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US Marine Corps outlines next steps to improve synthetic training capabilities

6th December 2023 - 13:10 GMT | by Flavia Camargos Pereira

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Call-for-Fire simulation at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. (Photo: US Marine Corps)

The service has shown an interest in a range of training solutions from individual to battalion levels and plans to award multiple contracts ahead of new programmes set to run from FY2024 to FY2031.

The US Marine Corps (USMC) has announced plans to start new acquisition and modernisation efforts in the next few years to progress ongoing programmes and improve its synthetic training capabilities. 

The service has shown interest in platforms, technologies and software solutions to prepare marines from individual to battalion levels. The simulation capabilities will provide training in shooting, performing marksmanship tasks, driving ground platforms, and operating EW and C2 systems.

While the budget of some of those efforts has yet to be defined, contracts will be expected to be awarded, new efforts launched and milestones reached from FY2024 to FY2031.

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Speaking at the I/ITSEC 2023 in Orlando, Florida, this November, Col Marcus J Reynolds, programme manager for training systems (PM TRASYS) Marine Corps Systems Command (MARCORSYSCOM), stressed that it would enable training marines for deployment in multi-domain, challenging scenarios.

From his perspective, ‘what is important is the warfighter’ and synthetic training systems will enable marines to be ‘more lethal and come back safe’ after accomplishing their missions.

Joe Lomangino, programme lead at the Range and Training Programs Division (RTPD), Training and Education Command (TECOM), stressed that the service intends to take advantage of various cutting-edge technologies.

‘Marines of today are working with the gaming industry, which is far beyond what we have right now,’ he explained.

In FY2024, the goal will be to progress with at least 10 initiatives including the Live-Virtual-Constructive Training Environment (LVC-TE), which will aim to provide enterprises services to execute persistent, consistent, collective training capability by connecting legacy Marine Corps training systems to support training exercises.

Alongside Project Tripoli, the LVC-TE will offer the means to conduct fully integrated training at all echelons, in all domains, connected across disparate locations.

In the current fiscal year, the service plans to deploy an initial LVC-TE capability to five sites: 29 Palms, Camp Pendleton, Camp Lejeune, and Marine Corps Bases Hawaii and Okinawa. The goal will be to conclude the software development by Q2 FY2026. In its fully mature state, it will offer the interoperability Marines require to fully integrate with joint and international live-virtual-constructive capabilities.

‘We cannot forget about coalition partners,’ Lomangino stressed. ‘We have to ensure that our coalition partners can interact with us as well.’

Directly linked to this programme will be the Live Virtual Constructive Enterprise (LVC-E) initiative which will allow the LVC-TE portfolio to establish common product lines for the areas that reach multiple systems and establish and implement standards and policies for a software factory.

USMC will modernise its Combat Convoy Simulator. (Photo: US Marine Corps)

The LVC-E is currently in the market research and acquisition strategy development phase with a service contract expected to be awarded in the Q3 FY2024.

Another programme that will advance in the current fiscal year is the starting of the technological refresh of in-service Indoor Simulator Marksmanship Training (ISMT). The process will be carried from Q4 FY2024 to Q4 FY2025.

The next step, in FY 2026, will involve the recompete of the Advanced Small Lethality Trainer (ASALT),  an existing capability which requires Marines to move while engaging multiple targets, limited exposure targets and moving targets.

In the case of the Joint Virtual Fires Trainer (JVFT), it will be a multi-vendor abbreviated acquisition programme (AAP), with an extended user evaluation. A total of 20 sets of JVTF hardware and software have been scheduled for delivery in FY2024. Under this effort, two vendors should be announced in Q2 FY2025.

It will provide the USMC with an ability to train and rehearse joint fire, close air support, call for fire and naval surface fire support coordination in a 3D (VR/XR) environment while aboard ship, forward deployed, in garrison or schoolhouse.

The Marine Common Virtual Platform (MCVP), meantime, will be new equipment with validated capability requirement change under the Deployable Virtual Training Environment (DVTE) that will become a new programme in FY24.

It is intended to provide a common hardware platform and operate over a variety of networks and classification levels to support how the use community will meet future training needs in live, virtual and constructive training environments.

‘We are at a point where we have so many opportunities and so many changes [to conduct],’ Elizabeth Tygart, product manager of STS within the PM TRASYS, MARCORSYSCOM.

The Marines also have ambitious plans for FY2025 as it intends to select by Q2 software suppliers for the Enterprise Ground Maintenance Training System (EGMTS), which is currently in the requirements development process.

Training in a virtual battlespace at the Battle Simulation Center, in Twentynine Palms, California. (Photo: US Marine Corps)

The EGMTS will intend to modernise the branch’s ground maintenance training devices by providing a suite of common hardware and software platforms which will serve as a vehicle for developing course syllabi and related materials for schoolhouses and ground maintenance trainers.

In FY2026, the branch will start three new initiatives: Marine Common Driver Trainer (MCDT), Ground Vehicle Training System (GVTS) and Small Unit Tactical Systems (SUTTS).

MCDT has planned to modernise the in-service Operator Drive Simulator (ODS) by providing a more realistic experience and high-fidelity training for motor transport operators and incidental drivers from basic through advanced tactical driver training by simulating visual, aural/audio and haptic and dynamic motion cues.

For the GVTS, the USMC will launch in Q2 FY2026 a middle-tier acquisition (prototyping and production likely) programme.

This effort is now in the requirements development process and is intended to provide the Marines with the capability to train operators, drivers and vehicle crews throughout all elements of the Marine-Air-Ground Task Force.

The service will also start the Small Unit Tactical Systems (SUTTS) in Q4 FY2026 aiming at having a consolidated and network-enabled simulated environment for training in fundamental and advanced marksmanship skills as well as in combat training with organic infantry weapon systems.

The Marine Air Command and Control System (MACCS) Simulation, concurrently, has been scheduled to conduct a software acquisition pathway in FY2026.

It will be a stand-alone capability to modernise the MACCS training enterprise powered by a network simulation engine capable of realistically replicating all C2 data the MACCS would receive during tactical operations.

Other upgrading efforts will be held within the Combat Convoy Simulator (CCS) and the Family of Combat Vehicle Training Systems (CVTS) in FY2027.

CVTS is expected to start in Q4. It will be a high-fidelity computer-based, interactive simulator that provides individual, crew, section and platoon training in precision gunnery and mission tactical skills to the Light Armoured Reconnaissance (LAR) and the Assault Amphibian communities.

US Marines Combat Convoy Simulator. (Photo: US Marine Corps)

In the case of the CCS effort, the service plans to award an Other Transaction Authority (OTA) contract in FY2027 to modernise its existing Combat Convoy Simulator.

The in-service capability currently provides an immersive environment for C2 procedure for vehicle and convoy commanders. It simulates scenarios for IED countermeasures, EOD support, call for fire, close air support and medevac training.

Other programmes that USMC should advance in the short-term are the Force on Force (FoF), Infantry Immersion Trainer (IIT), Family of Egress Trainers (FET), Live Firing Training Systems (LFTS), Range Training Aids Portfolio (RTAP), Ground Ranges Sustainment Program (GRSP), Live Fire Evaluation Tool (LFET) and Electronic Warfare Ground Instrumentation (EWGIR)

The MAGTF Training System Support (MTSS), Ground Training System Support (GTSS), Role Players Services, Under Water Egress Trainer (UET), Equipment Related Services – Systems (ERS-S) and Electronics Communication Systems (ECS) and Known Distance Automated Scoring (KDAS) are also among its future priorities.

Tygart noted that incorporating and combining all those new and upgraded systems will be another challenge.

‘What is the hardest thing right now? That is going to be that integration perspective. So this is what we are looking at,’ she claimed.

The development, acquisition and technological refresh efforts are aligned with the US Marines Training and Education (T&E) 2030 document. Released in January, the paper identified key tasks and issues to modernise the service’s training and education system.

By incorporating feedback from Marines and lessons learned from force-on-force (FoF) exercises, the report concluded that the current T&E system was not preparing the Marines for the future operating environment.

It alerted that the branch should further emphasise training and education in order to drive individual, unit and collective readiness.

The report also pointed out that there is insufficient FoF training in the branch and warned that although synthetic training capabilities are major combat multipliers, they are severely underdeveloped and under-resourced.

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Flavia Camargos Pereira

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Flavia Camargos Pereira


Flavia Camargos Pereira is a land reporter at Shephard Media. She joined the company in …

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