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Army simulator to fill gap in combined-arms training.

The U.S. Army is investing $300 million in a new aviation trainer missions collectively with ground that will allow aircrews to practice forces, in a digital environment. Army officials said this flight simulator would fill a long-existing gap in the service's combined-arms training.

The contractor, Link Simulation & Training, in Austin, Texas, is expected to deliver the first Army Aviation Combined Arms Tactical Trainer--Aviation Reconfigurable Manned Simulator (AVCATT-A) suite this April. South Carolina's National Guard is expected to receive a suite in August.

At least 18 suites will be deployed over six years, said the project director, Jean Burmester. "Existing aviation simulation training capability does not fully support the aviation combined arms training strategy," she said in an interview. Current trainers, Burmester explained, do not provide enough realism to support mission rehearsals in a joint-warfare environment.

Another consideration that prompted the development of AVCATT, Burmester added, is that live field exercises are costly and are constrained by environmental a d safety restrictions.

AVCATT is a "collective trainer that does nor currently exist in the Army," aid Allen Borgardts, program manager for AVCATT at the Army's Simulation, Training a d Instrumentation Command. "It does no focus on crew procedures but on flying e aircraft concentrating on a combined mission."

In late December, the Army awarded Link Simulation and Training a $19.7 mi lion contract to build two helicopter-training suites, to be delivered to the Army in t e fourth quarter of 2002.

An AVCATT-A suite consists of six recon-figurable simulators, a battle mast r control room and an after action review theater. The two training suites initially will be delivered with four reconfigurable simulator types, including the AH-64A Apache, H-58D Kiowa Warrior, UH-60 Black Hawk and CH-47D Chinook.

The AH-64D Longbow Apache module is slated to be added to the training suites in May 2003 and the RAH-66 Comanche platform will be added at a yet to be determined date.

The Army decided not to include helicopters that will soon be retired fro service, such as the UH- 1 Huey.

Program officials said that the AVCATT-A program is an essential element in the Army's strategy to create a virtual war-gaming environment that will enable aviator to train within networked simulators that can be reconfigured to replicate attack, reconnaissance or utility helicopters.

Using this technology, Army aviators will be able to practice a full range of tactical scenarios over a common virtual battlefield as a team. In addition, AVCATT-A trainers will be interoperable with the service's currently fielded simulators supporting ground-based mechanized armor unit training.

This contract award follows separate contracts that Link received in late 999 and mid-2001 to build the first two suites for the AVCATT-A program. Suites one an two will be delivered to the Army during e second quarter of 2002, with installations taking place at Fort Hood, Texas, and Fort Rucker, Ala.

"The combined arms tactical training capability offered by AVCATT-A's reconfigurable manned modules will enable commanders to mix and match helicopter platforms and enable aircrews to work as a cohesive unit while undertaking complex simulated training missions," said Jim Dunn, president of Link Simulation and Training, in a recent statement.

Each of these deployable helicopter-training suites will be housed in two 53-foot semi-trailers.

A realistic, virtual training environment will be supported by intelligent semi-automated forces. These forces, both friendly and opposing, will support the fighting environment. Under its initial AVCATT-A contract, Link is providing three geo-specific terrain data bases that simulate the Army's National Training Center in Fort Irwin, Calif., central Germany and Fort Hood.

AVCATT-A pilot trainers will be designed to integrate directly into the Army's command, control, communication, computers and intelligence systems. Battalion or brigade staff personnel, working at stations within their administrative and tactical operations center, will control battlefield support elements and combat forces participating in a simulated engagement.

The system simulates attack, reconnaissance, cargo and utility aircraft platforms. The suite has semi-automated forces workstations, an after-action review capability a master-control console and workstations for ground maneuver, fire support, close air support, logistics, battle command and engineer role players.

The operative word in this program is "reconfigurable," said Borgardts. "In roughly 90 minutes, you can change the configuration and move to other platforms, to exercise other platforms and configurations."

Burmester explained that AVCATT would have platform-specific equipment, such as consoles and displays, as well as common components, including the seat, anti-torque pedal and visual projectors.

"We pull the panel off and select a new aircraft type, bring it down, put it in place," explained Gary E Wehrfritz, principal systems engineer at Link Simulation & Training. During a demonstration of the AVCATT system, Wehrfritz explained that the changeover between one type of helicopter to another is relatively easy. A virtual-reality demonstrator was on display at last year's Interservice Industry Training, Simulation and Education Conference, in Orlando, Fla. He noted that "every inch of the trailer" is used as efficiently as possible, to make AVCATT easier to transport. "We can go through this whole scenario in about 12 minutes to reconfigure a single manned module," Wehrfritz said.

A big Army concern is for the simulator to exactly march the specifications of the real aircraft. "Concurrency with current fielded systems and obtaining access to data in sufficient time to allow development within the simulation is going to be a challenge for this program," said Burmester.

"There are more requirements than you have budgets for," said Borgardts. The program will have to keep up with six different aircraft.

AVCATT officials work closely with the aircraft program offices, so they can estimate the costs of keeping the simulator concurrent, explained Burmester.

AVCATT has a helmet-mounted high-resolution display capability. Approximately, 12 helmets are required for the six different configurations.

The helmet, called the Sim Eye XL100A, is built by Kaiser Electronics in Carlsbad, Calif. "With the helmet, the pilot will see all the outer window and sensor videos," said Wehrfritz. He said the helmet also has a head-track system, so when the plot is looking down, he can see the instrument panel and the controls.

The Sim Eye XL100A uses solid-state image source technology to provide full-color video imagery. One advantage of the solid-state image sources is their low-power consumption, according to Kaiser Electronics.

A sensor on top of the helmet allows the aviator to turn his head when he is flying and look on the other side of the aircraft. A so-called accelerometer "sees how fast the head is moving and anticipate where you are going," said Wehrfritz.

One of the drawbacks of the helmet, however, is that it is heavier than the regular helmets pilots wear. "The training helmets are much heavier because of all the features needed to provide a realistic environment," Burmester explained. She said that there are studies underway to find ways to reduce the weight "We are already possibly able to rake it down by one pound, which is significant for somebody who has to sit in for five hours of training," Burmester said.

The AVCATT battle master-control station, or BMC, supports an interactive training scenario, by changing the variables of the exercise. The pilots will be able to fight and train under a series of simulated conditions, such as battlefield smoke, weapons effects, blowing snow, dust or sand, variances in wind, visibility and cloud ceiling. This can be replicated under day, dusk and night environments, according to Link.

Semi-automated forces can simulate up to 1,000 units--friendly and opposing, said Steve Brady, Link's lead computer engineer. The battle master-control station supports role-playing. "Their job would be something like the fire support units, or the ground units, or other type of units in the mission that aren't manned," he said.

"We have only six manned modules," Brady emphasized. "Everything else is simulated." The battle master controller manages and coordinates everything that happens in the BMC. "He is going to put malfunctions in the aircraft if he has to, he is going to put weapons aboard the aircraft, he is going to put fuel aboard the aircraft," Brady said. "He is going to configure the manned module the way he wants this mission to be run, so he is the guy in charge of the actual training scenario." The BMC also has a manager of semi-automated forces and two other control technicians who provide support for each unit.

The battle master controller has "a God's eye-view of what is going on in the battle, said Brady. "He can look around at any point in the database." The BMC also simulations radio communications, so pilots can talk to ground units and the role players can dial up the frequencies and talk to the helicopters. "We have full radio simulation including UHF, VHF and all secure voice lines," said Brady.

AVCATT will "achieve a fair fight, realistic, high-intensity, task-loaded combat environment," said Burmester.

Like most simulator today, AVCATT comes with an after-action-review capability. The AAR room is located in the second trailer--where about 20 people can review and replay events during the exercise. Three video channels will support AAR, said company officials. Borgardts added that the AAR could run concurrently with other units training in the AVCATT suite.

The trainer will be compliant with the Distributed Interactive Simulation (DIS) standard, compatible and interoperable with other combined arms tactical trainers (CATT). Among them is the Lockheed Martin Close Combat Tactical Trainer, CCTT. Others include the Engineer CATT, Air Defense CATT and Fire Support CATT.

Additionally, AVCATT will be compliant with the High Level Architecture and the Joint Tactical Architecture, Burmester added.

Once the AVCATT suites are fielded, they will be able to connect to each other and achieve a collective and combined aviation battle exercise at the respective sites.

During deployments, she said, troops will be able to use AVCATT to conduct mission rehearsals and refresh their skills.

AVCATT is deployable by C-5 or C-17 cargo aircraft, said Burmester. A training suite will be deployed to Korea and another one in Germany. A "fly-away" kit of generators and power supplies will be included with the trainer suite. "It is already capable to adjust to different power variances," said Borgardts.

Burmester said the program office is still reviewing the distribution plan to make sure that the right system is fielded according to the technical configurations of specific sites.

RELATED ARTICLE: Training Instrumentation Made Deployable

Cubic Corp. recently unveiled a $2 million instrumentation system designed to monitor joint air and ground military training exercises. It is called the Deployable System for Training and Readiness (DSTAR).

"When soldiers are deployed, it normally is hard to have field training, because you can't get the instrumentation out where they are," said Philip Fisch, the company's director of business development.

Current instrumentation systems monitor ground training or air combat training, but not both simultaneously. There is no capability for joint training, said Fisch. "It is designed specifically for joint training. It is the need that we are trying to fill."

The technology in DSTAR is not new, he explained. It essentially combines existing technologies already deployed in training ranges. "We were stimulated by what happened on September 11," said Fisch. "The interest and the need increased significantly. We would not be surprised to see it shipped overseas by a customer."

DSTAR can be assembled in a commercial trailer, for easier shipping, he said.

Three antennas are mounted on the trailer-a Global Positioning System (GPS) antenna used to track the location of the exercise participants, another antenna to communicate with the aircraft and one that connects to the ground vehicles and troops.

The DSTAR software is PC-based. The system incorporates current technology in air combat maneuvering instrumentation (ACMI), which is used for live training drills. ACMI systems have been around for about 30 years.

Another system included in the DSTAR is currently fielded at Nellis Air Force Base--the ICADS (Individual Combat Aircrew Debrief System).

For ground combat, DSTAR relies on the MILES system (multiple integrated laser engagement system) which allows troops to use the weapons they would use in actual combat, but they shoot laser beams rather than live ammunition.

With DSTAR, said Fisch, "You can actually see the air targets on both displays, and ground targets on both displays. And [you] have the opportunity for ground targets to shoot at aircraft, weapons simulation, and to record the fact that the aircraft was shot from a hand-launched missile or from a vehicle, and [to] be able to debrief at the end of the exercise that you killed that aircraft."

Current systems can't do that, he said. "They are stratified: you either train air-to-air, or ground-to-ground training, a little bit of air-to-ground training, no ground to air training."

DSTAR operates in a Windows environment and interfaces with both analog and digital systems, Fisch said.

At press time, Cubic had not yet sold any DSTAR systems. A prototype was on display at the 2001 Interservice Industry Training, Simulation and Education Conference, in Orlando, Fla.-- Roxana Tiron
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Title Annotation:related article: Training Instrumentation Made Deployable
Author:Tiron, Roxana
Publication:National Defense
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Feb 1, 2002
Previous Article:Commander fears 'Simulation Atrophy': Distributed Mission Training moving 'technologically in right direction'.
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