HAIFA, Israel — Intensified investment in simulated training is paying off for the Israel Navy, with officers here crediting operational and tactical submarine trainers and a new battle group bridge simulator for considerable savings and surging readiness.
In a late-June visit to the Israel Navy Training Base here, Lt. Cmdr. Sharon, commander of the service’s new bridge simulator, equated four hours of simulated training to a full week at sea.
Beyond obvious hourly savings, Sharon, whose last name was withheld for security reasons, said the simulator allows officers and cadets to train in “extreme combat scenarios” that could not be replicated in live training.
Designed by the Navy and built by Tiltan Systems Engineering, a Petah Tikva, Israel-based firm with offices in Edison, N.J., the bridge has been training cadets here for less than a year in its limited format for individual surface ships. By next month, the Navy expects to complete an array of capability enhancements, including a combat information center that will allow for simultaneous simulated battle group training on all Navy platforms, including submarines.
“We’re still in the building phase, but very soon, we’ll be able to conduct coordinated combined-force training here,” he said.
The system includes an open bridge simulator that replicates speed, maneuverability and other characteristics of surface platforms in an operational environment generated by hundreds of square kilometers of three-dimensional, geo-specific coastline imagery.
It also includes a closed bridge simulator where workstations for radar, navigation, command and control and certain weaponry — including the Typhoon automated weapon stations — are equipped with the same software and display screens used on real platforms. Within a month, a new combat information center simulator will come online to support comprehensive battle group training.
“It’s a huge [leap] forward in our advanced training program. Everyone will be able to train in networked operations and coordinated maneuvers at sea or even up to enemy shores,” Sharon said.
The bridge simulator joins the Navy’s full-motion Dolphin submarine simulator, operational here since 2004, manufactured by Siemens Nederland N.V., and a 2-year-old Dolphin tactical trainer, by dsit Solutions, an Israeli company. Lt. Cmdr. Yisrael, head of the service’s training school, estimated that submariners certified for Israel’s Dolphin fleet reach operational readiness nearly 20 times faster in the school’s operational simulator than they would out at sea.
A specialty operator of a Dolphin steering station, for example, needs 80 hours in the Dolphin operational simulator, as opposed to some four months at sea.
“Obviously, we don’t have the force structure, the budget or the manpower to rely on live training. And even if we did, there are certain functions and emergency procedures that should not be learned at sea,” said Yisrael, a submariner whose full name was withheld from publication for security reasons.
Yisrael was among the first group of young officers trained in Germany to operate Israel’s Dolphin-class fleet, built by the Kiel-based shipbuilding division of Thyssen-Krupp Marine Systems. Three of the diesel-electric submarines have been operational here for a decade, but only in the past two years — with completion of a new Dolphin tactical trainer — has the Navy been able to train Dolphin officers and crew members exclusively in Israel.
Submariners undergo 13 months of preliminary, intermediate and advanced training on the full-motion Dolphin operational simulator. The trainer itself is built by Siemens, but most of the specialty mission stations were developed and manufactured internally by the Navy and use the same command-and-control software and display screens installed in operational submarines.
“Here at our school, they’ll learn all the technical aspects and acquire specialty mission certification before moving on to the tactical trainer. ... We’re seeing a huge impact on readiness from the combined training of the two simulators,” Yisrael said.
Retired Rear Adm. Omri Dagul, a former head of Navy Materiel Command, said investments over the past decade in simulated training have already resulted in considerable savings and higher readiness rates. “We understood that these simulators will save a lot of resources and raise the professional level of officers,” Dagul said.
He said all three simulators were designed according to specific Navy requirements, with a majority of the subsystems developed in-house by Navy engineers. “We poured years of operational expertise and engineering experience into these simulators to ensure that they acquire most of the skills they receive on land before going out to sea.”
Yisrael said he is training the debut force for the fourth enhanced air-independent propulsion (AIP) Dolphin expected here early next year.
Two more AIP Dolphins are under contract with the German shipyard. A new hardened base is being built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the Haifa bay to house the six submarines.