Selex ES, which produces command-and-control systems and other technologies, is also offering to train military technicians and pilots. (Selex ES)
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Selex ES, Finmeccanica’s new electronic and information technologies company, hopes to use ITEC to persuade military clients to let it train their troops.
The company was formed Jan. 1 when three former Selex businesses — Selex Elsag, Selex Galileo and Selex Sistemi Integrati — came together to chase growing demand by national security, military and complex civil infrastructure managers.
Selex ES has already pitched training centers, or academies, to military clients in a couple of countries.
“We would start with our products that are already in their country, but the idea is to expand this wider,” said Fabrizio Boggiani, director of marketing and sales for the aerospace and space systems division. “[We would] partner in order to give them the simulation they require to support their training.”
However, he cautioned that setting up such establishments could take time.
“We don’t think it will be quick, frankly. It implies a change of mindset in some customers. Giving a significant portion of responsibility [for training] to a company – and a company of a foreign country – to train pilots, operators or technicians is something that requires a flexibility that’s not yet there.”
However, Boggiani anticipates that in 2014 Selex ES will have “at least one example of this type of contract” in the aviation field.
Like many companies, Selex ES believes that the diminishing number of aircraft, the difficulty of getting training time on them and the increasing costs this entails will push air arms towards more ground-based simulator training – both in terms of time and scope.
Marco Barbina, head of modeling and simulation engineering, said Selex ES or similar companies could bear the acquisition and set-up costs of training establishments, then charge governments only for the time their armed services actually use the facilities. Such contracts would establish guaranteed minimum usage rates that, combined with the general trend of military platforms serving longer lives, would allow companies to make a profit.
Selex ES is proposing other ways to help its customers get the most out of their simulators. For example, some of the most expensive parts of a simulator are its display systems. To maximize a given simulator’s usage, the company proposes keeping its displays in place while the rest of the cockpit surroundings are switched out to represent different platforms.
Barbina believes that new technologies will play a particular role in display systems. The move to LED screens, with their brighter imagery, is just getting underway, and the more realistic imagery they can depict will engage trainees more fully.
He said the range and depth of training services offered by commercial organizations is growing.
“In short, as the complexity of platforms and sensors grow, we will see more robust training requirements being produced by our clients. We will see the latest technologies being incorporated into training systems, such as the use of artificial intelligence and gaming technology to create serious games.”
Barbina expects to see simulated opponents providing stiffer challenges for trainees in future, and points out that there are realms that simulation has yet to expand into.
“We will also see the introduction of simulators for ground troops. Just the tip of the iceberg is visible at the moment, but there is increasing demand for live, collective participation.”
One example of this is the introduction of technologies that use movement tracking and allow soldiers to operate on a real exercise range, rather than playing a serious game with limited movement.
“Their movements are recorded and put into a simulated environment so real soldiers can interact with virtual opponents,” he said. “There will be a greater integration of real and virtual assets.”
He said he is already seeing an increased maturity in customer requirements and demands for higher performance in simulator systems.
For example, in order to evaluate ISTAR aerial missions, customers are now seeking sensor simulators that exactly replicate the real equipment.
Even in regions where defense budgets remain healthy, as in the Middle East and Southeast Asia, Boggiani said, approaches to training are taking longer to change. The priority for countries in these regions still seems to be on acquiring assets for protecting their territories. As such, training is approached in a more traditional way.
“As I mentioned earlier, this will require a change of mindset,” Boggiani said. “I don’t see that happening yet.”
He noted that one example is in UAVs, where there is a significant demand. But, while training on the new equipment is generally provided as part of the acquisition package, many general staffs still think more in terms of tangible assets on an air base apron rather than virtual training systems.
Selex ES has a substantial portfolio of training systems, notably for the Tornado simulator and important roles in the development of the Eurofighter Aircrew combat trainer and the Alenia Aermacchi M-346 Master advanced trainer.