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Army and marines to consolidate gunnery training devices.

The U.S. Army and Marine Corps are developing common software in an effort to standardize a multitude of gunnery training systems.

Current gunnery training programs for the Abrams tank and the Bradley fighting vehicle are supported by eight different virtual gunnery trainers built by three separate contractors, said Army Maj. Lee Dunlap, assistant program manager for ground combat tactical trainers at the program executive office for simulation, training, research and instrumentation.

The Army currently pays for redundant developmental and lifecycle support costs for three distinct baselines, said Dunlap.

A common-gunnery architecture could save the Army and Marine Corps more than $66 million, he added.

The eight trainers currently in service are the advanced gunnery training system, the combat vehicle training system, conduct-of-fire trainer, advanced gunnery training system, Abrams full-crew interactive skills trainer, the advanced Bradley full-crew interactive skills trainer, the conduct-of fire trainer, the Bradley advanced training system and the Bradley conduct-of-fire recap.

Adding to the mix is the Stryker mobile gun system advanced gunnery-training system, which would come with specific software.

Dunlap said that the Stryker gunnery training system is likely to become the baseline for a new common gunnery architecture.

"In the case of the common gunnery architecture, the Stryker MGS training system will be the first system produced," he said. "The CGA schedule meshes perfectly with the Stryker MGS AGTS schedule, allowing it to become the first product in the new family."

All existing devices train soldiers and crews "to standard," but will require concurrency upgrades to support new manuals that are scheduled to be released this month, said Dunlap.

The Abrams, Bradley and Stryker master gunner communities also have further defined their needs for urban training scenarios. Operators want models and simulations that are more in tune with the real operating environment, that can quickly adapt gunnery to changes in tactics, techniques and procedures, and that can easily be adapted to various scenarios.

The driving engine of the common architecture is the One Semi-Automated Forces Objective System--a computer-generated force modeling software that represents entities from the individual to the brigade level.

The One SAF Objective System has been chosen to be the embedded simulation engine for the Future Combat System and will replace current software such as Janus and One SAF Objective Test Bed.

Based on an analysis of requirements, the One SAF software components can provide half of the functionality required by a gunnery training system, said Dunlap. The common gunnery architecture will be developed by merely adding new software components to the One SAF software, Dunlap said.

"The basic concept of a product line is the idea of building products from a collection of reusable components," explained Dean Runzel, a software engineer at PEO STRI.

The best example of a company using this software product-line approach is Nokia Corp., he said. "Nokia maintains a large library of software components that they use to build their family of cell phones," he explained, citing a case study conducted by the Software Engineering Institute at Carnegie-Mellon University which examined Nokia's use of a software product line architecture. "There are components for the various keypad options, for the various display options, components to deal with different languages, components for picture-taking and components to deal with international wireless phone standards."

In order to create a new phone, the engineers at Nokia select a set of components-say a French language, high-resolution display and European wireless interface--and link them to create software specific to a particular phone, he said. Software for another phone model can be created by selecting a slightly different set of components, he added.

"Using this approach of building a set of products from a set of reusable components allows Nokia to bring 25 new phone models to market world-wide each year," he said. "The common gunnery architecture is intended to bring this type of flexibility to gunnery training devices."

Some of the components of the CGA "product line" are sound-generation, visual generation, training record management and crew station interface. "The crew station interface component is extremely important because it forms the link between the software and the hardware of a particular training device," said Runzel.

A new soldier enlisting in the National Guard, for example, would train on one kind of system at the armor school at Fort Knox, Ky., and go to a different system at his home station. If the soldier saves his training records on a 3.5mm disk at Fort Knox, he cannot upload that disk into the training system used by his home unit, said Dunlap.

Also, when the Army develops a new munition, each of the three baselines in the current trainers "must be updated separately in order to implement behavior which should be the same regardless of the training device," he said.

The common trainer effort is divided into three phases, said Dunlap. The first will define the software product line. The second phase, which is slated to begin in mid 2005, will begin issuing contracts for the development of the components. Thirdly, the Army will upgrade the Stryker gun AGTS, scheduled for delivery in August 2006. The remaining eight training devices will each be updated with the common architecture by 2010, according to Dunlap. "This will occur at each device's required technical refresh" between 2007 and 2009.

"The overall approach is to develop the common gunnery architecture and implement the functionality required by the Stryker Mobile Gun System Advanced Gunnery Training System as the first increment," he said.

The software will be owned by the government, he said. The product manager for ground combat tactical trainers is collaborating with the program manager for One SAF and the Marine's Corps' program manager for training systems.

Other participants front both Army and Marine Corps include the platform project managers for Brigade Combat Team, Combat Systems and Training Systems; the Army National Guard, infantry and armor proponents, and the Army Training and Doctrine Command's system managers for Abrams, Bradley and Stryker.

One of the biggest challenges facing the team is breaking old habits. "Both the government and the industry contractors are used to conducting business and developing products following well-established processes," Dunlap said.

Using a government-owned software product line architecture "forces a fundamental shift in the way the organizations will do business," he explained. Contracts will no longer be high dollar efforts for the development of an entire system. Instead, smaller contracts will be issued to companies with particular expertise to develop specific components, he said.

Another challenge is managing a larger number of partners in the project, he said. "Program management will no longer be a simple matter of managing a one-on-one relationship between the government and a single contractor," he said. "Instead, the program manager must ensure that effective channels of communication are established and maintained between numerous contractors, each with separate business interests and concerns."
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Author:Tiron, Roxana
Publication:National Defense
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 1, 2004
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