Simulation technology

With the introduction of 3D technology, military aircraft training for pilots and air force jet trainer schools are taking a new dimension due to cost effectiveness and easy handling of many of the hybrid equipment that can offer a wide range of situational awareness to a young pilot.    

Simulation technology continues to be used to proactively address military training in handling high powered fighter jets and all other types of aircraft as well as safety of flight issues which can drastically reduce human error.

Thus, a trainer aircraft will be very difficult to leave entirely to a newly entrant cadet who is keen to fly but does not know how to handle the machine that is going to take him to high up in the air. Now, technology is bridging this gap between man and machine by bringing 3D technologies for creating a virtual reality through simulation.

The 3D simulation for maintenance training and support is now emerging from its acceptance cycle and is seeing more rapid adoption than ever before.

The recent economic downturn, coupled with new demands from high-paced operations has and will continue to drive innovative applications of 3D simulations. Whether used prior to or after deployment, for aging or modernized equipment, for maintenance or performance support, 3D software tools and applications offer significant opportunities to the military to be ready for any mission.  

New dimension

Thanks to advanced commercial graphics silicon targeted for PCs and game boxes, military graphics subsystem integrators are able to blend a wealth of graphical and video features into mezzanine form factors like PMC and XMC.

As a result, it no longer takes a large multi-board chassis’ worth of electronics to drive a military simulation program. In the past several years, the move has come full circle to where PCs and servers themselves have become the preferred platform for simulation and training software.

That trend also includes gaming software technologies ramping up their impact on military simulation system development. Today the PC gaming and game box market provides a satisfactory view of what can be done in terms of simulator realism.

Now many components and technologies that comprise those advanced consumer games are becoming available for defense industry military simulation software vendors to build upon. Meanwhile embedded training is ramping up-where training systems are made portable enough to be included in with fielded platforms or worn by the soldiers themselves.

Aside from combat training and simulation systems, another key area of defence industry simulation that is emerging is that of virtual maintenance training.

By providing an accurate simulation of a military platform-such as a jet engine or a helicopter control system-trainees can learn to manipulate systems in depth in a virtual environment without the costly need to physically interact with the system in question.

A virtual environment is a computer-generated simulated environment in which the user is immersed in a 3-D environment through the use of a head-mounted display (HMD).

Users interact with the virtual world by means of data input devices, such as treadmills, hand-operated sensors and instrumental gloves.

The examples of virtual simulation are flight hank simulators. The most important current virtual simulation is SIMNET (SIMulator Networking) and distributed interactive simulation (DIS).

A new technological area has thus emerged out of these advanced technologies, and is known as advanced distributed simulation (ADS), which integrates simulation, simulators and live equipment weapon systems and creates a realistic synthetic battlefield environment.

The ADS, which is the synergistic combination of live, virtual and constructive simulations, provides a time coherent interactive synthetic environment through geographically distributed and potentially dissimilar simulations. Since virtual simulation is very prominent in ADS, so the term ADS and DIS are used interchangeably.

Market prospect

The global military simulation and virtual training market is expected to be worth US$12.6 billion in 2016, and is expected increase toUS$15.8 billion by 2025.

The market is anticipated to be dominated by North America followed by Asia-Pacific and Europe. The US is the largest spender, with a cumulative expenditure of US$48.9 billion over the next decade.

In terms of segments, flight simulators are expected to account for 60 per cent of the global military simulation market, followed by maritime and combat simulators, occupying 20 per cent each.

Global military simulation market is set to show positive growth over the forecast period. Regionally, flight simulators are expected to be the main drivers to support growth in the US market with markets in the Middle East to record robust spending on military simulation.

African markets are expected to witness a gradual increase in military simulation spending and Brazil is forecast to be the dominant military virtual training and simulation market in the Latin American region.

Maritime simulation market is consistently growing at the global level while combat simulators market is to experience a marginal increase.

On the defense budget spending and modernization review, this research says North American defence expenditure projected to decline marginally during the forecast period whereas Asian defense budgets expected to increase at a robust pace.

Modernization programs are likely to drive defense expenditure in South American countries while military/defense budgets of African and Middle Eastern countries are expected to increase during the forecast period.

Technological developments discussed in this article include greater focus on advanced LVC capabilities, transportable, reconfigurable, integrated, crew trainer (TRICT) simulator, collimated displays to achieve enhanced field of view and focus, submarine periscope simulator system, COTS technology to result in substantial cost savings for the manufacturers and Cobra Curved Display Flight Simulator, the world’s first panadome spherical projection simulator.

Strategic partnerships and joint R&D programs are expected to increase over the forecast period while companies are entering into licensing agreements in order to simplify training programs.

Now many countries are realizing the potentiality of future use of simulators for the training purpose, although it can still remain mission specific training accumulation. There is a greter investment in to this segment of military equipment.

Russian R&D efforts

Recently, a private Russian design bureau has conducted a maiden flight of an SR-10 dual-pilot forward-swept wing aerobatic trainer aircraft. It was earlier reported that it is planned to produce 16 SR-10 jets for the Russian Defence Ministry.

The development of the fully composite twin-seater began at the Modern Aviation Technologies (KB SAT) design engineering bureau in 2007.

The initial engineering development model was presented at MAKS-2015 air show, but in the following years the project encountered financial problems. Recently, SR-10 made its first flight at an airfield near Vorotynsk, in the Kaluga Region.

The SR-10 is a subsonic, single engine, all-composite dual-pilot aircraft with a moderate forward-swept wing scheme. Its reported maximum takeoff weight is 2,700 kilograms. The aircraft can reportedly be powered with either a Soviet design AI-25TLSh engine or a modern Russian-made AL-55 gas-turbine jet engine.

The SR-10’s flying quality parameters largely depend on the power unit. It was designed to have 900kph maximum horizontal flight speed, 1,500 km range capability and a 6,000-meter practical ceiling. Its cruising speed at the 6,000-meter height is 520kph.
In 2014, the SR-10 lost a Russian Defense Ministry primary training aircraft tender to Yakovlev Yak-152 turboprop trainer aircraft. However, KB SAT is still offering the aircraft to the Air Force as an intermediate trainer.

Dagestan’s Industry, Trade and Investment Ministry revealed plans to produce up to 16 SR-10 aircraft for Russia’s Defence Ministry, which is expected to allocate up to 2.5 billion rubles into the SR-10 project. As of now, Russia’s Air Force is actively using the recently developed Yakovlev Yak-130 as an advanced jet trainer. This aircraft is also delivered to foreign militaries, being positioned also as light attack aircraft.

Until now, the only operable forward-swept wing aircraft in Russia has been the Sukhoi Su-47 Berkut (Golden Eagle) fighter jet, which never went into mass production, yet became an advanced concept technology demonstrator and a testing ground for technical solutions later integrated into Russia’s 5G fighter jet PAK-FA.

Airbus technology

Manned electric-powered aircraft have made record-breaking flights and turned more than a few heads in the past few years, and it is not a trend that is likely to slow down.

Recently, the E-Fan electric trainer airplane developed by the Airbus Group made its first public flight before a collection of French dignitaries.

Currently a demonstrator for electric aircraft technology, Airbus says that is will be used as the basis for building a new pair of electric training aircraft models.

Developed by Airbus Group (formerly EADS) working with a consortium of European aerospace companies, the E-fan made its first non-public flight at the Bordeaux Mérignac airport.

The project evolved from the Cri-Cri electric plane, which Airbus used as a test bed and flying laboratory for developing the battery and energy management technology used in the E-Fan.

Built with an all-composite construction, the E-fan is 6.7 m (22 ft) long and has a wingspan of 9.5 m (31 ft). From the outside, it almost looks like a toy jet aircraft with a pair of nacelles that are not jets, but two ducted, variable pitch fans spun by two electric motors with a combined power of 60 kW.

The ducting increases the thrust while reducing noise, and by centrally mounting them, the fans provide better control.

Powering the fans are a series of 250 V lithium-ion polymer batteries made by KOKAM of the Republic of Korea.

These batteries are mounted in the inboard section of the wings and carry enough charge for up to one hour of flight and can be recharged in one hour.

For those worried about the recharge light coming on while up in the air, there is also a backup battery onboard for emergency landings.

CAE concept

CAE has built a number of different maintenance training systems over the years which cover the whole gamut from desk-top devices to 3D replication of aircraft components.

CEA Senior Manager for Maintenance Training Business Development, Denis Guimond, said “CAE’s approach is to select the appropriate training media for optimum training effectiveness.”

The technical solution, whether that is a virtual system on the desktop or a life-size physical replication of the weapon system, is therefore subordinated to the training objectives.

A desktop virtual maintenance trainer can be very effective to provide system knowledge, functional representation, and troubleshooting scenarios for skilled, experienced technicians.

However, for a recent graduate, the basic manual skills of using maintenance or diagnostics tools, or ground support equipment, may need to be demonstrated and performed on a representative physical device for maximum training effectiveness.

Many of CAE’s recent projects combine virtual and hardware or hands-on training media as required to meet the training objective, continues Guimond.

For instance, we have integrated desktop virtual maintenance trainers with hardware-based trainers, such as helicopter cockpits and avionics modules. We have also replicated engine part-task trainers on platforms such as the C-130J that feature virtual FADEC and test equipment.

Like others, CAE is seeing a growing interest in maintenance training coming from customers and potential customers around the world. “We are seeing many militaries looking to increase the amount of training done in a synthetic environment, and there is definitely an increased interest in maintenance trainers,” says Denis Guimond.

This interest is generated by a combination of factors, including fewer experienced instructors which leads to the need to have more self-paced courseware integrated with virtual trainers.

The desire for suitable distance learning capabilities; reduced accessibility (or opportunities) to use operational aircraft for hands-on training and a need to reduce time to qualify technicians, particularly the period of on-job-training.

Simulation-based maintenance training devices almost always offer a positive return on investment in terms of students throughput, proficiency, and standardisation.

The market for maintenance training is also a growing one but as the company’s Josie Sutcliffe says, its not only the appreciation of modern training technologies that are having an effect, but there are also demographic factors at work.

“We are seeing some key drivers at play that seem to be moving spending towards maintenance training,” she said.

There is a perfect storm facing NATO militaries worldwide: a weakened economy, reduced budgets, and lots of tired iron that needs to be reset. Procurement of new equipment is down, with militaries focusing on extending the lifespan of existing systems.

At the same time there is a demographic shift occurring, with experts retiring-typically coming in with more experience using computers than wrenches-becoming a larger part of the workforce.

Maintenance training will become a key focus as efficiently regenerating combat power becomes a priority.

In relation to this, we are seeing a trend of more personnel being trained on the job, and interactive 3D equipment simulations being used to support or improve the efficiency of job performance in the field.

For example, the CAE has delivered a Virtual Damage Assessment & Repair Tracking solution for the F-35 and F-22 aircraft to Lockheed Martin, which allows aircraft maintainers to capture damage information on a detailed 3D virtual model of the aircraft.

The maintenance training is certainly bubbling at the present time. With weapon platforms becoming ever more costly and complex, maintenance technicians need to be trained to a very high standard to keep such systems at a high state of readiness.

The perennial argument is how these technicians should be trained? The general thrust is that the use of the real platform is untenable for a variety of reasons, mainly cost, availability and safety.

Desk-top systems are clearly an excellent method of preparing students but many countries believe that there needs to be an intermediary step using physical 3D simulations.

The 3D simulation technologies, which have been proven to deliver immediate returns in cost avoidance and expedite training and knowledge transfer, are being widely adopted to transform training while alleviating the pressure of the budget crunch.

Simulation methodologies

Already accepted for use in scenario-based training such as flight simulations, situation awareness and mission planning, the application of 3D simulation for maintenance training had a rough start in the early 2000s.

Seasoned instructors questioned its ability to achieve the learning outcomes that they believed only “warm hands on cold steel” could achieve.

At the same time, computer technology was advancing rapidly and becoming more accessible. As hard/panel trainers-many constructed in the 1980s, and some even during the Vietnam era-became antiquated and costly to maintain or replace, the idea of using 3D simulation technology for training became more appealing.

The Naval Surface Warfare Center of US also had a unique challenge to overcome. Its troops were receiving highly specialized tactical vehicles.

These vehicles were deployed directly into the field, but it was not just the maintainers that needed to be trained on the new equipment. Vehicle operators needed to know how the vehicles worked and how to perform expedient repair procedures so that they could quickly assess and perform a repair-such as a broken drive shaft-in theater.

Interactive 3D simulations provided the key. Highly deployable, the simulations could be provided to operators on laptops and tablet computers. Thanks to simulation, training would be readily available and operational efficiencies would be maintained.

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program is another program leveraging COTS-based 3D simulation solutions to increase operational efficiencies on the flight line.

Deployed on a Panasonic Tough book, Lockheed Martin is delivering the simulations as part of the production of each aircraft. Technicians on the flight line are using the software to track damage assessment and repairs on 3D simulations of the aircraft.  
While few 3D maintenance trainers have yet to be embedded into vehicle or aircraft systems themselves, they are ever more being taken on board on low-cost laptops and portable devices. It would not take long before these advanced technologies become an integral part of the equipment itself.

Indian trainer project

Indian Air Force is also looking for simulators and trainers. The IAF needs about 200 basic trainer aircraft (BTA) for basic training of IAF pilots at Air Force Academy (AFA). The IAF had placed an order for buying 75 Pilatus PC- 7 Mk II aircraft.

In May 2012, the Indian Air Force placed a $523m contract with Pilatus Aircraft for 75 PC-7 MkII aircraft.

The first was inducted into service in May 2013, followed by the first training course in July 2013. By April 2014, the Indian Air Force had received 35, with the remaining aircraft scheduled to be delivered by mid-2015.

More than 500 PC-7 and PC-7 MkII aircraft have been sold to 21 countries. Mexico purchased 88 PC-7s, deliveries of which began in 1980, while approximately 52 PC-7s were bought by Iraq, with deliveries beginning in 1980.

However, the Iraqi fleet was destroyed during the US invasion in 2003. Malaysia acquired 44, deliveries of which began in 1983.

The PC-7 MkII features a dual glass cockpit and is equipped with primary flight display (PFD), secondary flight display (SFD) and secondary instruments display panel (ESDP), as well as an audio radio management system (ARMS).

In addition, it includes very-high frequency communication (VHF COM) 1, VHF COM 2, ultra-high frequency communication UHF COM, VHF NAV 1, VHF NAV 2, distance measuring equipment (DME) and automatic direction finders (ADF).

A mode S transponder, GPS, radar altimeter, attitude heading reference system (AHRS), emergency locator beacon (ELT) and air data computer avionics are also installed in the cockpit.