Virtual Action Stations

This is an article published in our September/October 2016 Issue.

ship bridge simulation systems
Kongsberg supplied the Royal Australian Navy with ship bridge simulation systems to update capabilities at the navy's training centre at HMAS Watson. (Kongsberg)

Navies are increasingly turning to synthetic training technologies to prepare their personnel for the realities of combat. In addition to offering a less expensive alternative to live training, synthetic training equipment allows crew to get a feel for the full spectrum of scenarios that they will face.

The value that can be extracted from international training exercises via synthetic means has recently been demonstrated as part of the Fleet Synthetic Training Joint (FST-J) exercise 16-72. This annual exercise is designed to test the capabilities of the US Navy forward-deployed forces in the Asia-Pacific region and improve interoperability between US and local forces in order to maintain readiness, and to support security and stability in the region. In April the US Navy performed the exercise with units from the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) and Australian Army Air Corps units at Fleet Activities Yokosuka, Japan. Fleet Activities Yokosuka is a US Navy shore base located on the eastern coast of Honshu Island. The computer-based synthetic training element of the FST-J 16-72 exercise allowed geographically-separated participating units in Japan, Australia and the US to be integrated into a tactically demanding joint virtual environment designed to mimic operations in a ‘peer threat’, a naval force of similar capability, maritime environment. This computer-based synthetic training event gives the participating forces the ability to test tactics, techniques and procedures alongside other allied naval commands, effectively running a ‘dress rehearsal’ in preparation for deployment. Typical threats can be simulated along with the platforms and weapons used by the participating navies to train for operations and to ensure that all partners can work together. This can be done without the expense and logistical demands of the live training environment.

Sailors and civilian personnel discuss operations in the Task Force 70 Tactical Flag Command Centre the FST-J 16-72 Exercise held in April (US Navy)

All Level Training

The Australian military is leading the way in synthetic training for navies in the Asia-Pacific region. The force’s capacity to participate in international synthetic training exercises such as FST-J 16-72 is managed from HMAS Watson’s Maritime Warfare Training Centre (MWTC) located at Sydney Harbour, New South Wales. Here, command team trainers support all major RAN fleet units. This is done by the MWTC through the provision of Fleet Synthetic Training and Command Task Group Team Training (CTGTT) which is provided by the centre at a national and coalition level, the latter of which can be performed with foreign navies through networking. In addition to the platform-based simulators located at the MWTC, the same unit possesses bridge simulators at the Bridge Training Faculty to provide realistic training to allow junior officers to become capable of carrying out officer-of-the-watch duties in all classes of RAN ships. The Australian military has been working to ramp up its synthetic training capabilities for around a decade as a number of major new vessel programmes transform the RAN’s fleet, such as the introduction of the ‘Hobart’ class destroyers and the ‘Canberra’ class amphibious assault ships.

A big part of this ramp-up has been the RAN’s move to expand the use of simulation technology beyond traditional platform simulators into support areas such as engineering and maintenance. As identified in the Australian government’s Defence Simulation Strategy and Roadmap published in 2011, “new naval capabilities will demand more integrated simulation: future ship training systems will include simulations for marine technicians and others’ in addition to the training undertaken by principal warfare officers in virtual environments.” In other words this means more synthetic training at every level of the force.

In April 2016 the RAN opened its new Navy Training Systems Centre at Randwick Barracks, outside Sydney, which it says will ‘revolutionise’ how the navy prepares marine and electronic technicians for their roles in the fleet. When fully operational in the coming years this facility will train up to 300 students at a time using a combination of simulation and task-specific training systems. Training will include in-service training for operators and maintainers of the RAN’s new HMAS Adelaide and HMAS Canberra ships, and future in-service training for HMAS Hobart, HMAS Brisbane and HMAS Sydney ‘Hobart’ class destroyers.

Navy Training Systems Centre
HMAS Canberra personnel demonstrate the use of the interactive simulator inside the Navy Training Systems Centre during its official opening. (Australian DoD)

In March 2016 Kongsberg’s maritime division was contracted by the Australian government to develop and deliver a new K-Sim Engine simulator model to the Royal Australian Navy’s HMAS Cerberus training facility located near Melbourne, in South Australia. The new K-Sim model will run on the existing K-Sim Engine desktop simulator delivered to HMAS Cerberus in 2013, which the company is under contract to maintain. The customised simulator model is a high-fidelity representation of the engine room configuration in HMAS Choules, which provides a three-dimensional visual representation of the ships’ engine room systems and its engine control switchboard.

Kongsberg K-Sim engine simulator
Kongsberg K-Sim engine simulator supports basic and advanced operational training, covering everything from getting underway to teaching how to deal with abnormal situations and serious problems. (Kongsberg)

New Requirements

The introduction of the new RAN vessels discussed above is providing the navy with the opportunity to take full advantages of the benefits to be gained by using synthetic capabilities across the spectrum of training requirements. The AWD Alliance which is the prime contractor for the design and construction of the RAN’s new ‘Hobart’ class destroyers announced in May that it had successfully completed the final training readiness review for the programme. Between AWD and the government, $100 million has been invested in facilities and equipment (for hands-on training), synthetic training and a course design package that will support the 66 courses that will train RAN crew on the ‘Hobart’ class. The full range of products in place includes fully-equipped classrooms with installed training equipment, and computer-aided training packages that will be used by instructors for each course.

Kongsberg has been significantly involved in providing training capabilities for the RAN’s ‘Hobart’ and ‘Canberra’ classes. In 2011 the company was awarded a contract by Raytheon’s Australia subsidiary to deliver the Command Team Trainer Simulation Infrastructure as a central component of the ‘Hobart’ class Command Team Trainer (CTT). The simulator infrastructure is based on Kongsberg’s Proteus naval training system which is designed to assist the training of a ship’s crew in tactical decision-making. In the context of the CTT, the Proteus naval training system will facilitate the instruction of the crew vis-à-vis the Lockheed Martin Aegis combat management system which is to equip the ‘Hobart’ class ships, the ship’s accompanying sensors and weapons including her Lockheed Martin AN/SPY-1D(V) naval surveillance radar, Northrop Grumman AN/SPQ-9B horizon search radar and Raytheon RIM-66 Standard Missile-2 family and RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow surface-to-air missiles, plus her Link-11 and Link-22 tactical data links. The CTT is also outfitted with a Distributed Interactive Simulation standard interface which allows collaborative training with other externally-located synthetic training systems. In its standard configuration, the Proteus naval training system contains instructor stations as well as training cubicles. The Personal Computer-based workstation cubicles can be configured as necessary to meet the customers training requirements and to achieve the desired training throughput. The system is also scalable to operate as and when required and can be used on a stand-alone laptop or in networked fashion with training computers networked together. The RAN will be able to undertake multi-level training with the system, from basic operational skills up to combat information centre team coordination and communications for naval warfare operations, including Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW), air defence, anti-surface warfare (ASuW), electronic warfare and mine countermeasures. A company spokesperson told AMR that integration is currently being finalised for the CTT Proteus-based infrastructure, although the firm provided no further details regarding timelines for completion.

ship bridge simulation systems
Kongsberg supplied the Royal Australian Navy with ship bridge simulation systems to update capabilities at the navy’s training centre at HMAS Watson. (Kongsberg)

On The Bridge

Kongsberg has delivered other equipment to the RAN’s training centre at HMAS Watson, including ship bridge simulation systems comprising two full mission simulators, four part-task simulators, ten desktop systems, instructor and debrief stations and extensive visual systems.

This bridge simulator system provides the RAN with high fidelity visual effects of ships, ship behaviour and the maritime environment to accurately replicate the full range of operations likely to be experienced while on the bridge of a warship. As an integrated system, the simulators are designed to train cadets to pilot the next generation of warships. Scenarios range from simple tasks, such as passage planning, ocean passage and coastal navigation, to more complex tasks such as pilotage, berthing and un-berthing, precise navigation and close quarter manoeuvring when conducting warfare-type exercises.

Elsewhere, Kongbserg is set to deliver its K-Sim Engine Room Simulator to the National Defence University of Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur under a contract announced in May, although it is unknown when deliveries will occur. The simulator will be integrated with the company’s K-Sim Polaris bridge simulator (delivered under a previously-signed contract) to support engineer-specific and Crew Resource Management (CRM) training. As part of its May contract to deliver the K-Sim Engine Room Simulator, the company will deliver 20 K-Sim Engine desktop simulators connected to an interactive BigView system. Kongsberg has developed BigView which is software designed to visually replicate a ship’s engine room in a three-dimensional fashion on an interactive touch screen. The K-Sim Polaris simulator will be connected to the K-Sim Engine Room simulator allowing actions on the bridge simulator to affect the engine room simulator and vice versa as in real-life, giving crews a much stronger understanding of vessel operations and operational communication. Kongsberg has also delivered its naval simulation solutions to the Republic of Singapore Navy.

Market Options

While the uptake of synthetic training options for navies has been limited to a handful of countries in the Asia-Pacific so far, many companies are targeting this region with new technologies that have the potential to revolutionise the way navies train their maritime personnel. For example, CAE is looking to build on recent successes delivering its Naval Tactical Mission Trainer (TMT) to the Marinen (Royal Swedish Navy) with active marketing of the system into the Asia-Pacific region.

The Naval TMT creates a realistic synthetic mission environment that simulates all aspects of a warship or maritime patrol aircraft to build mission readiness across a crew or maritime force. The system uses commercial off-the-shelf software including CAE’s STRIVE synthetic environmental software tool to train personnel for basic crew training, advanced crew conversion/continuation training, and part-task training for mission subsystems such as electronic warfare, radar, optronics, communications and acoustics. As demonstrated by the Swedish delivery, which included 52 student stations along with 13 instructor stations, the system is reconfigurable and scalable to allow multiple users to operate together in a common scenario at any location. The system can be configured as a classroom with instructor and student workstations, or can be spread across multiple sites and networked for distributed training. The instructor can control multiple student stations simultaneously, providing each student a set scenario to run in isolation, or multiple platforms can be rendered to allow for multi-ship or task group operations. Mark Richardson, training systems engineering lead at CAE, told AMR that the Naval TMT is set to enter service with the Swedish Navy this summer. “Sweden is our first customer for the Naval TMT but we are also working with potential customers in Europe and the Middle East region,” he said. “The Asia-Pacific region is a key region for CAE, and we see increasing demand for all types of simulators from this region.”

Naval TMT
CAE has delivered its Naval TMT to Sweden and is now looking to expand its customer base around the world, including with customers in the Asia-Pacific. (CAE)

Other companies seeing success with Asia-Pacific nations in the naval simulator market include ECA Group. The company announced in March that it had secured new contracts with unnamed customers in the region for three of its simulation systems, including an upgrade for its Surface Ship Simulator to an existing customer. This upgrade will allow multiple simulators configured to represent various warships to be integrated for single and multi-domain complex warfare scenarios, force protection and heli-deck operations.

UK company SEA is also targeting the heli-deck operations market in the Asia-Pacific with its Decksim Aviation Command Team Trainer. The company is providing this deck operation simulation solution to the Royal Navy for its HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier. The Decksim Aviation Command Team trainer allows flight deck officers and aircraft handlers to realistically train for operations on the flight decks of vessels that carry fixed- or rotary-wing aircraft. The system uses the company’s SEAvis software toolset to generate high fidelity visualisations of the vessel and the surrounding airspace. The trainer replicates the air traffic control radar display, has an interactive deck plan, reproduces the marine environment and has three-dimensional computer models of aircraft. Moreover, by using the software different desired flight deck, aircraft, aircraft circuit waypoints and emergency procedures can be configured. The simulations can be used for mission rehearsal, to develop procedural and cognitive skills and to simulate concurrent operations by multiple airframes and types in real time. DeckSim allows students to train various scenarios including aircraft start-up and shut-down, approach, landing and take-off, tie downs, refuelling and passenger transfers. Emergency scenarios can also be rehearsed such as a crash on the flight deck, a fuel spill, oil leak, engine fire or electrical failure along with an emergency landing or engine fire.

A company spokesperson said that the region is an area that SEA sees demand from, and the firm has expanded its footprint into the Asia-Pacific to better target customer requirements. A regional office has opened in Malaysia as the company looks to build on its current work there, chiefly delivering torpedo launch systems to the Royal Malaysian Navy for deployment on its fleet of offshore patrol vessels and is marketing its DeckSim product into the region.

The move toward synthetic training by navies has been slower than that witnessed in air and ground forces, but it is beginning to gain traction worldwide. In the Asia-Pacific this is being motivated by a general desire to train military personnel more efficiently and cost-effectively. At the same time large naval programmes are offering navies the chance to throw off their conservative mantels and embrace new synthetic training technologies, giving their personnel the opportunity to train better and smarter than ever before.

 high-technology vessel programmes
New high-technology vessel programmes are offering naval forces the opportunity to take advantage of the synthetic training options currently available in the market. (Australian DoD)

by Claire Apthorp