I/ITSEC 2016: Leaders remain positive on LVC future
Senior service leaders from all branches of the US military have used this year’s I/ITSEC to vocalise their support for a move towards blended, networked training that combines both the virtual and real worlds.
Senior officers from across the services, spoke at the annual General/Flag Officers panel and gave their opinions on what’s known in the industry as the live, virtual, and constructive (LVC) concept and how it could benefit their individual branches.
From increasing readiness and time spent at the home station to meeting future threats, the LVC approach is seen as a way of overcoming a number of training challenges and boosting the overall effectiveness and proficiency of soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines.
There is already some live, virtual blending occurring. For example, US Army tank crews in simulators can interact with crews driving real vehicles, using an LVC integrated architecture. An armoured brigade can utilise all three LVC elements across three separate battalions, with a brigade tactical operations centre unable to differentiate between them.
The issue here is that the ‘real’ tank crews cannot see the simulated entities, said Brig Gen William Cole, program executive officer for Simulation, Training and Instrumentation (STRI). This opens up opportunities for capabilities such as augmented reality.
‘Soldiers in the virtual environment can see virtual depictions of soldiers that are out conducting live training, but we can’t do it the other way around,’ he said. ‘If there is a way we can use virtual reality to do that, I think that would be a great step forward.’
The USMC’s LVC initiative is known as the Marine Corp Synthetic Training Environment, with at least one proof of concept at Twentynine Palms, California, seeing the service linking three virtual and two constructive simulators on a permanent basis.
Marine Air Ground Task Force Training Command was selected for the proof of concept because of the large exercises that take place there, which often integrate several elements across the USMC.
‘These are very expensive high end exercises, so by linking these simulators together units can train together at home stations so when they get out to the live event we can really optimise the scarce time and resources out there,’ said Dennis Thomson, executive deputy at the USMC’s Training and Education Command.
‘This proof of concept will provide tremendous insights into the fiscal, technical and operational challenges for us to expand the [LVC] concept,’ he added.
For the US Navy, the LVC concept will not be ‘delivered on a silver platter’ but instead it will leverage the large amounts of existing infrastructure across the service, said VAdm Paul Grosklags, the commander of Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR), also speaking at I/ITSEC on LVC.
Ultimately, a training solution should address the US Navy’s key strategic challenges related to readiness and the slow nature of the acquisition process.
‘One of the key things that is missing – we have the vision and the technology – is a requirements roadmap,’ said Grosklags.
That could be addressed next month when the first draft of the Ship and Aircraft Training Capability requirements document is released, and a final document becomes available in the spring of 2017.
‘That is a huge event from my perspective,’ said Grosklags. ‘What are those technical solutions that we can leverage that we can use to enable and expand the capabilities of that infrastructure we already have, and can’t afford to throw away.’
Speaking for the US Air Force, the director of current operations, Maj Gen Scott West, said he didn’t want to understate the value of virtual and constructive training. However, live training will remain key because it ‘operates the entire operational chain’.
‘That has to be exercised in a live manner on a periodic basis to ensure that the systems that we operate work as advertised and that our airmen know how to do it,’ he said. ‘The question is, what can virtual and constructive do to reduce the decay, or atrophy, that occurs naturally with learning.’
For the air force, LVC plays a key part in service’s three main concerns when it comes to planning and budgetary exercises. This includes having adequate capacity, the correct capabilities to address near-peer adversaries and readiness, particularly how long it takes to operate systems proficiently when required.
West gave an example of the training systems that airmen use as part of nuclear assurance missions, which are out of date, as well as those responsible for space-related missions that have to adapt to emerging threats including anti-satellite missiles.
For more from I/ITSEC 2016, see our dedicated news page.
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