We are in the midst of a seachange in how military and flight simulation tools are developed, as commercial off the shelf (COTS) systems begin to replace expensive, custom-designed training simulators.
Fueled by a drive to remove American service personnel from harm’s way, budgetary concerns that are looking everywhere to reduce costs, and perhaps most of all by the supreme joystick-using skills of the generation that has grown up on video games, training simulation equipment is going mainstream. From flight simulators for military cargo planes, to a console for an unmanned aerial vehicle, to training modules for a planned virtual flight academy, cost effective simulators are blurring the line between recreational gaming and military simulation.
Driving motivation: Protecting service personnel
There has been a burgeoning interest in machines that can observe conditions and take direct action without placing American forces in front of weapons and in harm’s way. Along with this desire to protect American forces deployed in battle zones, there is also a focus on training service personnel in a different skill set that includes problem solving, serving as a counselor and helping groups resolve their differences. This strategy depends upon deploying extremely accurate weapons to make sure that any casualties inflicted are the desired ones, so troops don’t have to explain unintended civilian casualties.
The accuracy is in the hands of a new generation of troops, blessed with excellent eye/hand coordination, comfortable being removed from an object, and skilled at giving commands with hands and eyes. Years of Super Mario and its ilk have seen to that. Put a remote that looks like an Xbox controller into the hands of an 18-year-old and he or she can respond with great accuracy. Whereas an older generation of troops might have trained to drive a vehicle using a large steering wheel and gear shift pedals, the younger generation is already expert at manipulating something remotely.
Those responsible for training want to cash in on this wealth of experience, and more and more pieces of equipment are geared to take advantage of that skill set. Take for example, the Sky Warrior, PackBot and steering vehicles looking through a monocle similar to that used in Game Boy.
A change in how equipment is procured
About eight years ago, the controller industry began to really feel the military’s swing away from exclusively using large defense industry contractors for training and simulation equipment. Procurement specialists determined that they no longer needed to use a large contractor to write code for a piece of equipment when they could get a COTS system from Wal-Mart.
This broke what had been a significant barrier – the line in the sand between “games” and “simulation.” Since then, the line has been further blurred as the military found it could get training level controllers very cost-effectively. The key here is to develop simulation equipment that is less expensive, but still closely mimics what the troops will see in the field. Otherwise, if the training is oversimplified, users could experience the “negative training” phenomenon. This means a great deal of time is spent training the pilot or weapon operator, only to find that the real piece of equipment responds very differently. There is then the danger that trainers would have “blown” the user’s muscle memory.
As a result, the military is looking for a cost-effective simulation/training solution that lies somewhere between the oversimplified controller and one on the high end of the spectrum that costs millions of dollars.
One outcome has been the proliferation of desktop turnkey systems, which pair COTS controllers with targeted software, offering a stand-alone solution at a very cost effective price. Building off a proven hardware technology or software is the key to making that happen.
Perspective ESP is a safety and flight stability augmentation system by Garmin that will be available on Cirrus SR-Series Aircraft for new orders scheduled for Fall 2010 delivery.
FlightSafety Receives FAA Level D Qualification for Vital X Visual System Equipped With LCOS High-Definition Projectors
The new VITAL X visual system is installed on an Embraer ERJ 145 aircraft simulator located at FlightSafety’s Training Center in Saint Louis, Missouri.
FlightSafety International has been awarded a contract from the U.S. Air Force to provide two HC-130P Weapons System Trainers.
Aerosim’s Enhanced Virtual Procedure Trainer is a flat panel based crew training device designed to optimize training time and improve the learning process for pilots and maintenance personnel.