BAE Systems is in the process of developing a new architecture that could greatly enhance the effectiveness of tactical training missions, while reducing the need to provide supporting assets to build complex operational scenarios. Known as the Operational Aircrew Training (OAT) program, the new system seamlessly combines live, virtual and constructive elements into a single training scenario that can be repeatable and can involve multiple players both in the air and on the ground. The vision is to provide a full beyond line-of-sight, multi-player capability across various air and ground platforms, and to provide an “out of cockpit” visualization of virtual and constructive entities.
“We started with the fact that aircrew must fly,” said Dave Bowman, BAE’s chief engineer for the OAT program, “but we can reduce the dependency on support assets, and we can reduce the need for training deployments.”
OAT is aimed primarily at the upper end of the training spectrum, providing complex scenarios in which frontline crews can train with numerous assets, but without the need to necessarily provide those assets for real.
BAE Systems is part way through an internally funded development program for OAT that has already resulted in two real demonstrations. In 2005 a two-versus-two, air-to-air engagement was staged in which a live (real operator in a real environment) platform was integrated with two virtual (real operators in simulated environment) aircraft and a constructive (simulated operator in a simulated environment) entity.
In 2008 a close air support-type scenario was staged, using an augmented live asset (Tornado GR.Mk 4 with simulated targeting pod), a forward air controller in a virtual environment and four constructive entities (vehicle targets created entirely within the system). The Tornado crew engaged the “targets” with assistance from the forward air controller as if they were real, seeing exactly what they would expect to see on their screens in a fully live exercise.
In terms of a “product,” Bowman said OAT comprises hardware that can be packaged into a pod that can be carried aboard on aircraft, or even integrated into the aircraft itself, plus ground-based systems. The “player” elements are geo-referenced and time-synchronized so that there is no latency, and no positional discrepancies.
Following these demonstrations, BAE Systems is refining OAT for a full “pipeline” demonstration involving air and ground assets that will display the power of the system to key stakeholders. A company test crew flew the 2008 Tornado demonstration, but service crews have already tried the system in a ground-based rig, with positive feedback.