Sponsored by Meggitt Training Systems
27 Feb 19. Australia bolsters capabilities, training opportunities for its P-8A aircraft. Australia is continuing to ramp up its capabilities of and training on the Boeing P-8A Poseidon multimission aircraft, even as it takes deliveries of more aircraft and looks at future growth for the system. Speaking to media at the Avalon Airshow in Victoria, Australia, Group Capt. John Grime, the head of the Royal Australian Air Force No. 92 Wing, which handles maritime operations, said a main differences between the P-8A and the Lockheed Martin AP-3C Orion that it replaced is the amount of information the new aircraft can receive and process from its own systems as well as from other Australian and partner materiel.
“The connectivity and integration we get is an absolute step change, it’s not something that’s slightly better than the P-3, but a step change in how we operate,” Grime said.
The networked capabilities of the P-8A and the reduced need for voice-based communication between the crew and other assets means tactical coordinators have the necessary situational awareness to effectively carry out complex operations, Grime added.
One of the anti-submarine warfare systems the P-8A lacks, compared to the Orion, was a magnetic anomaly detector that identifies minute variations in the Earth’s magnetic field, which could indicate a possible underwater submarine contact. A former Orion pilot, Grime was asked about his thoughts on this and admitted he was initially skeptical, but with anti-submarine warfare generally performed at medium altitude, and with the “sensor performance and acoustic capability means, [the lack of a magnetic anomaly detector] doesn’t impact anywhere as much as I thought it would.”
Grime also touched on the Air Force’s P-8A crew training program, with Grime calling the two simulators used by the service — which replicate the front and back of the P-8A — “the best simulators I have ever seen.”
He added that about 70 percent of high-end training is done in simulators, with the remaining done in the air. Australia is also adopting a distributed training approach with its simulators, meaning P-8 crews can train on a simulator that is linked to a ship at port elsewhere in Australia, reducing costs as well as wear and tear on equipment.
From its ninth P-8A onward, Australia will have a sixth operator station added to its aircraft, up from the current five. The increased number of operator stations is a change requested by Australia and will allow the Air Force to take advantage of improved capabilities that will come with the P-8A’s Increment 3 upgrade. The sixth operator station will also be retrofitted to the earlier Australian aircraft.
The service has already used the P-8A on operational missions in the Asia-Pacific region, having taken part in Australia’s ongoing patrol missions in the South China Sea under Operation Gateway. It also deployed an aircraft to the Japanese island of Okinawa to enforce the United Nations’ embargo on North Korea, imposed as a result of the latter’s ongoing nuclear weapons program. Australia has 12 P-8As on order, and an order for three more aircraft currently subject to an acquisition approval process. (Source: Defense News)
28 Feb 19. Defence Minister announces new joint training initiative for Australian Air Force cadets. Australian Air Force cadets will work with NSW-based company JAR Aerospace for a new training initiative with a heavy focus on science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).
Minister for Defence Christopher Pyne said the new training initiative will “reinvigorate” the Air Force cadets program, “This new training initiative, which will focus on STEM-based training, will inspire cadets to learn and keep pace with technologies being adopted by the Royal Australian Air Force,” Minister Pyne said. As part of the program, the Australian Air Force Cadets have ordered over 3,000 micro-drones from JAR Aerospace – one of the largest ever purchases of drones in Australia.”
Australian Air Force cadets will take part in the project from 1 July 2019.
“Working with JAR Aerospace, an emerging and exciting local defence contractor, will ensure every cadet, irrespective of their location, will have access to engaging, fun and educational STEM courses using drone technology,” Minister for Defence Personnel Darren Chester said. “The training will also focus on project management and leadership, building these skills in our future aerospace and defence leaders.”
”Today’s announcement was an incredibly proud moment for JAR Aerospace and JAR Education, as we see it as a big step forward in our goal to improve the sovereign capabilities of Australia’s defence and aerospace industries in which training and education is so critically important,” chief marketing officer and co-founder of JAR Aerospace Lochie Burke said. “It was an honour to have Minister Pyne and Minister Sarah Henderson alongside JAR and the Australian Air Force Cadets for the start of a truly remarkable STEM training program. JAR Aerospace and the AAFC will introduce a new way of learning, through a project based STEM program, designed to expose the future defence industry to computer science, electrical and aerospace engineering. Giving all a chance to engage with and learn from modern technology that is future relevant.” (Source: Defence Connect)
26 Feb 19. USAF concludes Joint Air Defense Exercise for regional stability. The US Air Force (USAF) completed Joint Air Defense Exercise (JADEX) 19-01 to enhance the readiness of air defence assets in the US Central Command (CENTCOM) area of responsibility. The USAF Central Command-led training event saw soldiers, sailors, and airmen from the CENTCOM working with regional partners. During the three-day exercise, there was increased participation in the live-fly portion to include B-1B Lancers, F-15E Strike Eagles and coalition partner aircraft. In addition, US Navy ships and US Army defence assets took part in combined defence training. JADEX also involved robust table-top and simulated scenarios to test joint coalition C2 partners in all domains.
AFCENT exercises chief major Ricardo Lara said: “This is the first time a B-1 has been integrated into JADEX. It gave us an opportunity to practice combined air operations with multiple aircraft and partners dedicated to regional defence to develop command and control tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs).”
“We’re really testing the tactical levels of warfare. We want to get after what that soldier, sailor or airman is seeing down their scope, targeting pod or radar and how they communicate and operate as a joint coalition team.”
Personnel trained in real-world TTPs in order to address missile, aircraft and small unmanned aerial system threats.
Combined Air Forces component commander lieutenant general Joseph Guastella said: “JADEX is an opportunity for us to practice regional defence with our gulf partners.
“It’s our responsibility to maintain a credible, capable and dynamic defence posture to compete, deter and win against state and non-state actors. JADEX is one of many exercises that demonstrate those capabilities we practice alongside our international, joint and interagency teammates.”
Regional partners practised defence against a variety of simulated threats. Given that the exercise brings together geographically separated participants from different services and nations, JADEX focused mainly on communication and interoperability. The objective of the training event is to boost military-to-military relationships and improve regional stability. (Source: airforce-technology.com)
25 Feb 19. Simulation manufacturer expands its footprint in support of Australian Seahawk operations. Synthetic training aids are an integral part of educating the crews that operate Australia’s Sikorsky MH-60R Seahawk anti-submarine helicopters, as its Navy balances training needs against operational requirements for its helicopter fleet. The Royal Australian Navy, or RAN, operates a fleet of 24 MH-60Rs, known locally as the Romeo, from Nowra, south of Australia’s largest city Sydney when the helicopters are not deployed at sea. The helicopters were ordered from the United States under the Foreign Military Sales program in 2011 and delivered to Australia between 2013 and 2016. Australia’s MH-60Rs are split among two squadrons at the RAN base at Nowra, HMAS Albatross, with the 725 Squadron primarily assigned to training duties, while its sister unit 816 Squadron handles operational duties.
According to Cmdr. Stan Buckham, the commanding officer of 725 Squadron, splitting up the fleet into two squadrons allows each to concentrate on their respective primary tasks, while operating next door to each other means they can interact and support one another.
Both units operate out of new, purpose-built facilities at the base designed just for the MH-60R. These facilities include a suite of synthetic training devices that have helped the RAN train personnel while reducing demand on the aircraft. This suite of training devices, operated and maintained on site by the Canadian-based CAE, include two tactical operational flight trainers, or TOFT, a composite maintenance trainer, an avionics maintenance weapons loading trainer, and four other devices to train RAN MH-60R pilots, flight crew and maintenance crew.
The two TOFTs, which can be linked so crews can operate together, are certified by an independent simulator evaluation authority to level D, the highest qualification for flight simulators. These have six degrees of freedom and can replicate a variety of day, night and weather conditions.
CAE is also due to deliver an aircraft flight control system trainer to the RAN, completing its suite of nine training devices to support the country’s MH-60R training program.
Buckham describes the MH-60R as a “great capability” and has called the work between the RAN and CAE at HMAS Albatross “a step change in integration with industry.” The company has an extensive footprint across Australia and New Zealand, delivering training and simulator services across 13 sites in both countries.
Together, these training devices have enabled the RAN to stand up eight flights of MH-60R crew that are either deployed or ready for deployment. Each flight consists of two sets of flight crews and a maintenance team that totals about 18 personnel. The first RAN MH-60R flight deployed onboard an RAN ship in 2016, and have since made numerous deployments onboard various ships to the Middle East and the Indo-Pacific region. (Source: Defense News)
26 Feb 19. Boeing targets global sales of T-X training jet after U.S. contract win: executive. Boeing Co is in talks with potential customers globally, including the Royal Australian Air Force, about ordering the new T-X training jet selected by the U.S. Air Force for a $9.2bn contract in September, an executive said on Tuesday.
“We really do see a fit and need for this across fleets all over the world,” Thom Breckenridge, Boeing Vice President of International Sales, Strike Surveillance & Mobility, told reporters at the Australian International Airshow. “We have been in discussions with several customers about the T-X globally.”
Australia, a major Boeing customer, is among the potential buyers of the T-X as it looks to replace its 33 BAE Systems PLC Hawk trainers within the next 10 to 15 years, Breckenridge said, declining to name other countries that were interested.
He said Australia had not yet issued a request for proposal but initial discussions about the T-X had been held with the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF).
“We are very eager to understand RAAF’s needs and talk to them about why we see the benefits of T-X,” Breckenridge said.
RAAF did not respond immediately to a request for comment. Alongside its 2016 Defence White Paper, Australia listed a future project called the “lead-in fighter training system” with a program time frame of 2022-2033 and an investment value of A$4bn ($2.86bn) to A$5bn.
Boeing, in partnership with Sweden’s Saab AB, in September beat out Lockheed Martin Corp and Italy’s Leonardo SpA for the U.S. Air Force contract, which includes an initial 351 jets and 46 simulators.
The low price of the Boeing fixed-price contract surprised analysts, but CEO Dennis Muilenburg in October said on an earnings call that the T-X was expected to be a program with production and services opportunities for much of this century. It could be modified to be a light attack fighter in the future, he said.
Breckenridge said the development of a clean-sheet design with easy access for maintenance had allowed for a “new and disruptive” offering at an attractive price point.
The U.S. Air Force expects the first T-X jets to have initial operational capability by 2024 with the program to reach full operational capability in 2034, replacing an aging fleet of T-38 planes which are nearly 50 years old. ($1 = 1.3974 Australian dollars) (Source: Reuters)
22 Feb 19. What, if anything, can the Pentagon learn from this war simulator? It is August 2010, and Operation Glacier Mantis is struggling in the fictional Saffron Valley. Coalition forces moved into the valley nine years ago, but peace negotiations are breaking down after a series of airstrikes result in civilian casualties. Within a few months, the Coalition abandons Saffron Valley. Corruption sapped the reputation of the operation. Troops are called away to a different war. Operation Glacier Mantis ends in total defeat.
This whole cycle — arrival and then counterinsurgency and then negotiation and then end-game — took about 10 minutes. The nuances are contained within “Rebel Inc.,” a game from Ndemic Studios available for iOS, with an expansion to Android planned for this year. Since its launch in 2018, it became one of the most popular simulation games in Apple’s app store and was downloaded hundreds of thousands of times in the first month it launched. But the game is also an entire engine of counterinsurgency simulation, a holistic approach to understanding and navigating through the kinds of wars that the United States has found itself involved in for the better parts of two decades.
What can the Department of Defense learn from a game like this and why should Pentagon leaders care? Popular games deserve scrutiny because they can unconsciously shape the understanding of the conflicts they simulate. A soldier who deploys in 2019 into Afghanistan may not remember 9/11 or the Taliban’s escape at Tora Bora, but there’s a chance commanding officers will have played Rebel Inc.
James Vaughan — the founder of Ndemic Creations, the company that created Rebel Inc. — said that the game simplifies some aspects of the war, ignores others, but it does so “to help players understand the core facts and the core truths.”
Art imitates life imitates Jack Ryan
Recent studies in political science have demonstrated that, no matter the accuracy of the source material, the pop culture that policy makers absorb can influence how they think and how they talk about policy. A 2017 study by J. Furman Daniel III and Paul Musgrave specifically examined how author Tom Clancy’s descriptions of technologies and politics made their way into the rhetoric and correspondence of senators and President Reagan in the 1980s. In other words, the accessibility of those works of fiction, in part, made them easier to talk about than the actual white papers on the same topic.
“After watching the 1983 film ‘War Games,’ featuring a hacker’s attack on U.S. nuclear command and control systems, President Ronald Reagan worried about the vulnerability of U.S. strategic forces and asked the principals of the National Security Council if the film’s plot was plausible,” Daniel and Musgrave wrote.
“Although many officials dismissed Reagan’s query as merely wild speculation based on a silly movie, a review pursuant to his queries found that U.S. systems were vulnerable, prompting the first U.S. document on cyber defense.”
Clancy’s oeuvre in the 1980s was deep Cold War hypotheticals, which stayed relevant for much of the time that policymakers read and cited him. A game about counterinsurgency in 2019 may not have the same cultural reach as Clancy’s multiple best sellers, but that doesn’t mean no reach at all. (After all, this is an era in which members of Congress call into Twitch streams and are asked about their favorite video game systems.)
It’s possible that officers and politicians who pick up the game will internalize lessons from it with at least as much clarity as they would absorb from a briefing book.
Simulated diseases, real learning
Rebel Inc. is not Vaughan’s first game. He’s taken on war before, though on a far different biological level.
In 2012, he released Plague Inc. as a sort of pandemic simulator where players take on the role of a disease, directing its evolution to reach the goal of complete infection and then extermination of humans. The game became popular enough it led to more than 100 million users worldwide. In 2013, Vaughan was invited to speak at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, on how the game educates users about disease transmission.
Rebel Inc. is different yet feels familiar.
From the timeline of the game to the names of the regions to the use of “coalition soldiers” to the October 2002 start date, Rebel Inc. is dressed in the trappings of the NATO-led war in Afghanistan, without ever explicitly making the connection. (“Afghanistan ’11,” a strategy game explicitly set in the conflict, was pulled from Apple’s app store for depicting a specific government or other real entities as the in-game enemy.)
The challenge from insurgents
To earn the support of the population and make sure they have the tools on hand to fight against insurgents, players purchase developments. Months click by in about six seconds, and sometimes players are asked to make choices about accepting refugees or choosing to fund a university with or without oversight.
After a few years, the game alerts players to the existence of an insurgency, and then players can purchase military options, starting with Coalition troops and then expanding to include everything from national troops to Human Terrain System training to drone surveillance to airstrikes.
Once insurgents attack, the players engage in a long campaign to try to stop the violence, reclaim insurgent-held territory, and eventually stabilize the entirety of the map. In my many times playing through the game, this outcome never happened without some form of peace talks.
Exacerbating the challenge is that the player has a reputation tracker to keep in mind. When reputation gets to zero, the operation ends and with it the game. The most direct trade-offs on reputation come in the negotiating process, where more favorable terms for the insurgents can undermine the international willingness to support the whole operation. This mirrors the dilemmas faced by Pentagon and State Department officials over the past 17 years in Afghanistan. While a game may not lead to any new thinking about Afghanistan, it may spark a new vision for future conflicts.
War gamer, war fighter
While Vaughan’s games are marketed at civilians and consumers, the Pentagon is increasingly looking toward games to teach complex concepts.
Through a challenge with the Air Force experimentation lab MGMWERX, the service asked game designers, engineers, students and hobbyists to come up with ways to teach space concepts.
In the early 2000s, the Pentagon invested in “America’s Army,” a first-person shooter built in part as a recruiting tool. The Office of Naval Research’s war fighter performance department has spent years looking at video games to both train and assess the cognitive abilities of sailors and marines. For the foreseeable future, games will inform how people understand the concepts discussed in the games and may even be an explicit part of how the military trains people up to speed.
“Board wargames are, of course, the genotype of computer war-games; at first, the early digital games inherited from their paper papas their mechanics, settings and appearance. But then as the programming of computer wargames gained in sophistication, the rules faded from sight,” said Brian Train, a civilian game designer.
“Chris Crawford, the author of the first book on computer game design, wrote in 1981 that this permitted the player to move from the role of game executor [mover of pieces, adjudicator of combat, shuffler of paper] to focus on the role of game player.”
With that shift came a transition from understanding the holistic model of the game to trying to optimize outcomes in response to whatever feedback the algorithm is designed to show. Learning the game, then, means less about learning how the elements fit together, and more about sinking oneself into the assigned role.
When it comes to policy makers drawing lessons from the game, Train said, they should “know it’s a game; nevertheless, don’t treat it as something to play and ‘win.’ It’s a vehicle for you to understand, classify and organize, at a higher and more aggregated level, all the minutiae you already know about the situation and, from that, try to derive the general directions the conflict could be headed, and then check why that would be wrong.”
Volko Ruhnke, a historical board game designer and retired analyst for the CIA, offered another perspective:
“You can read a description or a narrative history of a complex affair, but there is so much to understood from seeing the actors and environment in motion and affecting one another — especially if you are able to climb into the machine and operate it yourself, experiment, and see how the thing works from the inside.”
Vaughan himself sounded delighted with the broader interest in the game, though he cautioned that it is at best an introduction to the complexity of the conflict. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
22 Feb 19. UK military flight training heads towards new heights. The first flight of the Texan T1 state-of-the-art training aircraft was completed at RAF Valley yesterday, 21 February. The forthcoming introduction of this aircraft forms part of a £1.2bn investment into fixed-wing aircraft training under the Military Flight Training System (MFTS), the evolving programme that is designed to train and prepare junior pilots for the frontline.
Defence Minister Stuart Andrew said: “It’s crucial that our fighter pilots of the future train on the very best equipment before reaching the front line to protect UK airspace at home and defend our interests abroad. The introduction of the Texan T1 into one of NATO’s most advanced Fighter Pilot training programmes demonstrates the RAF’s commitment to investing in world-leading technology to maintain a military advantage over our adversaries.”
The Texan T1 aircraft, due to replace the Tucano in the fast jet training programme, made history with its first flight at RAF Valley. The T1 represents a technological step-change from its predecessor, with the ability to simulate missions in both 4th and 5th generation aircraft such as the F35 Lightning and Typhoon fast jets.
Wing Commander Chris Ball, Officer Commanding the Texan Integration Squadron at RAF Valley explains: “Under the Military Flying Training System, fighter pilots will train on world-leading aircraft. They start on the Prefect, move on to the Texan and finish on the Hawk T2, making the training process more efficient and far more representative of the aircraft types they will eventually fly. The Texan is the ideal lead-in trainer to the Hawk T2 advanced jet trainer that they will fly here at Valley.”
Meggitt Training Systems, makers of FATS® and Caswell technologies, a division of Meggitt PLC, is the leading supplier of integrated live-fire and virtual weapons training systems. Following the acquisition of FATS® virtual training systems and Caswell International’s live-fire ranges and services, Meggitt Training Systems continues to grow its capabilities based on the legacy of these two industry leaders. Over 13,600 Meggitt live-fire ranges and 5,100 virtual systems are fielded internationally, providing judgmental, situational awareness and marksmanship training to the armed forces, law enforcement and security organizations. Meggitt Training Systems employs more than 400 people at its headquarters in Atlanta and at facilities in Orlando, Canada, the United Kingdom, Netherlands, UAE, Australia and Singapore. It can deploy service personnel anywhere in the world for instructor training, system installation and maintenance. Learn more at https://meggitttrainingsystems.com/