by October 12, 2002 0 comments

The AH-64 Apache from Boeing is among the most powerful attack helicopters in the world today. The cost of training a team of pilots to man these helicopters can run into hundreds of thousands of dollars in fuel alone. The situation is the same in other areas of defense as well, whether it’s training the gunnery crews on operating weapons, or training ground staff for aircraft maintenance. That’s where simulation systems come in handy. They generate virtual interactive environments of live situations using computers, thereby offering many advantages over live training sessions.

Simulation systems help impart training in lesser time and cost instead of doing live training sessions. Not only that, but the training sessions can also be recorded for further analysis. This helps improve their effectiveness, as the trainees can later see what they did during the training and learn from their mistakes. Simply speaking, it allows you to do action replay, something you can never do in a live training session. Another benefit of simulation systems is that they can create environments that are otherwise not possible or dangerous in the real world scenario. Nuclear weapons testing and war-scenario rehearsals are two such examples. As everything is done in a simulated environment, chances of accidents and loss of lives are also reduced considerably. Take a simple driving simulator, for instance. It can help trainees undergo high-speed chases and dangerous patrol missions, both of which would be very risky to do in a real life scenario.

Simulation in action

Designs for different simulation systems vary based on their functionality. There are completely software-based systems used for strategizing. These can be used for developing war strategies. Then there are systems made of a mix of software and electronic-control systems to create realistic environments, like the cockpit of a fighter aircraft.

The most basic type of simulator can run on a single PC, like the driving simulator example we mentioned. On the higher side, there’s no limit to their complexity. For instance, there’s the AVCATT-A, which is a fine example of a state-of-the-art simulator for helicopter training. The abbreviation stands for Aviation Combined Advanced Tactical Trainer-Aviation Configurable Manned Simulator. It can support training for seven different helicopters, like the AH 64A Apache, AH64D Longbow Apache and Commanche. It’s a mobile unit housed in two 53 ft trailers. The system consists of a set of six manned modules or crew stations. Each of these can be reconfigured to any of the seven helicopters. Apart from the various controls, it also features helmet mounted visual displays for generating the Out-the-Window views. For the processing, the AVCATT-A uses fifty 850 MHz single board computers having 512k onboard memory and 18 GB hard drives. Some subsystems use more memory. The DIS (Distributed Interactive Simulation) data logger subsystem, for instance, has four processors, and uses 30 GB for each. The sensor video-recording systems use 150 GB. The two trailers are connected over a 1 Gbps Ethernet link, while the real-time, system, sensor and system networks use 100 Mbps.

Simulation systems help impart training in lesser time and cost instead of live training sessions. Also using action replay, trainees can view their training and learn from their mistakes

Simulators are being used for training in just about every area of defense. The air-traffic control tower-simulation system, for instance, is used to give realistic air-traffic control training. It has a 360 degrees out the window visual display. It uses standard PC-based hardware and software for operation, and can perform various advanced functions like scenario development, environmental effects such as cloud formations, ceiling variances, visibility, runway conditions and time of day. These are standard conditions that any air traffic control tower will have to face.

War gaming
War gaming systems are used for situation analysis and tactical scenario rehearsals. One such system developed by M/s Total Solutions, Sai Bright, Khese Park, Pune is their exercise-management system, which makes use of standard Windows-based PCs and a server connected over a LAN. There’s a DS (directing staff) PC, which acts as the controller, and five syndicate PCs, which are used by the trainees. The DS sends information inputs to the syndicate PCs as part of situation build-up, which is taken for analysis and appropriate action. Various exercises can be performed using this system. For instance, the DS builds up a certain situation, such as a war scenario, and passes this info to the syndicate PCs. The trainees sitting on these PCs are trained to analyze this information in their own way and perform the necessary actions. For instance, if the trainees receive information of an enemy sighting, then they have to take the necessary actions such as informing all relevant units and formations of this. At the end of each exercise, the syndicate submissions are analyzed, corrections pointed out and assessments done. The software has modules for situation build-up, situation marking with predefined symbols, communication, logging, plan submission, databasing and security.

Anil Chopra

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