Simulation: Seeking simulation stimulation | ADM June 2012

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Simulation is arguably the fastest growing technology within the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) with all three services acquiring a variety of simulation systems to enhance training, sustain proficiency and achieve cost effectiveness.

The New Zealand Army has a dedicated Simulation Centre (NZASC) at Linton camp near Palmerston North, which includes simulation for artillery, for dismounted infantry and for operating the Army’s Light Armoured Vehicles (LAVs).

When ADM visited the NZASC in 2009 the unit had facilities operating at Burnham near Christchurch and at the Army’s training area, Waiouru, in the central North Island.

Major Peter Curran, then commanding the NZASC, said “At present, simulation training is optional and not part of core training for Army personnel.”

MAJ Curran emphasised the need for command and control when using the various simulation tools: “We need user units to provide the C2 element to supervise activities, and scenarios must underpin the respective unit’s mission essential tasks – otherwise the training is pointless.”

Two years later, in August 2011, Major Curran told ADM “We have more senior people looking at [simulation] and how it can be applied and talking about integrating [simulation] into the training hierarchy, so that is a positive step forward.”

Indeed no less than the Chief of Defence Force (CDF) Lt-General Rhys Jones mentioned the importance of simulation for the NZDF during a radio interview on Anzac Day in April this year.

Among many structural changes recently introduced to the NZ Army is the formation of Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) under the command of Colonel Evan Williams.

“We are looking at how best to deliver Army-wide training, how the Army learns and the ways in which we train.”

So that too suggests simulation has gone from being an optional aspect of Army training to an integral part of a training syllabus, although ‘simulation’ appeared on almost twice as many pages in the 2009  Annual Report on the NZDF as it does in the 2011 Report. Moreover the glossy Defence Capability Plan published last September does not mention simulation at all. But there is no doubt simulation is thriving within the Royal NZ Navy (RNZN) for the NZ$5 million marine technician training simulator, the Marine Engineering Synthetic Training Environment (MESTE), opened, albeit with upgrades pending, at Devonport, Auckland in 2009.

Using MESTE will drastically reduce training time for marine engineering trades, increase the throughput of qualified watch keepers and also expose trainees to levels of stress that would be difficult and dangerous to attempt to reproduce on an actual ship, such as repeated total electrical failures, the then RNZN Technical Training Officer LTCDR Des Tiller told ADM.

With all modules in place MESTE provides simulation not only for the Anzac frigates but also two machinery control rooms, a main power system room for switchboard training, a machinery local operating panel room for simulating systems and machinery and an Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV) bridge for full mission simulation.

MESTE provides sound and visual cues via 40-inch touch-screens and is designed to simulate weather up to Sea State 10 (i.e. wind speed of 48-55 knots, waves 30ft high).

Before MESTE was introduced, Anzac simulation had only been available to the RNZN at the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) base at HMAS Stirling in Perth, Western Australia.

Tranas, headquartered in Ireland, developed MESTE, with local support from engineering consultancy company Beca Applied Technologies and marine electronics company Electronic Navigation Ltd.

Naturally, the simulation devices operated by the NZ Army and the RNZN are two dimensional and lack the third dimension that is integral to flight simulation which has effectively exploded within the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF). After decades of having to travel overseas for simulated flying hours the RNZAF now has its own sophisticated suite of flight simulators, both fixed wing and rotary.

The former includes the systems integration and testing laboratory (SITL) for the P-3 Orions being upgraded to P-3K2 configuration. Also selected for the P-3K2 training syllabus is a flight deck trainer.

There is a simulated flight deck for the life extended project (LEP) C-130H Hercules too and this was on show when the first Hercules to complete its upgrade was formally returned to its base at Whenupai, Auckland in October 2010. Described as the Hercules life extension program part-task trainer (PTT), designed by CAE in Montreal, the simulator was delivered a year before the first LEP aircraft, in October 2009.

It includes a touch-screen cockpit with working control yokes, throttles and rudder pedals and is housed in a C-130 shaped nose shell with three large rear projection screens providing an effective sense of motion. All 40 Squadron C-130 crews will ‘fly’ the PTT as part of their formal ground training prior to flying the LEP aircraft, ADM was told.

More recently a number of rotary wing simulators have arrived at the Ohakea air base for the A109s which arrived last year and the NH90 helicopters, the first of which arrived last December but were not formally accepted until February 2012.

Described by Wing Commander Graham Poucher to ADM as a ‘full rocking and rolling simulator,’ it is housed in its own purpose-built building —known as the Helicopter Synthetic Training Centre — adjacent to the state-of-the-art 8,700 m2 hangar constructed to house both the A109 and NH90 fleets. The A109 Flight Training Device (FTD), commissioned last November. Speaking at the launch of the training platform, the Chief of Air Force, Air Vice-Marshal Peter Stockwell said the FTD has an expected service life of at least 30 years.

“It will provide approximately 1,400 hours of training per year but it has the capacity to provide in excess of twice this, if required. At the planned rate, the simulator will effectively pay for itself in less than five years,” he said.

Aircrew training to fly the A109 also have the assistance of a Virtual Interactive Procedure Trainer (VIPT). Flight Lieutenant Cam Harvey, one of the first Qualified Flying Instructors (QFIs) on the A109, told ADM that the PC-based VIPT touch-screen procedural trainer is “no-visual, no-motion, but … you can operate all the buttons, get airborne, fly around the sky and do instrument approaches, hold, climb, descend and get used to all the checks before you get to the sim.”

The VIPT is apparently capable of simulating all aspects of instrument flight using the aircraft’s automatic flight control system. The A109 FTD, FltLt Harvey told ADM, “is just a small step from a level D simulator because we chose not to get the actual instruments in the sim, so they are all simulated. They look exactly the same, they are just not the real thing.”

Real or not, the effects, said FltLt Harvey, are certainly realistic. “You’re in cloud, you’re bumping around, you would think you are in the actual aircraft. The visuals are that good.”

The NH90 synthetic environment features a Part Task Trainer. ADM approached the RNZAF with questions about the current status of the synthetic training aids and how the various systems were performing and whether the flying/simulator balance was as forecast and how the transition from training for the Iroquois to training for the latest generation of helicopters was progressing.

However, after a few days ADM was advised that ‘the timeframe is too tight to be able to accommodate the interview.’ Extending the two week timeframe to three weeks made no difference.

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