Army training has traditionally been a ‘people-centric’ requirement, but the introduction of new capabilities and the increasing need to operate in the Joint space highlights the growing importance of collective training.
In lock-step with the Chief of Army’s ‘Accelerated Warfare’ and ‘Army in Motion’ guiding principles Army is planning an almost complete upgrade of its warfighting capabilities. The Boxer Combat Reconnaissance Vehicle (CRV) is now entering service and Army will introduce high-technology platforms such as the Apache attack helicopter, AS9/AS10 Self-Propelled Howitzer system (SPH), upgraded M1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tank (MBT), a tracked Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV) and a Short-Range Ground Based Air Defence system over the coming decade.
To integrate all of these highly capable platforms and systems together within an aspirational digital Battlefield Management System (BMS), and to then integrate these capabilities with those from other services or armed forces, such as F-35A joint strike fighters and ISR assets, and Navy’s Aegis-equipped surface combatants, will be a significant challenge.
These cutting-edge capabilities are also becoming more difficult to exercise to their limits in the live environment, either because training areas are now too small or inadequate to deliver the desired outcomes, or because the ADF may not wish to demonstrate their high-end capabilities to exercise partners or observers. As a result, the uptake of high-fidelity simulation, and the networking of it is increasingly critical to achieving the desired training outcomes.
The delivery of these outcomes cannot be achieved by Army alone however, and defence industry is an important partner on the journey. Two examples of the collaboration underway between Defence and Industry which underpin this work are Joint Project 9711 Phase 1, Core Simulation Capability (CSimC) and Army’s Land Simulation Core 2.0 programs.
Army Simulation Centres
Army is establishing simulation centres at several bases around the country to provide home-station training across many of its platforms and capabilities.
In February for example, Minister for Defence Industry Melissa Price announced a $31 million head contract with St Hilliers for the delivery of a $235 million purpose built, three-storey Armoured Vehicle Simulation Centre at Lavarack Barracks in Townsville. The work is expected to be completed in mid-2022 and will support training at 3 Brigade on the Army’s upgraded tanks and armoured fighting vehicles.
“The Land 400 Phase 2 Boxer CRVs and Phase 3 IFVs will represent a generational leap in the Australian Army’s warfighting capability. Together with the upgraded M1 tank and its armoured engineering variants, these vehicles will deliver a world-class close combat capability for Australia,” Price said. “These new vehicles will employ networked, high-fidelity training simulators in new, future ready training centres.”
Other works under Stage 1 of the Armoured Fighting Vehicle Facilities Program will deliver facilities at Puckapunyal Military Area in Victoria and Edinburgh Defence Precinct in South Australia under separate contracts.
Core Simulation Capability
Lockheed Martin Australia is partnered with NEC Australia and Australian SME Calytrix Technologies for JP9711, having signed the $282 million contract in March 2019. The CSimC capability will deliver simulation-enabled collective training across the ADF and provide a roadmap to the establishment of baseline software architecture that will link the Live, Virtual and Constructive (LVC) elements of training events.
Speaking at the contract signature in 2019, then Defence Minister Linda Reynolds said that the program will form the nucleus of future ADF collective training. “Defence’s current simulation capability allows for roughly ten simulation events per year,” Reynolds said. “Under JP9711 this will see 50 events hosted by the end of 2020 and over 200 by Final Operational Capability (FOC) in 2025.”
Despite the restrictions imposed by COVID-19 Lockheed Martin Australia announced the successful completion of Preliminary Design Review (PDR) activities in July 2020. The work was carried out by Lockheed Martin’s program team based in Canberra and also in Orlando, Florida. “This outcome is a positive example of Australia’s sustainable sovereign industrial capability in full swing, with our global teams working in concert to successfully plan and execute a PDR software on schedule,” commented then-CEO of Lockheed Martin Australia and New Zealand Joe North.
Delivering a Land simulation system
Another fundamental building block of Army’s simulation roadmap is the Land Simulation Core 2.0 (LS Core 2.0) program, which aims to develop a scalable simulation system that can be accessed on demand.
“LS Core 2.0 will address capability and staffing shortfalls within the Land Simulation System (LSS) to deliver enhanced simulation effects to Army’s point of need,” Defence said. “It will achieve this by delivering a managed suite of common simulation software, improve data warehouse functions and interoperability with Land Command, C3ISREW systems and establish a complementary contracted workforce to support an expanded Land Simulation Network (LSN) for domestic and coalition training beyond the scope of JP9711/1.”
The procurement aspect of LS Core 2.0 has been split into two tranches and a Request For Tender (RFT) for the first tranche, the acquisition of Common Simulation Software, closed in October last year. Tranche 1 is overseeing acquisition of Common Simulation Software (CSS) under three separate packages, comprising Common Virtual Simulation, Common Constructive Tool Set and Common Image Generator.
The US Army model
As one of the leading services in the use of simulation, the US Army is developing a service-wide Synthetic Training Environment (STE) which aims to provide a collective, multi-echelon training and mission rehearsal capability which brings together the LVC elements into a single training environment.
The STE is designed to facilitate “realistic, multi-echelon and multi-domain combined arms manoeuvre and mission command, live, collective training anywhere in the world.”
In August, Australia’s Bohemia Interactive Simulations (BISim) announced it had been subcontracted by Cole Engineering Services (CESI) to deliver components of the US Army’s Training Simulation Software/Training Management Tools (TSS/TMT) program. Under the contract, BISim will provide its VBS4, VBS Blue IG and VBS World Server as part of the overall solution. The TSS/TMT component supplies the central software capabilities of the overarching STE.
BISim Chief Operating Officer Peter Morrison said that the Newcastle-based company has been working with the US Army on its STE program since 2016 and as a prime contractor with CESI it has developed a prototype for a cloud-enabled virtual world training capability.
“TSS/TMT is very much a brigade-level capability and the US Army wants to put the entire brigade, from the brigade staff down to combat soldiers, into simulation,” Morrison explained. “They want to increase the number of what they term ‘bloodless battles’, the brigade-level training activities, they conduct every year. They can do that in simulation and the brigades will only go out into the field once they’ve reached a certain level of proficiency and deploy once they have proved ready to deploy.”
Morrison says the US Army is also leading the transition of simulation technology to the cloud. “They are really looking to provide a ‘Google Earth’ or ‘Bing Maps’ capability for simulated operations, all cloud-enabled (and) accessible through any computer on their network,” he added. “The cloud technologies in STE gives us tremendous processing power, we can do one to two million entities in simulation and we have demonstrated this to the US Army through prototyping.”
The Australian Army, as well as those of the Canada, New Zealand and UK, currently utilise BISim’s VBS3 software. A recent example of the benefits of the interoperability a common approach allows, is the granting of VBS3 licences for individual soldiers in the Australian Army and the UK’s Royal Yeomanry Regiment, enabling them to conduct joint training while in COVID-19 lockdown.
The US Army, US Marine Corps and at least one European country has purchased BISim’s VBS4 software, which allows training to be performed at virtual locations across the world, rather than the relatively small areas offered by the earlier VBS3 product.
“The US Army was looking for the next generation of game for training as they had the requirement to go anywhere on the planet and train there in simulation,” Morrison explained. “VBS4 is a whole-Earth virtual environment, the software includes a representation of the entire planet and you can go anywhere and start training immediately.”
Joining the dots
The Australian Army’s current simulation centres are ideal for brigade or home-station training, but Lockheed Martin’s Business Development Lead for Australia and New Zealand David Fallon sees a requirement to broaden the scope to include specialised elements of the Army Reserve or for units in areas that perhaps don’t have access to a brigade simulation centre.
“One of the toolsets we’ve identified from our experience in the US in home station training in support of the Reserve or the National Guard, is the ability to access reconfigurable trainers that can be deployed anywhere,” Fallon said. “We see an opportunity in Australia for a fairly simple, reconfigurable virtual trainer capable of being deployed anywhere that has the ability to be connected to the network and allow multiple units to be trained from different locations.”
While it will never be the complete answer to readiness training or mission rehearsal in itself – soldiers will still need to experience physical fatigue and environmental stresses caused by temperature for example – simulation is a crucial enabler of capability in the Land domain.