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Simulation: a changing role in a changing world.

Simulation: A Changing Role in a Changing World

Five hundred miles per hour, 100 feet off the ground in a narrow valley . . . and up ahead another hill. Almost at the hill . . . a hard right, and there's the target. Just one second to line up . . . weapons away . . . it's a kill. A good job for an operation in an unfamiliar land over totally unfamiliar terrain. Hard to do, but you have to do it, and on the first try!

But this wasn't the first try . . . it was the fifth, and finally it's right. How can it be OK if you do it right on the fifth try when it's got to be done on the first try? It's OK because this try was on a simulator, and this was a mission rehearsal. Five more tries and we'll be ready for the real first and only try.

Is this what the future might bring? The world is changing and the needs of the military will be changing too. What will the military's needs for trainers be in that changing world? The astonishing developments last year in eastern Europe dramatically changed the defense needs of the United States. Theater-wide conflict in Europe became a remote possibility, after being one of the most serious threats to our security for decades, and it is most likely that it will remain a remote possibility for some time. Even if the situation reversed somehow, there would be a time lapse allowing months or even years to rearm and mobilize to counter it.

The changes in the world political situation can be expected to result in major changes in our armed forces. Many changes are already underway. The easing of tensions with the Soviet Union has been seen as allowing an overall reduction in the size of our forces and a withdrawal of significant numbers of them from overseas bases. No longer do the plans for a 600-ship Navy and a 40-wing tactical Air Force seem needed.

In addition to closing overseas bases and withdrawing forces, it seems likely that more dependence will be placed on the National Guard and reserves. Our scaled-down forces will face a small threat of global or theater-wide conflict and an increasing threat of low-intensity conflicts involving heavily armed small countries. Those low-intensity conflicts might arise from disputes that are centuries old, but the circumstances leading to US involvement could arise in a few days.

Examples in recent times include Libya, Grenada and Panama, each of which were different in terms of the forces and time span involved. It can be expected that the nature of each operation, its purposes, the preparation required, etc., will also vary considerably and may arise quickly with little warning. Even as this is written, Operation Desert Shield is underway, and its character will be quite different than the other recent operations.

But in the long run, more of our forces will probably be stationed state-side and a larger percentage may become reserve or Guard forces. Until now, our reserves and Guard forces have been minimally involved in the initial planning and preparation of such operations. They or their personnel are available to supplement the regular forces -- to replace them in the United States, for example, or to add to their forces for an operation elsewhere -- should they be needed. Perhaps in the future they will become more involved from the beginning.

Somehow our forces must be ready to perform missions almost anywhere in the world, regardless of terrain and type of enemy threats, while never having trained in that location -- much less being stationed there.



The changing demands on our forces will lead to training and simulation requirements which are qualitatively different and much more stringent. The operations we can expect will normally require careful planning and rehearsal. Considering the nature of the adversary, many of these operations will also lend themselves to such preparation. A short-duration surgical strike can be planned and rehearsed to a level of detail that would not be practical or achievable in preparing for any part of a protracted global conflict. The recent Libya, Grenada and Panama operations are all good examples. In consequence, there will be a change in the needs for training and the role of simulators in that training.

Training simulators will be designed and used, more and more, as mission rehearsal devices. The DARPA-sponsored SIMNET program is also allowing many trainers located throughout the world to be integrated. Jointly conducted training for any desired location in the world can then be performed, allowing individual and team training. Such capabilities will also allow team and unit mission rehearsal in the future.

Until recently, mission rehearsal was restricted to practicing the operation in an environment similar to the mission environment: for example, flying over the deserts in the American West to rehearse a raid in the Mideast, or rehearsing an amphibious landing on a beach and shoreline similar to one where the actual landing will take place. There are obvious shortcomings to rehearsing that way, although it has been done for many years and with great success. The substitute environment is limited in how similar it can be (if one can be found at all) and the expense of conducting the rehearsal could be comparable to that of the operation. Such rehearsals also risk disclosure of our plans.

Strategic forces responsible for specific targets have used training systems to rehearse and prepare for missions for many years and they are an exception. Their wartime missions tend to remain the same for long periods of time, giving plenty of time to prepare a training exercise for rehearsal. Until recently, other forces have been restricted in using trainers for that purpose by the long time needed to prepare realistic training missions and to incorporate current, accurate intelligence data and imagery.

Future simulators for training will need to provide that detailed and accurate mission preparation and rehearsal capability. It will also be necessary for them to be prepared to conduct the rehearsals very soon after notice. A lapse of no more than a day or two after the need is identified will be required in many cases. They will need to provide accurate and detailed visual, infrared, radar and electronic warfare sensor simulations. There will be a need for detailed data banks of landmass data and threat intelligence information covering much of the world to support the simulations. The tools to translate this data to trainer data bases must be very fast and efficient to satisfy the overall requirements for fast preparation. Lastly, there must be an ability to quickly incorporate intelligence updates into the trainer data bases to accommodate last-minute changes.



This increased recognition of need for mission preparation and rehearsal-type training comes at a time of greatly improved capability and fidelity of simulation systems. The state of the art has reached the point where the realism, timeliness and complexity appropriate for mission preparation and rehearsals can be achieved.

Obtaining the necessary data bases will be a key challenge, along with developing the capability to translate incoming data from those data bases into a trainer scenario. Development of trainer hardware and software capabilities should be significantly less demanding.

The emerging data base requirements for trainers are not unique. There are a number of mission planning systems with similar needs in development or update. The data bases required to support them are identical to those needed by the new generation of trainers in many respects. There are data base standardization efforts that are intended to serve both purposes, such as the Air Force's Project 2851, which is developing the Standard DOD Simulator Digital Data Base/Common Transformation program. Mission rehearsal and mission planning systems are closely related, on many levels, with overlapping and complementary functions. The commonality of their data requirements is an outgrowth of their close functional relationship. Another example is mission area unique threat data bases.

Mission rehearsal training will be further enhanced by new capabilities to link simulators together. It will be possible to rehearse whole forces at one time. Increased visual, radar, electronic warfare and threat capabilities will add the capacities and realism needed for truly effective rehearsals as well. Part-task trainers, desktop training devices, embedded trainers and full-up weapon system trainers should all be useful in mission rehearsal rolls.

At present, Guard and reserve forces have a minimum opportunity to use full-scale simulators for training. Part-task, desktop training devices are favored for these units because of the low cost and minimal maintenance support required. As the mix of forces changes in the future, the Guard and reserve would seem to need a greater capability to accomplish mission rehearsals through the use of full-scale trainers.


The changing need for simulators to support specific mission preparation and rehearsal requirements should be increasingly recognized as the implications of the changing threat in a changing world are more fully appreciated. The potential savings that could be generated by acquiring multipurpose systems should result in these requirements being seen, in most cases, as additions to the existing requirements for training devices rather than a requirement for separate rehearsal systems.

Those needs for mission preparation and rehearsal have long been perceived and addressed by some users. However, improvements in processing time and techniques are now allowing short-notice mission rehearsal preparation. The Air Force Special Operations Force's Aircrew Training System is being procured with fast preparation as a requirement and it is believed that it is the first system to have such a requirement. Its system requirements document calls for a 48-hour preparation time and there are strong contractual incentives to ensure the requirement is met. The changing situation will spread this need to other tactical forces and make the need for and use of simulators for mission preparation and rehearsals much more widely appreciated in the future.

It would be expected that trainer requirements for the future will have challenging new capabilities to be defined with the addition of trainer networking and mission rehearsal capabilities. The training community, military and contractors, will have to work closely together to be sure the best and most affordable ideas are considered in these requirements. Together they will see that our forces are ready for the future.

The politics of our changing world dictate the need for nothing but success in the conflicts we might expect in the future. The costs of failure are usually more than just not achieving the mission goals. Usually matters are worsened by a failed mission. Further, many of the missions are so intricate that a failure of a small part can mean failure of the entire mission.

Mission rehearsal simulators can greatly reduce the risk of trial-and-error mission planning and execution. The effect of contingencies, and means of dealing with them, cna be evaluated both off-line and in real time with total mission security. Total cost savings in terms of human lives, asset attrition and political image could be considerable.

We can expect to see that simulators will be increasingly used for training and maintaining readiness for possible operations anywhere in the world. Simulators will increasingly take on an important new role -- mission rehearsal. Such simulators should be an important element in solving the problems of this changing world.

Thomas V. Murphy is president of AAI Corp. and has executive responsibility for AAI's Electronics, Training and Simulation and Missiles and Robotics divisions. He joined AAI in 1986 has group VP after an extensive career with Rockwell International and its predecessor company, North American Aviation. Mr. Murphy graduated from West Virginia University with bachelor's degree in business administration and aeronautical engineering. He also completed course work at Ohio State University for a master's degree in industrial engineering.
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Title Annotation:military simulation
Author:Murphy, Thomas V.
Publication:Journal of Electronic Defense
Article Type:editorial
Date:Nov 1, 1990
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