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Ukraine Crisis Underlines Training Questions

May. 20, 2014 - 01:06PM   |  
By TIM MAHON   |   Comments
Command Training: CAE's GESI constructive simulation system in use at the German Army's Combat Simulation Center in Wildflecken, left and below. GESI, along with Rolands & Associates' Joint Theatre Level Simulation, is part of GlobalSim, which CAE is slated to demonstrate at ITEC 2014.
Command Training: CAE's GESI constructive simulation system in use at the German Army's Combat Simulation Center in Wildflecken, left and below. GESI, along with Rolands & Associates' Joint Theatre Level Simulation, is part of GlobalSim, which CAE is slated to demonstrate at ITEC 2014. (CAE)
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LONDON — As the international training community gathers in Cologne, Germany, for the 2014 iteration of the ITEC conference and exposition, the dialogue is punctuated with more question marks than usual.

Military training leaders — in planning, acquisition and implementation alike — are grappling with a new-normal budget austerity, post-Afghanistan debates about the next likely threat, and relentless advances in technology and systems efficiency.

Some of the questions go to the very nature of modern training methods and technology: Can training be a force multiplier that maximizes the effectiveness of increasingly scarce resources? Is it a tool to manage these resources’ effect on force development and readiness? Or is it a last resort that helps commanders prepare forces for as many eventualities as possible?

Recent events in Ukraine have fueled the debates. Swift and effective moves by Russian armed forces point to a dramatic transformation in operational doctrine and capability.

This has led some NATO leaders to question whether their militaries are training for the right threats. Is expertise in counter-insurgency still the primary training goal? Does small-unit immersive training offer enough flexibility in potential operational environments? Do we need to revisit large-scale mechanized warfare training?

In general, the Ukraine crisis has underlined the need for training systems that can change along with world threats. Industry must respond with fresh, innovative approaches. Among other things, training systems must be better integrated with the wider picture, providing options that in the past have required separate (and more costly) solutions.

Progress

None of these questions is easy. Still, the training community appears to be moving beyond the doom and gloom of recent years, toward a new degree of optimism and “can do” attitude.

The past decade-plus has fostered training systems that can absorb and adapt to battlefield lessons from Afghanistan, Iraq, Bosnia and beyond. Small-unit cohesion, training the “strategic corporal” as well as the battlegroup commander, ensuring that urban area operations as well as force projection techniques are instilled across the trainee base — all these have contributed to the development of a training continuum that embraces flexibility, multiple use of common elements in differing operational scenarios and, perhaps most important, provides customers with cost-effective solutions for seemingly intractable problems.

Industry has adopted a new pragmatism in addressing the training market. Integrated training remains as attractive to users as it has been for a decade, but acquisition is now dominated by the requirement for demonstrable cost savings.

So companies large and small are racing to pitch affordable, low-cost solutions to existing and potential customers.

Larger firms, such as modeling and simulation company CAE, can draw on a wide range of discrete systems to offer integrated training products. CAE has vehicle-driving and gunnery simulations, its Dynamic Synthetic Environment, and its GESI command-and-staff simulation, all of which might be focal points upon which to build multidisciplinary integrated training packages.

At ITEC, CAE will demonstrate GlobalSim, a new product that combines GESI with Rolands & Associates’ Joint Theatre Level Simulation.

Smaller companies are joining forces to do the same. Take Ryan Aerospace from Australia’s Gold Coast and Rebel Alliance s.r.l., based in Florence, Italy. The former is known for training helicopter crews while the latter is a relatively new software company that makes C4I applications.

At ITEC, the pair will show a COTS-based training system for mission planning and rehearsal. As this is among the thorniest parts of expeditionary warfare and peace support operations, expect plenty of interest.

Crossover

Another trend is crossover: the adaptation of technology and methods from the civil sphere for military use.

This has been on display at Andrich International’s Training Trends & Technology (T3) conference, an annual, generally non-defense-focused event that nonetheless shows how lessons from the rail, transportation, medical, power engineering and emergency response sectors of the training world can be applied to military applications. The training requirements of large organizations with safety- or mission-critical roles and large numbers of personnel — Britain’s National Health Service springs to mind — are similar in many respects to the requirements of the military. Effective training throughput, large numbers of trainees, a wide variety of skillsets required to be taught and an overwhelming requirement for a very high success rate characterize both sets of users. So why not turn a necessity into a virtue and implement “best of breed” solutions across multiple domains?

Perhaps more important, T3 has underscored the extent to which the previously well-defined edges between military and civil training requirements have become blurred — and how cooperation across this increasingly open frontier can bring cost-effective and graceful solutions to the fore.

The increasing use of serious games engines and technologies has seen entertainment software put to use training soldiers, maintainers and commanders in virtual and constructive environments. Industry players include Bohemia Interactive’s near-ubiquitous VBS2 engine (soon to be overtaken by VBS3) as well as platforms from Havok, Unreal Engine and eSim Games.

News from the Afghanistan conflict may bring fewer and fewer surprises, yet the global threat picture remains uncertain.

There are widely varying opinions on the specification of those threats — and that is an encouraging thing. If we can retain the mental, doctrinal and industrial flexibility to provide a training construct that will address most (hopefully all) of these threats, then the future shape of the training community — though vastly different from the shape it had just 10 years ago — will provide a competent and capable response mechanism for the user community it supports. ■

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