Defense to bulk up on simulation training systems

Defense to bulk up on simulation training systems

BY DENNIS BLANK | SPECIAL TO GCN

ORLANDO, Fla.'Military leaders last month laid out a 10-year, multibillion-dollar plan for bolstering simulated training.

At a National Defense Industry Association conference, Pentagon brass called on contractors to be both cost-conscious and imaginative when devising Defense Department simulation systems.
At the two-day conference, Air Force, Army and Navy officials described futuristic war-training scenarios and the type of help DOD will expect from vendors.

The Army's Simulation, Training and Instrumentation Command in Orlando has awarded simulation systems contracts worth $4 billion over the last eight years. STRICOM officials said that in the coming decade they would award contracts for high-end computer graphics, wireless technologies, robotic virtual reality tools and artificial intelligence applications.

Speakers from all the services emphasized that they are not only working on single-site systems but on applications that would tap Internet and satellite communications to let DOD teams at different locations participate in large-scale war games.

'The Army simulation and training budget is going up, and we need to be agile and versatile,' said Michael Macedonia, STRICOM's chief scientist. 'Our potential adversaries are getting the same quality of systems, so we have to raise the bar. We have to exploit commercial technology.'

Brig. Gen. Stephen M. Seay, STRICOM's commanding general, predicted expansion of the command's Orlando facility and DOD's Institute for Creative Technology. The Los Angeles institute is tapping Hollywood AI experts to create realistic simulations [GCN, Jan. 8, Page 30].

With industry's innovations, Seay said, modeling and simulation are on a 'fast track.' Acquisition lead times have dropped from 36 months to 18, and industry has helped speed acquisitions, he said.

Col. Larry Skapin, director of the Air Force's Training Systems Product Group, said the service has set a $3 billion ceiling over a 15-year period for simulation training.

Time to buy

He, too, noted the quicker buying times. The Air Force in 140 days awarded contracts totaling $486 million to Boeing Co., ECC International Corp. of Orlando, L-3 Communications Corp. of New York and Lockheed Martin Corp. Previously, similar buys had taken up to 400 days.

But the shortened turnaround is still too long, he said. 'Our goal is reduce that to 60 days.'
Col. Jerry Straw, chief of the Warfighter Training Research Division at the Air Force Research Laboratory, discussed linking simulators at bases around the world and integrating complex training databases.

And although DOD plans to pump more funding into simulation and training, it's not enough, Straw said. 'We are struggling to support contracts.'

Dan Torgler, program manager for training systems for the Marine Corps, said the service would increase its staff working at STRICOM to 40 people. He said the Corps by 2003 would spend $5.94 million on advanced amphibious assault training and $2.36 million for an artillery simulation system.

Capt. Don Gagnon, commanding officer of the Naval Air Warfare Center, said the Navy also has accelerated its procurement process, which for some buys had run 18 months. As an example, he cited a $5.4 million contract for an aircraft trainer that the service awarded in 107 days.

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