Title: Report on Military Training and Simulation

Sub-title: Canadian defence training and simulation players are increasingly working together to take the sector to the next level.

 

Defence industry stakeholders have long agreed that the modelling and simulation technologies coming online in recent years will impact military operations and training in ways that once could only be imagined.  But few realize just how well Canadian businesses and centers of excellence are poised to win big from that trend.

 

“Our sales were up by 40 percent last year,” says Spencer Fraser, general manager of Meggitt Training Systems Canada, which supplies target drones, unmanned vehicles and other training technologies to armed forces around the world. “And the most exciting part is that much of that growth has come internationally.” Meggitt, which showcased products that simulate threats ranging from helicopters, to in-shore crafts to cruise missiles, in the highly successful Trident Fury exercises earlier this year, is far from alone.

 

Never before have the potential benefits of effective military training and simulation technologies been so universally appreciated. Even better: never before has there been such a flow of Canadian based initiatives originating from companies such as Meggitt Training Systems Canada itself, CAE, Presagis, NGRAIN and others, that are helping to supply them.

 

Meggitt Training Systems Canada

Meggitt provides a prime example of how capability-based providers are adjusting their offerings to help armed forces adapt to real world threats. For example next year, the company will be conducting a “swarm” exercise, to be attended by navies from around the world. The exercise will showcase how the Meggitt’s Hammerhead unmanned sea based training targets can be grouped (in packs of 16) to simulate a multiple small naval craft attack or a “swarm attacks” as they are known in military jargon. 

 

“Swarms are one of the major as-symmetric threats facing modern navies,” says Fraser. “Several high level simulation exercises have shown how they can potentially neutralize and even possible defeat much larger forces. The Hammerhead provides an excellent mock adversary that navies can use to train and prepare against.”

 

According to Fraser, the increased value of training exercises is apparent not just in the increased skill and performance levels of the personnel involved. It is also a big morale booster. “Naval insiders have told us that the Hammerhead is one of their best retention tools,” says Fraser. “Instead of shooting at wave tops, navy personnel now have a realistic training threat that they can engage.” According to Fraser, Meggitt’s success doesn’t end at home. Those increased international sales have risen to the point that the company now claims to be Canada’s largest international navy exporter.

 

MODSIM: grass roots development in Canada

In early June, defence simulation and training leaders, ranging industry players, DRDC, the Department of National Defence and a slew of others put their money where the mouth is. Led by Jacques Hamel, president of Artifact Software, the group launched the inaugural edition of MODSIM Canada, a trade show designed to help the modelling and simulation communities grow and develop. The show’s program featured multiple model and simulation tracks that included defence and homeland security, aeronautics, health and medical, as well as the public sphere.

 

“The sector is evolving rapidly and has been seen in particular a key enabler of increasing the efficiency of military training,” said Chris Pogue, president of CAE Professional Solutions and one of the event’s keynote speakers. “However with the advances the sector has made, efficiency is no longer its major selling point. Defence players are now realizing that modelling and simulation solutions are now often also more effective that even real life scenarios.”

 

Ironically, one of the key indicators of military training and simulation technologies’ potential here in Canada, could be seen in the number of exporters that came to showcase their wares. At a time of increased budgetary restraint at the Department of National Defence, the fact that suppliers of new systems and technologies are putting their money where their mouth is, provides an excellent signal of their confidence that the functionality provided by those applications will prove hard to resist, particularly those that could help save lives on the battlefield.

 

 One such enthusiast was Jim Czirjak, Manager (Business Development) at Lockheed Martin Simluation, Training and Support group, who came into Montreal to talk up the company’s Close Combat Tactical Trainer (CCTT), a reconfigurable vehicle simulator that helps soldiers prepare for the convoy type scenarios that are played out daily in the CF’s Afghanistan deployment.

 

CCTT enables soldiers to train in a realistic environment that includes a three dimensional view and accurate weapons systems. “Convoy attacks are one of the Afghan insurgents’ prime offensive threats,” says Czirjak. “We believe that the Canadian forces, which are constantly operating in harm’s way, could benefit significantly from these kinds of training tools which will help them meet those threats.”

 

CAE: Major advances from Canadian player

No discussion regarding the Canadian military training and simulation goes on long before three letters pop up: “CAE.” This Montreal-based global flight simulation technology leader took several steps forward on the defence front in February of this year when it landed its first contract under the Operational Training Systems Provider (OTSP) program.

 

The Canadian government had already selected CAE as its prime contractor to provide comprehensive aircrew training services for Canada’s C-130J heavy lift transport aircraft and for the recently announced purchase of 15 CH-147F Chinooks helicopters. Earlier this year an initial 20-year comprehensive aircrew training capability contract was finally awarded.

 

According to Martin Gagne, CAE’s Group President, Military Simulation Products, Training & Services, the new initiative will bring numerous benefits “By working closely with CAE as a training systems integrator, (DND) will be able to consolidate resources, reduce risk and duplication of effort. They will thus get far better value for each dollar spent,” says Gagné. The OTSP contract, estimated at $330 million, will also create or protect 330 jobs for the next three years, and 50 more for the next 20; a key step in ensuring continued Canadian capabilities in this vital sector.

 

Of course the biggest winner of all is CAE itself, which in late August took another important step forward by nominating Marc Parent to replace Robert Brown as the company’s president and CEO. Parent, who among his many duties during his rise up the CAE ladder, oversaw its military training and services efforts, will be a big asset in its efforts going forward, notably those related to possible CF fixed wing search and rescue aircraft.

 

Presagis: new COTS tools are helping the entire simulation community to grow

What is interesting about Canada’s defence simulation and training sector’s emergence is the crucial role played by smaller, lower-key players. Several such companies have provided targeted tools or filled key niches that at opportune times have pulled the entire industry up to a new level. One such innovator is Montreal-based Presagis. In recent years this global leader in the provision of commercial-off-the-shelf modeling, simulation and embedded display solutions, has helped customers such as Boeing, Lockheed Martin and BAE Systems create detailed models and complex life-like simulations.

 

Presagis already markets staples such as STAGE, which depicts tanks, weapons and so on in various scenarios, Terra Vista, which models terrain and Creator which can model an APC. However according to Nick Giannis, the company’s vice-president (research and technology), those leading edge innovations are just the beginning. “As COTS tools become more robust, they will be able to help deliver even more complex information,” says Giannis. “As a result, applications will emerge that can take even better advantage of simulation based training.”

 

One potential growth area that Giannis loves to talk about is UAV training. “When you keep an aircraft like that in the air for 25 hours, numerous issues come up that you need to prepare for,” says Giannis. “For example crews need to be switched in and out, without impacting operations, but doing that is not easy.” Another key growth area is air traffic control. For example one Presagis client Raytheon has been using its Creator and Vega Prime tools to help create “out of window” and radar display emergency threat and error management environments.

 

NGRAIN: refining training technology

According to Gabe Batstone, vice-president (sales and development) at NGRAIN, the fact that the Canadian armed forces is equipping itself with ever increasing amounts of more valuable kit, is not only good for the soldiers and the suppliers, the trend is also good for those who can help stakeholders keep their costs down. “Sixty-five cents out of every dollar spent on a piece of equipment goes towards sustainment,” Batstone loves to say. “That means there are enormous opportunities out there for companies such as ourselves, who can help make that process more efficient.”

 

NGRAIN markets technology that can produce, integrate and distribute 3D simulations and interactivity. For example at its simplest level NGRAIN simulations were used to create model parts for the venerable Kalashnikov AK-47 rifle, which is still in service with the Afghan army. Canadian forces uses these simulations to help train new recruits how to field strip these rifles.

 

But NGRAIN isn’t just involved in work to train on grunt tools for the common soldier. The company, which grew by an astonishing 315 percent last year and recently opened an Ottawa office is also currently developing version four of its battle damage assessment application for the U.S. Joint Strike Fighter program, which it hopes will form the basis of a partnership that will be ongoing for years to come.

 

In fact, Batstone doesn’t regard tough economic times, as a threat to NGRAIN programs. “One of the key base values of simulation technologies is cost avoidance,” says the industry veteran who has logged more than his fair share of miles in the world’s hot spots. “So the fact that things are toughening up out there could actually end up being a good thing for companies like us.”

 

Acron Capability Engineering

Another remarkable industry trend that has been unfolding has the emergence of smaller niche players that market specialized highly sophisticated solutions. One such player is Acron Capability Engineering, which specializes in adding value to simulation and training initiatives.

 

For example earlier this year, Acron was asked by Georgia-based Flight-Dynamix to help integrate their F-16 jet fighter simulator into the United States Air Force’s HARM (High Speed Anti Radiation Missile) test bed system. Acron’s role will be to provide the software interface between the fighter simulator and the missile text bed.

 

“Our goal is to increasingly try to help our clients blur the lines between their training and simulation exercises and what real live events would resemble,” says John Nicol, the company’s president. Acron took another strong step forward late last year when it announced a strategic business in Canada, with Munich-based tank manufacturer Kraus Maffei’s military training and simulation arm.

 

Nicol is also quite excited regarding Acron’s OpSimX disaster management software platform, which initially started out as a C2 capability, but is now being upgraded with new functionality. “We want to give potential clients, such as the United Nations, the ability to plan for any operations scenario,” says Nicols. “However our technologies functionalities, such as enhanced information exchange and NATO data model mean that it can also be integrated with military software application. In short, there are significant opportunities for us in this space.”

 

 

 

Peter Diekmeyer is Canadian Defence Review’s Quebec bureau chief.

 

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