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One of the most important features about virtual reality simulators, is the possibility to augment them with new technologies as those become available. One such technology is linking between pilots from multiple locations using the same simulator program in order to carry out missions together, all in order to practice real-life missions.
An example for that is what happens when an instructor training a pilot to fly a tactical jet could change the mission mid-flight, which would require more fuel for the aircraft to complete? The instructor could tap into a network, find a tanker crew in a training simulator somewhere else in the world on an ad hoc basis and link both the pilot’s and the tanker crew’s simulators in order to carry out a refueling mission, Gene Colabatistto, CAE’s group president for defense, described during an interview with defensenews.com.
Being able to tie together simulators into a network to create more complex scenarios for richer training opportunities falls in line with what the head of US Army Training and Doctrine Command, Gen. David Perkins, is looking for.
Combat Training Center rotations are expensive and have high overhead, and brigades only get that level of training every few years. Network simulation could bring a higher level of fidelity to training at a mission level right at home station.
While such training won’t replace large-scale events, training more at home station using live, virtual, constructive training and synthetic training, as well as 10,000 hours of repetition at a much lower level, get soldiers ready for large events at a higher level, Perkins said.
“A few years ago, the simple act of connecting my simulator to your simulator was not trivial, we had not gotten there,” Colabatistto said.
Fast forward to now, “it is very much going to be about the ability to connect [simulators] and the ability to interoperate, and they are separate, different things,” Colabatistto said.
It’s not an easy task because there are cybersecurity concerns related to networking systems and the need for industry to subscribe to a set of open standards so that one company can seamlessly connect their devices to another company’s devices.
The commercial world already does that with smartphones where connecting is institutionally ingrained. There’s an expectation that Samsung devices can talk to Apple and vice versa, Colabatistto noted.
One way industry is trying to break down barriers to possibly tie together training simulators and devices into wider networked mission-training scenarios is through an annual exercise called Operation Blended Warrior.
Vignettes during Operation Blended Warrior have grown more complex. “Several years ago it was: ‘I connected this guy to this guy and look out the window and see him,’ ” Colabatistto said. “It was very simple connectivity. We’ve matured now to the point where are are able to show some operational relevance in the scenarios.”
The demonstrations also include more complex virtual reality simulations to include augmented reality training where a user can see real elements like his or her own hands or gun in a virtual environment.
Demonstrations like Operation Blended Warrior show there is no technological barrier to tying together simulators in complex ways. “It’s a matter of simply deciding that we are going to talk to each other,” Colabatistto said.