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The San Diego Union-Tribune

A Revolution In Warfare | Defending America In The 21st Century

By Kit Lavell

March 9, 2003
Copyright © 2003
The San Diego Union-Tribune. All rights reserved. 

Fifth Of Six Parts.

"By nature, men are nearly alike; by practice, they get to be wide apart."

-- Confucius

Arecent study conducted by the Defense Science Board found that "The superb performance of our military in the 1990s was not just a result of technological superiority but equally of training superiority."

Until the first Persian Gulf War in 1991, the Army`s first battle of each war had been a disaster. Desert Storm changed all that. The Defense Science Board attributed this change to a decade of what it called the first revolution in training.

"Train like you fight. Fight like you train." This military mantra may be attributed to others but is most associated with Randy "Duke" Cunningham, a former naval aviator and now San Diego congressman who became the first American fighter ace of the Vietnam War. He later became an instructor at the Navy Fighter Weapons School -- Top Gun at Miramar Naval Air Station.

Concern in the early years of the Vietnam War that the United States was not achieving the level of superiority in air-to-air warfare that it had enjoyed in previous conflicts led the Navy to create Top Gun at Miramar.

A four-week course provided Navy pilots instruction that simulated realistic combat conditions. The Top Gun school -- known as a Combat Training Center -- changed training throughout the military.

In the 1970s and 1980s, the Army and the Air Force developed their own Combat Training Centers. Four vital elements make up a CTC: an independent, highly competent opposing force that uses the equipment and tactics of an adversary; a live-fire range with sensors connected to a computer; objective, candid feedback given to the trainees after the exercise; and an expectation of failure during training.

The Defense Science Board task force that studied military training all over the world found that the last two elements -- candid feedback and expectation of failure -- were uniquely tied to American culture. No other military has been able to implement these two critical elements into training simulations. No other military has revolutionized training as Americans have.

It has set us wide apart from foes and friends alike.

But this training revolution has not extended throughout all branches of the armed services, as it should, according to the Defense Science Board. We need a second revolution -- one that will be fueled by advances in learning theory as well as in computer technology. The makings of this second revolution are already in place.

Urban warfare training

On the eve of a possible war with Iraq, our military trains for the specter of urban warfare, something not encountered in Desert Storm in 1991. Over the last few months, just south of the Iraqi border in Kuwait, our military has built a mock town, complete with buildings, roads, street lights and burned-out cars. It resembles other facilities built over the last decade for simulating what are called Military Operations in Urban Terrain at military bases in the United States and overseas. Most, however, contain sterile, cinder block buildings and lack realism.

To make training more realistic the military has reached out to the business world, academia, think tanks, and non-traditional sources such as the entertainment industry for out-of-the-box thinking, technology and support. The result has been significant developments in constructing live, virtual and constructive, dubbed L-V-C, environments for military training.

The U.S. Army`s Simulation, Training and Instrumentation Command in Orlando, Fla., has led the way into this new era of training. Training in "live" environments -- operations in the field with live forces and instrumented weapons -- simulate real conditions. Training for individuals and teams in "virtual" environments replicate actual combat equipment, systems, and munitions on computer-generated battlefields in simulators resembling reality as close as possible.

So-called constructive environments are large-scale, complex war games conducted by many people -- battalions, brigades, divisions, corps and above -- over networked computers that require only two- dimensional screens and map displays.

Live, virtual and constructive domains for mock battles evolved from early war gaming done in the 19th century when planners at the Naval War College moved miniature warships around on maps. Edwin Link`s "Blue Box," an instrumented cockpit on gimbals, introduced flight simulators to the world in 1929. U.S. Navy aircraft practiced a simulated attack on Pearl Harbor twice, once in the 1920s and again in the 1930s, scenarios duplicated by the Japanese in reality in 1941.

Computers have since added a whole new dimension to simulation. The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory developed the first interactive, graphic, computerized tactical war game called Janus about the same time that the "Pong" computer game became popular in 1973.

Portable simulators

When the Cold War ended and the threats of global terrorism arose, the military searched for ways to better train for urban warfare. The Army looked to Anteon, a major defense contractor, to design and build a mobile MOUT facility for deployment to Afghanistan. Constructed of 8x9x20-foot converted sea/land containers, the modular system has movable walls allowing for multiple configurations. Troops in the field can construct dozens of small buildings, stacking the modules in multiple stories, complete with stairways.

With brick, stucco, cinder block or other facades, these modules look real. They are equipped with sensors, cameras, sound systems, motion detectors, smoke and odor generators. Attached control rooms with 30-seat theaters and large plasma TV screens serve as after- action review centers.

San Diego-based Cubic Corp. kick-started the current revolution in training with its sensor and computer system at the Navy`s Fighter Weapons School, showcased in the Tom Cruise movie "Top Gun." Cubic produces a follow-on simulator called the Multiple Integrated Laser System. MILES is now installed in modular and permanent MOUT facilities.

It also is combined with the Air Force`s air combat maneuvering system to form the National Training Center/Air Warrior facility located at Fort Irwin, near the Southern California desert town of Barstow. For the first time, joint ground and air units training together can be observed and evaluated in real time and after the action on a single networked system.

A decade of Army combat training using the MILES system at Ft. Irwin`s National Training Center was a vital contributing factor in the superb performance of U.S. armored and mechanized infantry units in Desert Storm in 1991.

The Army`s Future Combat System, a collection of manned and unmanned combat vehicles designed to operate in a network, will include "embedded" training systems. Soldiers will be able to perform virtual and constructive training on board with no outside support while being transported on a C-17 cargo plane, or plan the operation on the way into battle, all of which will save precious time.

On-board simulators

With more than 75 years of experience in building flight simulators, Link Simulation & Training of Arlington, Texas employs the latest in technology and teaching systems into its simulators. Sitting in the cockpit of the F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet and the F-22 Raptor flight simulators, a 360-degree field-of-vision dome surrounds the pilot, onto which is projected any scene a pilot is likely to see in actual combat. Aviators can practice air-to-air combat, weapons delivery over any terrain, and even make carrier landings.

The Naval Special Warfare Command in San Diego sponsored the development, by Applied Physics Laboratory of Laurel, Md., of the latest submarine trainer. It is a mock-up of the Northrop-Grumman built Advanced SEAL Delivery System. A Navy submariner and his SEAL co-pilot can practice a simulated detaching from a submerged nuclear submarine and the tricky maneuvering through the gloomy ocean depths.

This six-degrees-of-freedom simulator is so complex it needs seven computers to create realistic displays and controls.

For over a decade, the surface Navy has employed a reality-based simulator called Battle Force Tactical Trainer for constructive simulations. BFFT simulates a combat environment by electronically stimulating -- "lighting up" -- a ship`s sensors and weapons systems. Since the nature of naval warfare is such that real combat is viewed through a ship`s systems anyway, with only rare visual sighting of the enemy, these at-sea simulations can easily mimic real operations.

During a dockside training simulation last week on the guided missile destroyer Benfold, the ship`s skipper, Cmdr. Ray Hill, remarked, "Except for the roll of the ship, this is as real as it gets."

The latest prototype the Navy is testing is the Virtual At Sea Training system. It allows ships to practice live-fire exercises at sea while simulating the topography of real world landmasses. The crew sees a realistic projection generated by sensors arrayed on buoys in the ocean. The system is portable and reduces (but does not eliminate) the need for land target ranges like the controversial Vieques Island in Puerto Rico .

The Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command in San Diego is working on a component of the Joint Simulation System, the Department of Defense`s flagship simulator. JSIMS is an environment that will look real to human operators and will integrate information from all sources seamlessly. It will bring interactive simulation to all the armed services for joint training -- in preparation for any operational mission.

Non-traditional methods

Even the most basic of classroom education is participating in the revolution in training. Teaching the fundamentals, from shipboard damage control to fire fighting, diesel engine repair, and even culinary arts, is undergoing a radical transformation. Eighteen months ago the chief of Naval Education and Training launched an initiative called EXCEL. The Task Force for Excellence through Commitment to Education and Learning intends to transform training throughout the fleet.

One of the Navy`s goals is to provide opportunities for sailors to succeed in their professional and personal lives. Many of the courses traditionally taught by the Navy, including some tactical training, are being contracted out to the private sector, for example, not just to reduce costs, but also to bring training in line with industry standards where applicable.

Nontraditional training brings the benefits of accreditation and certification to private sector industry standards. This helps service men and women to improve their transition to civilian life. Innovative teaching techniques, distributed learning over the Internet, unique facilities, and turnkey training programs promise increased quality of life while in the Navy. That translates to increased readiness in the fleet.

On the horizon

San Diego companies like Cubic Corporation and SAIC are among the many companies developing the next generation of simulations. Cubic is working on the Army Warfighters` Simulation that will replace the Corps Battle Simulation that currently trains battle commanders and staff at the corps and division levels. Cubic is also working on One- Semi-Automated Force for training brigade-level and below, not just for combat simulations, but also for medical, maintenance and military law enforcement.

The Virtual Reality Medical Center, with facilities in San Diego, West Los Angeles, and Palo Alto conducts "stress inoculation" research under a contract with the Pentagon`s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. The executive director, Dr. Brenda Wiederhold, and her husband, Dr. Mark Wiederhold, are developing a hybrid approach combining simulation with live training, while monitoring the physiology of warriors in tactical situations. By analyzing tactical decision making under stress, the researchers hope to develop techniques to help trainees control fear and anxiety; in effect, to inoculate them against stress.

This revolution in training may one day help not only warriors in combat, but also professionals in medical, law enforcement, aviation, and other stressful fields to improve their handling of critical situations where many lives depend on their performance.

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