The Canadian Armed Forces are faced with tightening budgets, sparse equipment resources and the realities of a pandemic that have resulted in a heavier reliance on remote and distance learning, or the outright postponement of training. One critical way these challenges are being addressed is by the development of simulation solutions that provide seamless, integrated, modern and secure training environments—the kinds of simulation software support and training solutions that ADGA has been supplying to the CAF for more than a decade, whether under its Modelling and Simulation (MODSIM) contract with the Canadian Army, or for the Royal Canadian Navy and the Royal Canadian Air Force under its engagement for Simulation Technical Investigation and Engineering Support (SimTIES).
Of course, the need for better integrated, more sophisticated and centralized synthetic training systems are more than just a matter of pandemic necessity—they’re at the heart of the vision for training and preparing tomorrow’s armed forces. With the Future Integrated Training Environment (FITE), it’s the Canadian Army’s ambition to have a “future training framework which blends live simulation field training and the synthetic training environment composed of virtual trainers and constructive simulation”. Likewise, for the RCAF the objective is to develop “a simulation-focused training system which skillfully leverages live, virtual and constructive simulations within a networked common synthetic environment”.
As ADGA currently works within all three of the CAF environments to provide quality modelling and simulation support, the company is well poised to help in the realization of this vision. For the Canadian Army, ADGA’s support is focused on the constructive simulations utilized by the Canadian Army Simulation Centre and virtual simulators like the Interim Crew Gunnery System. For the RCAF, ADGA provides teams to sustain the RCAF’s CH-146 Griffon Mission Rehearsal Tactics Trainer, as well as the technical support for the RCAF Modelling and Simulation Environment Network.
Under the RCN umbrella, ADGA furnishes teams to support the Distributed Mission Operations Centre at the Naval Fleet School Atlantic, as well as the Naval Training Development Centre Atlantic. At the DMOC, we have embedded teams of Senior Exercise Directors and support staff assisting with the development and delivery of Fleet Synthetic Training, also known as Distributed Mission Training. For TDCA, ADGA provides software development support to both maintain existing training content and design new applications used to train RCN students.
One of the main challenges for greater integration is that today’s simulation solutions tend to be environmentally focused and conceived independently. Much work and collaboration will be required to meet the vision of training for tomorrow’s military. The good news is that many aspects of the vision are already within reach. And the team at ADGA has a firm understanding of the ingredients that are crucial to making this happen.
A fully configurable framework
It starts with a robust capacity for software development, agreed-upon integration standards and a collaborative network environment. ADGA’s research and development team has already created a Fully Configurable (FulCon) framework that is aimed at simplifying the development process for producing new task-based training platforms within common virtual environments. Just one of the advantages is that FulCon can be used to accelerate the development of low to medium fidelity training systems by providing the configuration and communications to common military and commercial simulation engines and image generators. FulCon can also control the virtual environment view that students see in front of them via an Instructor Training Station and simulate the appropriate view for the training platform.
By using common protocols such as CIGI, FulCon can be sim-agnostic, providing the same view in multiple military or commercial virtual environments. FulCon also allows for a set of common interactive user controls, such as operating a switch or a dial. The action of the control is later defined within the training platform, enabling developers to reuse code for new simulators while achieving a common look and feel throughout. Where traditional simulators are produced as bespoke, stand-alone systems, FulCon envisions creating a full simulation ecosystem capable of supporting land, air, sea, and space training.
Land, air, sea, and space training
Meanwhile, integration across platforms of the sort ultimately envisioned by the armed forces is already possible in some areas. For example, with the SimSpeak voice network simulation system now embedded in both the RCAF’s CH-146 MRTT and the CA's Interim Crew Gunnery System (ICGS), integration of voice between the two virtual trainers is now feasible. Testing done between the MODSIM group in Kingston and the Ottawa SimTIES development team has demonstrated encouraging results in terms of the coordination, selection and engagement of targets in a synchronized manner, independent of the image generator being utilized (ie VBS for ICGS or VR Vantage for the MRTT). These results show the potential to provide joint training at the individual crew level with training systems that are already fielded.
Of course, to meet the demands of fully integrated modelling and simulation systems, a Common Management System is required. A CMS that would be based on common development and integration standards operating in unison—like the cogs in a wheel, with a cog representing live, virtual, constructive simulations in environmental, joint or coalition training events.
When it comes to developing a common, collaborative network environment, the foundation and technical capabilities are already in place. Implementation of the Canadian Forces Exercise and Experimentation Network (CFXNet), which connects the country’s military research sites with laboratories under the Department of National Defence, has dramatically amplified the opportunities for joint experimental capability, including in the areas of modelling and simulation. The navy already makes use of CFXNet for its training exercises, while the army is finalizing the development of the Virtual Training and Experimentation Network and the air force is in the process of enhancing its RCAF Modelling and Simulation Environment Network.
This is another area in which ADGA is ready to play a more robust role, as we have deep experience providing technical expertise to all three environments, assisting with the design, build, deployment, and sustainment of the modelling and simulation networks. The experience that has been garnered by the ADGA technical teams through the respective MODSIM and SimTIES contracts is significant and makes ADGA exceptionally well positioned to understand how all three of the environmental networks could be integrated to help the CAF achieve better cohesion.
A last, less technical ingredient to realizing the armed forces’ vision for a common synthetic environment will be collaboration and partnerships—and constantly leveraging the lessons learned together along the way. In our experience, an Agile software development framework is invaluable to this process. For the ADGA development team working on the Land Command Support System in support of System of Systems testing, adopting an Agile framework enables them to continuously integrate and evaluate a wide variety of simulation software products originating from a myriad of OEMs, as well as those created in-house, in a managed simulation software baseline at the Simulation Baseline Integration Lab in Kingston.
Every quarter, stakeholders get together with product owners, while agile development teams break their upcoming work down into two-week sprints. This allows lots of opportunities for the customer and any stakeholders to help steer the progress of the project(s), as well as acceptance of frequent deliveries of incremental value.
Having supported the CAF’s modelling, simulation and networking needs for more than a decade, ADGA possesses the pedigree, the people and the ideas to make tomorrow’s vision a reality. Much is already within our grasp. ADGA is a trusted Canadian partner in system integration and software development using an Agile framework, with a proven track record for customer satisfaction and delivery on demand. The challenges that the CAF faces can only be met with a collaborative mindset, partnerships with industry experts and common standards for platform integration.
This article was originally published in the October 2021 issue of Canadian Defence Review.