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Navy Shifts Gears on Air-Combat Training System.

Pentagon officials unhappy about the lack of progress in JTCTS program

The Defense Department directed the Navy and the Air Force six years ago to develop a joint training instrumentation system for combat aircraft. The project, called the Joint Tactical Combat Training System, failed to deliver an acceptable product, said Pentagon officials, so the program was canceled and the services are re-evaluating their options.

JTCTS was designed to make flight training more realistic. During exercises, missile-shaped pods that contain high-tech sensors are mounted under the aircraft wings, so they can record and calculate simulated firings of weapons and "kill" messages.

The data can be monitored in real time on ground- or ship-based stations, or can be recorded for after-action review. JTCTS was intended to provide a deployable training system that was nor dependent on dockside facilities, shore-based sites or fixed ranges.

The Navy originally sought this technology for tactical combat training, to replace older Top Gun-type ranges. The goal was to develop a range system that could be used at sea, where both the aircraft and the ships would be instrumented. A previous Navy-only program was cancelled in 1992. In 1995, the Defense Department mandated that the Navy pursue a joint effort with the Air Force, which was seeking a similar capability for its combat ranges.

Collectively, both services were expected to buy up to 1,800 pods. The system's prime contractor was Raytheon Company Naval and Maritime Systems.

Since last year, however, the Navy stopped funding JTCTS and the contract with Raytheon was not extended.

JTCTS program representatives at the Naval Air Systems Command, in Patuxent River, Md., said they could not comment at press time. A Raytheon spokesman said company officials were not available.

"The Navy decided to cut their losses," said Dick Dickson, program officer for range applications at the Naval Air Systems Command, in China Lake, Calif. But even though the JTCTS program was stalled, said Dickson, "the requirements are still there."

The problem with JTCTS, he said, is that "it was trying to do too much."

Some JTCTS prototypes were tested at sea last year and "achieved some success," said Dickson. But the system "had problems." One reason why the program was unsuccessful, he said, was that the Navy and the Air Force "added requirements that would have made the system too expensive to produce, under Raytheon's approach."

Dickson predicted that the Navy will end up buying "off-the-shelf" training pods to fill its needs in the absence of JTCTS. Air-combat maneuvering instrumentation systems are available on the market today. Manufacturers of this equipment include Cubic Defense Systems and Metric Systems Corp. Both companies have been in discussions with the Navy's JTCTS program office, but they declined to comment about potential sales or contract opportunities.

John Walsh, assistant director of collective training at the office of the defense secretary, lamented the fact that the Navy spent $100 million on JTCTS and "got nothing." Ultimately, he said, "I think JTCTS failed, because the contractor didn't go through with it and build it."

Asked whether the failure resulted from JTCTS being a joint program, Walsh was noncommittal. His office is working to try to figure out how the services can train together more, he said. "That is a subject that we are trying to work on right now," Walsh said. "In actual practice, [JTCTS] was not a joint program, but a Navy-led program where the Air Force would buy from. Maybe there should be a joint program office."

Joint training and testing is a sore subject at the Defense Department, because most instrumentation systems are "incompatible with each other," said Dickson. "There are too many configurations of testing and training equipment."

The lack of standards, he explained, makes it difficult to fulfill "growing requirements to conduct testing and training evaluations simultaneously."

Approximately 3,400 testing and training systems have been fielded in 55 different configurations, said Dickson. Some of the hardware that should be standardized, he said, includes pod shells, inertial measurement units, GPS receivers, data links, power supplies, software architecture, encryption and nose cones.

There is a simple explanation for the lack of compatible equipment, said Dickson. "There is no penalty for not using standards, and no reward for using them."

Walsh noted that the Defense Department recently endorsed a so-called "joint testing and training roadmap." Under the JTTR, the Pentagon will spend $1 million a year on a joint testing and training architecture. The goal, said Walsh, is to provide a "seamless environment" between constructive (for command and staff level training), virtual (digital simulations) and live training.

"None of these systems today talks sideways, up or down," said Walsh, "We need a live/virtual/constructive environment in which we can train."
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Article Details
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Author:Erwin, Sandra I.
Publication:National Defense
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 2001
Previous Article:Modeling, Simulation Sector to Undergo Change.
Next Article:Simulations Help Train for 'Extreme Risks'.

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