The developer of the JCATS (Joint Conflict and Tactical Simulation) system has launched a two-year effort to see whether the U.S. military’s bedrock constructive simulation can be moved to a cloud-and-browser system.
“We see it as two separate tasks: develop a web-based client and support cloud delivery of JCATS,” said Lauri Dobbs, JCATS program manager at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, which first developed the simulation in 1997. “You could envision using JCATS with both local clients, as they are today, and web clients for users in the field.”
Dobbs describes cloud JCATS as an “interesting concept,” but notes that it remains to be seen whether the idea will prove viable. JCATS is used in more than 300 U.S. facilities, 23 foreign countries, and is used for more than 2,000 Department of Defense and Department of Energy events a year. It is a distributed system that is federated with more than 15 models and simulations, though any DIS- or HLA-capable model can link with the simulation.
Despite its age, there appears to be plenty of life left in JCATS. The simulation has been upgraded to reflect big-picture environmental factors. JCATS Low Overhead Driver (JLOD) was developed in 2009, and added radar and jamming signatures, as well as supply convoys and consumption. JLOD also features high-value targets and defenses such as theater ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and integrated air defense, which can simulate coverage of a large area such as the U.S. East Coast. Perhaps more significant, given the current focus on irregular warfare, is JLOD's modeling of urban population movement and communications.
“Future development is focused on a more extensive population model to support high intensity conflict near urban areas,” Dobbs said. “We will be focusing on the evacuation of large portions of a region by road, rail, air, sea and foot. JLOD will provide the signatures to other ground maneuver models that can influence or slow passage through city streets, while at the same time providing details for virtuals to visualize the crowds as needed.”
JCATS is also reducing the number of humans needed to control forces in the game where artificial intelligence cannot. The simulation now has automated air tasking orders, requiring less human intervention to manage air power. There is also a planner for amphibious operations, as well as theater and cruise missile launches. A generic planning tool, Robopucker, allows users to script actions.
JTAC users who have long groaned at the hassle of ensuring that a tank column moving down a road really does move down the road, will be glad to know JCATS has also improved its path-finding. Instead of having to lay down multiple movement segments between origin and destination, users can just click on the destination and the software immediately calculates the path. This eliminates the need to zoom in and move nodes to ensure that they are located on the road, Dobbs said.
The Livermore laboratory is also responding to requests from users for software that is easier to learn.
“They want someone to sit in front of JCATS, give them an hour or two of training, and have them be able to use it,” Dobbs said. “They not only want to reduce the operator footprint, but they also don't want to hire contractors to run their sims.”
These concerns are being addressed by making the software configurable. For example, users who don't need air or amphibious operations can remove the controls for those features.
The laboratory is also considering adding the ability for JCATS to directly stimulate battle command systems in the future.