construct to communicate in real time with students and instructors alike,” Haimovich concluded.
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