Military Embedded Systems

Off-the-shelf software enables embedded training


January 13, 2008

Duncan Young

GE Intelligent Platforms, Inc.

Training has always been a top priority for the armed forces, and much of their time is spent honing their preparedness to deal with conflicts and operate the complex and sophisticated weapons platforms at their disposal. Training takes many forms ?including classroom, procedural, simulated, and embedded through to the live exercise. Each type is designed to prepare for every eventuality from the instinctive reaction to the intuitive reasoning required to deal with a real-life scenario. This need is reflected in the design of many weapons platforms where systems are now being architected so that their human interfaces (screens, keyboards, and pointing devices) are accessible both to live sensors and weapons and to the synthetically generated scenarios of embedded training.

Being able to effectively operate each of the various subsystems making up a weapons platform is arguably the most essential training that is required. The skills to operate a complex weapon or Naval tactical console cannot be taught in the classroom environment alone and need to be reinforced regularly, which can only be achieved using a live platform.

  • Scene simulator
  • Scene builder
  • Scenarios
  • Hardware and integration

The scene simulator determines how the training system will display the scene to the trainee. It will offer a view of the scene as if it were being played back through a particular sensor type, for example, as perceived by a radar or an electro-optical or infrared sensor. The scene simulator also plays the scenario, moving objects and background as the training scenario plays out, reacting to inputs from the trainee and, optionally an instructor. Most systems will offer the ability to record operator inputs and to rerun any part of the exercise at the trainee’s or instructor’s discretion.

A key part of any training system is achieving a level of realism of the background and objects in order to fully engage the trainee in the exercise. A scene builder is the package that is used to create the objects that are to be displayed. Objects may be anything from people, weapons platforms, airplanes, trees, hills, houses, and so on. Objects can be defined in three dimensions and rules created for their movements and interaction with other objects. Many packages will include a library of objects that can be reused or modified as required.


Figure 1

(Click graphic to zoom by 1.4x)




A training scenario is the sequence of events that the training system plays out to the trainee. Scenarios are built offline for each training session to meet whatever the objectives may be. A platform will usually have a number of canned scenarios available for regular training exercises.

Because embedded training takes place on the same equipment as is normally deployed in live operations, the training system must have independent access to any display monitors and data entry devices such as keyboards, pointers, push buttons, and so on.

More modern systems have been designed to accommodate this, but older legacy systems will require extensive modification to support the addition of an embedded training system. Often such a system is PC-based with specialized interfaces for the data entry devices plus a high-performance graphics accelerator for display. Of course, training exercises could be embedded within a vehicle’s overall operational software package, obviating the need for any additional hardware dedicated to training. However, this brings with it concerns for safety and security unless the training is very robustly partitioned from the operational software; firing live missiles or making compromising radio emissions must be avoided at all costs. It is also difficult and more costly to just update the training package as the entire operational software package may need to be requalified if any part of it is modified.

An example of an embeddable training package that can be used to introduce realistic training exercises into existing platforms is the SIVET-SE produced by GE Fanuc. It can be hosted on most high-performance, embeddable PCs from commercial grade through to full military specification and is targeted primarily toward the simulation of electro-optical sensor types. Figure 1 illustrates a typical workstation in an armored vehicle that could be supported by the embedded training concepts of SIVET-SE.

Training is an essential ingredient of every type of system used by the armed forces. While the eventual solution will be to equip every platform with training embedded from within the operational software, there are many legacy platforms in need of life extension where the availability of proven, off-the-shelf tools and hardware makes the provision of embedded training an economic reality. As these products become more sophisticated through continual product investment, they will converge with wholly embedded software, extending and strengthening this important COTS software market segment.

To learn more, e-mail Duncan Young at [email protected].