The Year of LVC: A Look Back at 2016


As 2016 comes to close, we’ve reached out to our industry contributors and asked them to look back at how military training and simulation has evolved during the past 12 months and what significant milestones have occurred.  In this piece, Dr. Tom Schnell, who is a Professor in Industrial Engineering with a specialization in Human Factors/Ergonomics at the University of Iowa, and the Founder and Director of the Operator Performance Laboratory (OPL) at the Center for Computer Aided Design, provides his insight:

Modern Military Training: Tell us about the significant changes that you’ve seen in the industry over the past 12 months.

Dr. Schnell: This year has seen significant progress in promoting the idea of Live Virtual Constructive (LVC) training. We have performed LVC demonstrations in air-air and air-surface vignettes since 2011, where live assets interoperated with virtual and constructive ones. As we embarked on this journey in 2011, we initially failed in our mission to explain the benefits and pitfalls of LVC- based air warfare training to a large audience. Over time and thanks to the persistence of government and industry leaders in this area of training, we have finally succeeded in getting the word out to a broad range of stakeholders. I/ITSEC Operation Blended Warrior demonstrates that the user communities are starting to pay attention to LVC.

However, we are not at the end of the journey, we are actually just beginning. No LVC system has yet been procured. In fact, there are no clear specifications yet as to what would have to be procured in the first place. As experts in LVC, we are sometimes frustrated with the glacial pace at which things move. However, as we have created interest in the community, there is now a better understanding of how one would integrate LVC into training.

We feel that LVC is critical to preserve flight hours of live assets. There used to be a time when aviators flew several hops a week. Budget cuts have eroded flight hours from training and readiness programs and training opportunities are now few and far between. This is a very concerning development and it is my opinion that we should not send our aviators into harm’s way with so little real-world flight preparation.

Don’t let anybody tell you that you can train aviators just as well with simulators as you can with real flight. You cannot. Military aviation is not like commercial aviation where your first flight in type is a revenue flight.  There is no substitute for the real world experience where aircrews are faced with physical consequences of their actions and where they can learn to collaborate in complex multi-asset missions. The real world experience causes a completely different mental framework and there are many real world artifacts and perceptions that are not incorporated in simulations.

However, simulation has a very important role to play in that it must prepare the aviators procedurally so that they don’t have to acquire basic skills in the air thus wasting precious flight time for learning mundane tasks. Training with simulators must be done more in line with how real missions are prosecuted. The mission starts and ends in the briefing room but real-world missions continue building SA along the time line from there.

While LVC may open up the possibility for far superior training, we must realize that all involved aircrew and operators have to be educated on how to execute LVC training properly.

MMT: Have we moved the needle in terms of training effectiveness?

Dr. Schnell: Not to the extent we need to. Historically, in times of conflict, we get wake-up calls where we realize our training and readiness shortfalls. We have not had one of those for a while and this may cause a sense of security. In training, there are no shortcuts for replication of tasks under realistic conditions. We should attempt to tune our simulator training to better prepare our aviators for the training flights they perform in the aircraft so that those flights can amount to more. In addition, we need to provide our wings with more access to flight hours.  This will benefit not just the aircrew but all involved personnel, including maintainers and weapons handlers. Perhaps their training could be incorporated in the full mission simulator preparation as well.

MMT: How have these changes impacted adoption of the latest military training and simulation solutions?

Dr. Schnell: Gaming technology has provided an amazing wealth of simulator training capability. There is absolutely no doubt that simulator training is good preparation for real-world operations. There are parallels in other disciplines such as race car driving. iRacing is a simulation environment that has been embraced by leading competitors to hone their skills. Perhaps this can serve as a model for air combat training.

Better simulation does not necessarily mean more expensive simulators. Federated, highly accessible low-cost simulators should be available in every squadron. LVC interoperability should be integral to those simulators. Training scenarios on those simulators should be complex and involve many players who need to coordinate their actions. However, it is important to realize the limits of training. Generally, scenarios in simulators need to be more difficult than their real world counterparts to result in perceived equivalent levels of difficulty. Physiological based workload assessment and real-time scoring of ROE, flight technical parameters, and weapons employment should be made integral to all training missions.

MMT: If you had to sum up 2016, what would you say?

Dr. Schnell: 2016 was the year of LVC