The Australasian Simulation Congress 2017 took place in Sydney in late August. The theme of People Energising Innovation was apt - as technology in this space advances exponentially there are concerns the workforce to support it is falling behind. ADM was there to provide a snapshot of the event.
Once again the SimTecT, SimHealth and Serious Games streams were aligned for the event held at Sydney’s brand new International Convention Centre.
A new key feature of this year’s event was the inaugural SimYouth program to introduce high school students with an interest in STEM to the rapidly developing field of simulation. NASA astronaut Dr Michael Gernhardt, who was also a keynote speaker, addressed the group on the first day.
Noetic Group sponsored the program and its principle John Smith said students would have the opportunity to engage with cutting-edge simulation technologies, world class innovators and industry experts.
“We really want to change the demographic of the simulation space, opening this area up to younger people,” he said.
ADM attended some of the plenary sessions; of note were presentations delivered by director Air Force Ranges Darren Manser and Army’s director Capability Operations and Land Simulation, Colonel Spencer Norris.
Manser spoke candidly on the role of LVC in developing a 5th Generation Air Force and some of the challenges that would need to be surmounted. Despite calls from the fast jet fraternity for constructive and virtual simulations to be fed into the cockpit of live aircraft, Manser said this was something “that was not currently technologically possible”.
He cited the cyber security threat in terms of LVC as being particularly potent.
“If you have a virtual system that truly replicates the live one, then it’s subject to all of the same security risks, issues and constraints and that is a huge overhead. If you extrapolate that further to a LVC environment, you have created a vehicle whereby cyber attack can penetrate the live platform.”
Another key point made by Manser addressed the looming talent shortage in the LVC community here in Australia.
“I want a persistent workforce of people who can develop scenarios, manage accreditation, and take care of modelling and the security of facilities – that worforce does not exist in the scale needed both now and in the future.”
Army’s Directorate of Land Simulation was approved last year and its director COL Norris took advantage of the opportunity to bring the audience up to speed on what the service had been up to.
“The Army Simulation Manual has been drafted and will be an effective tool for engaging with industry – we thought if we could get industry to understand what our capability is then obviously that starts the conversations on developing solutions for the future.”
He added Army realised it needed to do a better job of bringing simulation into new capabilities.
“I think in the past we’ve been a little guilty of bringing simulation capabilities in at the end of the acquisition phase which is the wrong way around.”
In drafting the manual, he said the directorate has considered the capability lifecycle and determined where simulation should be implemented along that path, from the strategy and concepts phase all the way through to acquisition and then the eventual disposal of a capability.
Systems Engineering Manager (Simulation) at Thales Jonathan Mitchell talked about air-to-air refuelling (AAR) fidelity for training outcomes on the Wedgetail Operational flight trainer. He explained how pilots had reported a longitudinal stability issue which highlighted a fidelity gap in the AAR model. A boom interaction model had been developed in the absence of empirical and design data and the model was carefully designed to enable a subjective tuning approach.
“The pilots are very happy with it and it was a good outcome – proof that you don’t need swathes of empirical data and expensive flight trials, just a bit of intelligence upfront and an understanding of what the training needs and outcomes are.”
In terms of defence exhibitors there was a good showing of both primes and SMEs at the event; the former included CAE Defence, BAE Systems, Northrop Grumman, Rockwell Collins, Cubic and Elbit Systems; some of those representing the latter were Calytrix, DXC Technology, Bohemia Interactive Simulations and ImmersaView.
The BAE Systems booth had an immersive VR walkaround on their Land 400 Phase 2 contender the AMV35; your correspondent had some fun getting stuck into the CRV’s toolbox and engaging targets from the gunner’s station. Also featured was a periscope trainer and a demonstration of a design review of a ships’ engineering model in VR using Prospect Pro.
Northrop Grumman was displaying their suite of tools and services that have been developed to better facilitate LVC training across disparate systems. As manager (Communications Programs) Stu Blackwell explained, NG operates over 70 sites worldwide for the USAF’s distributed mission training.
He demonstrated a Cross Domain Security (CDS) tool that visually represents the CDS rules for verification purposes.
“We provide the glue for the network, regardless of the make of the simulator, we can use this tool to measure what comes out of the back of the simulator to standardise it.”
The advantage of a standardised environment, Blackwell explained, is that integration only needs to be performed once after all participants have complied with the standard.
“For the ADF, with JP 9711 (Core Simulation Capability) you’re going to have joint and coalition training at varying levels of capability – what’s needed is a strong cross domain solution policy that allows you to filter what participants will see.”
VBS3 developer Boehmia Interactive Simulations (BISim) was there in force, and managing director Ryan Stephenson told ADM the company was making a concerted push into the pure image generation (IG) market.
“VBS3 is a simulation tool but it also does visualisation. Our VBS Blue IG is a pure visualisation tool which complies with industry standards and can be retrofitted to existing simulators, so basically we have a product now that can provide a refresh for legacy simulators or be used on new simulators.”
Stephenson said the ADF would benefit from the establishment of a simulation career stream, such that simulation expertise within the ADF is not only retained but grown.
“There are some excellent proponents of simulation within Defence who understand the area very well; but this isn’t consistent across the entire organisation.”
This article first appeared in the October 2017 edition of ADM.