Title: Report on Military Training and Simulation
Sub-title: Tighter budgets and rapidly advancing technologies are pushing modern militaries to speed adoption of new training and simulations solutions to boost operational effectiveness.
During coming years Canada’s Department of National Defence will take possession of a slew of highly sophisticated hardware, ranging from upgraded land vehicles to support ships all the way to advanced fighter aircraft. However even the best equipment in the world is useless, if the people who are supposed to operate it aren’t properly trained - or if experienced personnel leave to pursue other opportunities.
“It’s an increasing problem,” says Garry Venman, vice-president (business development) at Top Aces, which provides Canada’s army, navy and air force with operational airborne training support. “For example the CF recently ordered new Chinook helicopters, but there is a real question about where they will find the air crews and support staff to operate them. In fact there is an increasing demand for these types of professionals, due to the high costs required to train them. Recently West Jet forecast that it would hire several hundred new personnel this year. That means the skill shortage will only get worse.”
Worse for the Armed Forces that is … though not necessarily for Top Aces. Through the ICATS (Interim Contracted Air Training Services) contract, Top Aces currently provides training for the Canadian Forces for a combination of fast jet (T1, military style) and slow jet (T2, business style) aircraft. The contract has been renewed on a yearly basis since the middle of the last decade. However this fall, in a belated official recognition of the growing importance of private sector participation in this crucial role, the Department of National Defence, is expected to finally issue a request for proposal for a multi-year long-term deal.
In fact, like many of Canada’s top military training and simulations companies, Top Aces looks set to profit from a strong projected increase in demand for military training and simulation solutions, spurred by the increasingly availability of new capabilities that that experts say can vastly improve the efficiency and effectiveness of modern militaries.
Cost and technology key sector drivers
“We see two issues driving training changes – cost and technology – and we would expect them to remain drivers for the future,” says Chester Kennedy, vice-president (engineering) for Lockheed Martin Global Training and Logistics. “(As a result) our focus is on affordability to enhance performance and deliver optimum value to customers.”
Martin Gagné, group president, (military simulation products, training and services) at CAE, agrees. “Recent economic stimulus packages have put strong pressures on defence budgets around the world, particularly in countries like the UK,” says Gagné. “But in many ways that is good for military simulation and training companies. It is far more effective to train pilots in a virtual environment (than it would be on real equipment). It saves money on fuel, equipment wear and tear and environmental impacts.”
Jacques Hamel, president of MODSIM World Canada 2010, a modeling and simulation show that was held earlier this summer in Montreal, agrees that the field of military simulations has seen rapid advances. “There is a general recognition that dollars spent on training and simulations add considerable value,” says Hamel, who in his day job is president of Artifact Software, which provides multimedia solutions such as virtual worlds and gaming content to government and aerospace and defence companies.
“Canada’s recent moves to acquire next generation fighters will add considerable momentum to the process” says Hamel, who is so confident about the sector’s increasing role that he was a key force in pushing MODSIM to move its Canadian show to Ottawa next year, in order to be close to key sector decision makers.
CAE: military products take the lead
Canada’s perennial leader (jn fact the global leader) in the field of aircraft simulation and training, Montreal-based CAE continues to provide an excellent bellwether of sector potential. Last year, the firm’s military arm generated more than half of the company’s revenues for the first time ever, capping a long-term trend. According to Gagné, divisional sales have shot up an impressive 70 percent between 2004 and 2010, to an impressive $810 million.
As if that wasn’t enough, the future looks just as bright. During the past two years, CAE picked up an impressive $2 billion in new orders, which will provide it a healthy backlog of work for the foreseeable future. To keep that trend going, CAE has also announced significant investments in research and development, and has been growing its tentacles into a slew of new lines and businesses, including notably its CAE Professional Services division which leverages simulation-based tools and system-of-systems thinking to address the impacts of new systems, procedures, and policy on people, processes, and technology.
Recent CAE wins on the military side here in Canada include its selection last year as prime contractor to conduct a comprehensive aircrew training as part of the OTSP (Operational Training Systems Provider) program. The company also won a $330 million contract early last year to conduct aircrew training for the C-130J, a $90 million deal from Lockheed Martin to train maintenance technicians on the aircraft and a $270 million win to train aircrew for the recently ordered 15 CH-147F Chinook medium-to-heavy lift helicopters. These and other wins Gagné points out, go a long way to help CAE build its international arm in countries such as India, where the company now employs 400 personnel. “When you get lots of work at home, it provides you with an excellent business card to solicit orders overseas.”
NGRAIN: 3D visualization training solutions
However according to industry experts such as Paul Lindahl, president of NGRAIN, while historically 3D training and simulation was basically equated with flight simulators and the creation of high-end visualization environments, military organizations are now increasingly demanding solutions in a variety of other fields.
One such area is military maintenance, a field in which NGRAIN was able to build a foothold by providing 3D solutions for classroom training, distributed learning and on-the-job performance support. From its relatively modest start, NGRAIN has grown by leaps and bounds. Last year it increased staff by an impressive 30 percent and opened new offices in both Ottawa and Virginia. “While we see significant (consistent) growth, we have noticed over the past year a rapid increase in demand by the military for their OEMs and systems integrators to deliver solutions like NGRAIN’s with their equipment,” says Lindahl.
Key once again to the new market demands says Lindahl is that offerings be flexible – that they provide visible value that can be defended against the budget cutters. “There are increased requirements for training and simulation providers to deliver solutions that are COTS-software based, cost effective, and easy for the military themselves to update and maintain.”
Presagis: COTS Software driving industry changes
In fact according to Nick Giannias, vice-president (research & technology and corporate strategy) at Presagis, COTS (commercial off the shelf) software innovations are one of the key drivers behind the spread of simulation solutions into a variety of new areas including emergency management, facilities and homeland security. This past year, the user community embraced the Common Database (CDB) standard, which according to Giannias “allows all modeling and simulation developers to greatly reduce the time they spend creating, deploying and managing resources.”
“Until recently, training simulations were too costly for many organizations to consider,” said Giannias. “However with the emergence of COTS technology, they are becoming more widely adopted and affordable. Modeling and simulation are becoming a popular planning, analysis and training tool in many new areas such as emergency management, incidence response and border patrols.”
Last year, Presagis, a subsidiary of CAE, which already boasts a strong line of modeling and simulation products, such as STAGE, which depicts tanks, weapons and so on in various scenarios, Terra Vista, a terrain modeling software, and Creator, which models APCs, introduced several new innovations into the market. These included Lyra IG, a pre-integrated PC image generating solution, as well as new versions of most of its exiting product line. The company also secured a number of prestigious new contracts, such as a deal to supply software for the US Air Force’s F-15C tactical fighter training program and to BAE for the development of an application for RAF aircrew and forward air traffic controllers.
Mil-SIM-FX International: countering the IED threats
NATO’s hottest conflict right now is in Afghanistan, so it should come as no surprise that that the military modeling and simulation community would be looking for ways to contribute. One glaring need is for ways to help the coalition minimize the damage caused by Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), which so far during 2010 have accounted for half of the Western Alliance’s casualties there.
One solution provider is MIL-SIM-FX, which is a leader in the provision of non-pyro live training devices that simulate IEDs. Because anti-IED technology is such a crucial military asset, the company is registered with Controlled Goods Canada, and is therefore limited in the product information it can provide. However according to Janet Pettinger a company spokesperson, the firm’s latest line of detonators enables technicians to more accurately mirror IEDs.
At MIL-SIM-FX too, rapid adaptations and new technology have been key to staying ahead. “Our strength has always been our ability to adapt our product quickly to the changing needs and requirements of military and law enforcement agencies,” said Pettinger. For example “in past years, more focus was given to reaction training to the blast effects of IEDs. Now we are seeing more attention towards simulating the technology behind the detonation.”
Meggitt: target training supplies
Vincent Malley, a spokesperson with Meggitt, which supplies defense products such as target drones, unmanned vehicles and training technologies, agrees that there has been a noticeable shift in emphasis in demand. “We are seeing less money being spent on training in general and symmetric warfare in particular,” said Malley. “For obvious reasons, asymmetric warfare training remains at the forefront of military planners’ minds (counter insurgency training, counter IED etc).”
Meggitt’s products, which simulate a variety of threats including helicopters, in-shore craft and cruise missiles have seen substantial recent success and the company registered excellent sales growth numbers (40 percent increase) last year and won a number of foreign contracts.
“The big development at Meggitt during 2010 was our bringing to market (after five years of dedicated R&D) a maritime swarm capability that replicates the Fast In-shore Attack Craft (FIAC) threats found in several of the world’s hot-spots,” said Malley. (See Canadian Defence Review Volume 16, Issue 3).
The road ahead: coping with short-term budgetary constraints
According to Malley, Canada’s concentration in military training capabilities is a key value-add. “We are buying aircraft from other nations, (however) we don’t really have a chance to play a major role in the existing supply chains from these aircraft,” says Malley. (So) I think that it is incumbent of the government of Canada to keep investing in our niche simulation and live fire training sector.”
That said, for many companies, the immediate challenge will be to find ways to help governments cope with their tight budgets. For example according to Lockheed Martin’s Kennedy, more effective resource management needs to be front and center. And that may mean doing some sharing with our southern friends. “”Since Canada and the US share many similar platforms, such as the C-130 and soon the F-35, we believe that a logical step would be integrated training,” said Kennedy. “That’s already occurring in several areas, including Canadian participation in exercises involving the USAF Distributed Mission Operations Center. Canadian pilots are training at Little Rock and soon they will be training at Eglin Air Force Base. Our involvement in these programs and the development of much of the courseware, training devices and simulators, will provide the Department of National Defence with the option to leverage already developed training systems to satisfy their needs.”
Peter Diekmeyer (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a Montreal-based freelance business writer.
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