Simulation means different things to different people. Simulation in Defence has always been a many-headed beast. It means different things to different people from full motion flight simulators to decision support with experimentation and modelling technologies, high level single-Service/joint training and everything else in between.

According to the Defence website, the Simulation Branch is headed by the director general simulation. On behalf of VCDF, Simulation Branch provides enterprise level governance of the Defence Simulation Capability and the capability for Military Experimentation.

Simulation governance is achieved through the Australian Defence Simulation Office (ADSO), which provides advice and guidance to Defence in the development of simulation systems, policy, standards and application. ADSO is also responsible for coordinating engagement with Allies and Industry on Simulation and supports simulation acquisition for Defence through an established standing offer panel – the Defence Simulation Support Panel (DSSP) – and the Synthetic Environment Working Group (SEWG). The single-Services and Joint Operations Command (JOC) continue to strive for greater training outcomes enabled by simulation.

But times are a changing. ADSO will be moving out of the governance driven VCDF framework out to the JOC Group and a more operational setting. DSTO Dr Mike Brennan, who was DGSIM for just over four years, has moved into Capability Development Group and RAN Commodore Charles McHardie is now leading the ADSO.

There is a sense in Defence that simulation across the board needs some greater coordination across the organisation and a clearer focus on getting operational training runs on the board for the Services and joint environment as it were. The future centrepiece of support for ADSO functions is the newly rescoped JP3035 where the Defence Synthetic Environment (DSE) will act as the overall system architecture for how Defence uses simulation assets to achieve vital training outcomes. Most programs acquire simulators as part of their training regime for individual platforms without the concern of joint or integrated exercises in mind.

The program has been split into two phases with the first phase to support Navy training capabilities that need that extra helping hand now. The later phase is still up to seven years away, according to the 2012 DCP. Given the technology refresh rate the industry experiences, there is a sense that there will be smaller buys more often under a larger long-term plan.

ADSO was to be the guiding light for simulation policy in Defence but the eventual question of who pays for what always seemed to stump the process. Both the SEWG and DSSP have gone some ways to combating that but there is still work to be done.

Plans to consolidate all single-Service and joint simulation assets and capabilities into a single centre of excellence type arrangement, to enable training outcomes, may even be on the cards.

Talisman Sabre and JCTC

The best known example of highly successful joint training with combined live, synthetic, constructed and simulated elements is run out of the JOC owned Joint Combined Training Centre (JCTC) for the Talisman Sabre series of exercises. The latest in this series was beginning as this article was being written.

The JCTC originates from a 2004 agreement between the Australian Minister for Defence and US Secretary for Defense to significantly enhance the quality of our bilateral training program and ADF capabilities. The general concept of the JCTC was to upgrade Australian Defence training areas in both Queensland and the Northern Territory through the networking of state-of-the-art facilities, including the use of instrumentation and simulation. The objective of the JCTC is to deliver enhanced high-end, bilateral training in order to increase and measure operational capability and preparedness, improve interoperability, and facilitate capability development.

Industry people, currently led by a handful of uniformed Defence personnel, run the centre. ADM understands that the contract for JCTC is currently being renewed with an expanded number of contractors required to grow the capability even further.

One of the companies supporting the JCTC, Calytrix Technologies, has been involved in the centre since the beginning.

“The corner stone of the JCTC is the delivery of Live, Virtual and Constructive (LVC) integration,” Calytrix Technologies managing director Shawn Parr told ADM as far back as 2010. “That is the integration of different types of simulation systems to create a fully synthetic environment. The JCTC has done some great things.

“The JCTC has achieved some world leading major technical milestones that perhaps people aren’t fully aware of. For example, the JCTC were the first group who were able to put computer-generated (constructive) forces into a live FA-18 cockpit allowing the pilot to fully interact in an LVC exercise. In this example the pilot receives a normal radar signal indicating the location of another aircraft and is able to interact with them as if it was a real (live) aircraft.

“Similarly, the JCTC has integrated Australian soldiers so that they can interact with, and call for fire support from, a virtual AC130 simulator being flown in the US. The provision of constructive UAV support into Mission Rehearsal Exercises is now common place. From that perspective, the JCTC really is leading the way.”

And what the centre can offer now has gone beyond that, evolving from these tactical level events to true Joint Task Force/operational level complex exercises. As one senior defence official put it, seeing 15,000 soldiers running around Shoalwater Bay for Talisman Sabre is the easy part of the exercise. The opportunities offered with the LHDs will be an integral part of the ADF capability and the JCTC is already gearing up for their part in the game. Parts of the LHD introduction into service will include testing done in future Talisman Sabre exercises.

Shared meaning

As technology evolves, offering new ways to train and exercise, Defence is coming at the issue two fronts: what is the outcome and how much does it cost? Is simulation the best way to train for the desired outcome? Is there a business case for modelling something or will a whiteboard and a few markers do the same job? Defence wants to be a smarter customer in this regard.

Defence is hoping that the DSE under JP3035 will provide an architecture and standards framework that can be applied organisation wide to make the best of what they have now alongside future technologies. There is still a long way to go but there is a sense now that Defence is headed in the right direction.

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