Military Embedded Systems

Simulation tech - bridging the gap between engineer and warfighter


August 12, 2016

Mariana Iriarte

Technology Editor

Military Embedded Systems

The demand for simulation technology is on the rise. There is no argument that this is a cost effective solution for the Department of Defense (DoD) and can be an asset to the military once the technology is fully matured. However, there are still obstacles that need to be addressed and planning for real-time, live training scenarios must be a logistical nightmare. Connecting all the different components for one training event, the bandwidth required? it would be a challenge. While the industry continues to develop simulation technology, I believe it can bridge the gap between the engineer and warfighter today.

Engineers and warfighters speak two different languages and a picture tells the entire story without any need to translate. Someone with very little experience, or even someone with extensive knowledge would really benefit from this technology. Today, from my experience, sailors are expected to become more operators then experts in their field.

The Navy trains all its sailors from the moment they get off the plane in Illinois. After boot camp, sailors attend their designated school. I spent about six months in Great Lakes, learning electricity. Most electricians that entered the Navy a few years prior to my time had to undergo more than just six months in school. On the job training, then becomes an important part of your learning process.

Once in the fleet, sailors follow step-by-step instructions (maintenance requirement cards) when performing maintenance. These instructions are written at a sixth grade level, or so I was told. Some of these instructions - pages long - are hard to understand and even harder when you don’t understand the system to begin with. For troubleshooting? Your chain-of-command and tech manuals become the go-to number one resource.

A ship is its own floating town or city. We still need sailors that are trained and have the tools to come back home safely from each cruise. Life would be extremely simpler with technology that can show every minute detail of a system. Troubleshooting and performing maintenance wouldn’t be end-all, be-all moment, but a simple part of your day.

Taking advantage to fill this gap is where simulation technology comes into play. Slowly and quietly, I see the industry taking note and using this to help the military.

BAE Systems showcased some of their virtual reality tech at this year’s Eurosatory. They plan to employ it to provide more cost-effective training solutions for soldiers and their vehicles. By virtually training soldiers to maintain and operate vehicles, officials say it will help reduce accidents and be more efficient.

Rockwell Collins is also working on providing solutions for training and maintenance. In a Q&A with LeAnn Ridgeway, Vice President and General Manager of Simulation and Training Solutions for Rockwell Collins, she mentions how the "U.S. Navy is bringing training systems onto aircraft carriers for not only navigation and sensors, but for every area of the ship, even maintenance of the engine room." To read the entire interview by John McHale, click here.

Most people pay attention to radar systems, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), avionics, etc. They seem to forget that the ship doesn't run unless the engine room is taken care, without fuel, without electricity, that ship is dead on water. Maintenance in the engine room is vastly important and using this technology will be paramount to safety and making sure the equipment lasts through its life cycle.

A radar system, sonar, any electrical or electronic system built will be at the hands of a sailor, whose personal and work experience may only be high-school. Imagine these systems being worked on by high-school students. Don’t misinterpret my words. I’ve met some smart individuals, who have been able to troubleshoot electronic equipment after being onboard for only a few months.

Why not set up sailors and all military branches for success with this technology? Systems can last for its entire lifecycle and no translation is required.