SYNTHETIC ENVIRONMENTS – A GROWING REQUIREMENT
By Julian Nettlefold, Editor, BATTLESPACE
Aug 07. A visit to the new EADS Defence & Security System’s NetCOS Technology Centre in July highlighted the importance of the use of Synthetic environments as part of the Procurement Process; indeed some ITTs specify the use of SE as part of the process. The looming 2012 Olympics will require a number of security requirements for protecting the various venues and the competitors; Synthetic environments will play a major role in developing these requirements.
The development of the Synthetic environments has its roots in the development of simulation techniques in the 80s and the rapid growth of the ability of computer and software manufacturers to bring ‘reality to the screen.’ In addition the growth of networking techniques and ‘information on demand,’ following the development of IP technology allows real time sharing of information not only between the customer, the MoD and the bidder but also between bidders in a secure and safe manner using new network security products. This feature, in particular allows information to be shared across continents without the possibility of it being hacked into by competitors or potential enemies. JWID and then CWID showed the way forward in what could be achieved by setting up international networking experiments between the US and UK and in Australia and New Zealand. This was developed in the US with a huge investment in Synthetic Environment laboratories by the DoD and the major contractors. The FCS consortium of Boeing, SAIC and the DoD customer is building a network of laboratories across the USA to share FCS information.
Synthetic environments provide the ideal tool to analyse customer problems and support the development and deployment of optimised solutions to best meet their requirements and budget constraints. Through-out the conceptualisation, evaluation and development of new assets, prototypes and simulations can be analysed in a synthetic environment to allow their operational performance, potential benefits and risks to be assessed at low cost, in different scenarios, by real users. Synthetic environments can also be used to investigate alternative solutions to customer requirements such as the development and modification of existing systems and doctrine to deliver enhanced operational performance.
Synthetic environments can integrate any number of real and virtual assets, information and intelligence into a single setting, allowing users to consider the results of multiple scenarios, including those that could not be staged in the real world. These scenarios might include mission rehearsal, doctrine development and de-risking.
Exploiting synthetic environments enables users to interact within a safe but realistic environment, interacting with personnel and systems, executing orders that stimulate a true operational response.
One drawback to the JWID/CWID scenario was that it took a lot of time and money to build a network for two months and then dismantle it only to start again a year later! In the early days JWID required for a number of key technologies to be ‘bought off-the-shelf’, in instant procurement. Declining budgets and stricter Procurement practices meant that this practice declined at the very time when it was most needed, when civil computer and simulation technology, spurred by the development of the Sony Play Station and the ‘X’ Box and the huge investment in the internet grew at a rapid pace and indeed the popularity of these games ushered in the ‘cyber soldier.’ Thus, new systems are now developed with the understanding that the new breed of user can operate a computer console and its software with ease and dexterity.
Finally synthetic environments can provide an ideal training tool, again allowing trainees to immerse into scenarios which go beyond anything that could be achieved in a real world training situation.