VICE is a good thing for the Australian Army to improve combat readiness, reduce risks and save money!

12th Jun 2012



Byline: Geoff Slocombe / Victoria

VICE is a good thing for the Australian Army to improve combat readiness, reduce risks and save money!

Not in general, but when it is the acronym for Virtual Immersive Combat Environment domain, with simulations based on its products used as virtual ‘gates’ for live combat team training, it is a good thing.

Selected Navy, Army and Air Force training is now conducted by using a new generation of realistic and effective mission simulators, part task trainers, and other high technology computer-based systems.

Main benefits claimed are better training, with less risk to personnel and equipment, at a lower cost than a curriculum based solely on instructor training in the classroom and with real equipment.

A Defence spokesperson commented “The role of simulation is not to replace all live training, but to ensure that Defence is able to make sure that live training is used at the most effective point in the training continuum. Increasingly individuals and units will need to demonstrate a range of competencies in a simulation before moving onto a live activity. Simulation can also be used post-live activities in order to re-enforce lessons derived from the live activity and to conduct post activity debriefing.”

As available computing power and data storage increases dramatically at lower costs, and Defence staff understanding of complex models of human behaviour steadily develops, the evolution from original physics-based simulations to non-kinetic effects, decision support and human factors design in capability development and acquisition is being embraced and led by the Australian Defence Simulation Office (ADSO) in Canberra, who also coordinate simulation groups throughout the whole of Defence.

The Roadmap

The Defence Simulation Strategy and Roadmap update released in May 2011, called the Roadmap in the rest of this article, is a clear and thoughtful document showing the way ahead until 2030. Much of its material is geared to implementing aspects of the 2009 Defence White Paper and consequent DCP projects. Technology developments and the 2013 Defence White Paper will trigger further updates.

The Roadmap’s vision is ‘Simulation is an integrated enterprise capability that enables Defence to lift the excellence of individual and collective training by enhancing the realism of training; to analyse and fully understand the cost of ownership of capability; and to provide enhanced support to decision makers; in a cost effective and efficient manner.’

A good example of this vision being realised is the set of Mission Ready Exercises for ASLAV crews being deployed to the Middle East. Nine Crew Procedural Trainers (CPT) provide realistic training for ASLAV commanders and gunners. The Roadmap describes the experience as ‘A fully immersive environment with a complete suite of simulated sights, periscope and out-of-turret visuals. The capability has expended over 1.2 million simulated rounds – representing a massive cost saving compared with the price of real ammunition, whilst providing more accurate feedback, avoiding safety risks, avoiding damage and wear and tear on weapons, and minimising environmental impact and clean-up activities.’

JP 3028 Phase 1 Defence Simulation Program

The 2009 Defence Capability Plan initiated this project, which will create significant opportunities for the Australian and New Zealand defence industry to participate.

JP 3028 Phase 1 is a $500 million capital equipment program, whose scope is described as ‘This phase will deliver a variety of simulation services, systems and supporting infrastructure to the ADO in a number of the following areas:
• Capability Development, including concept evaluation, Operational Test and Evaluation (OT&E) and military experimentation;
• Research and Development;
• Preparedness modelling and simulation for forecasting and options analysis;
• Acquisition;
• Simulation support to decision making for routine business, including lifecycle management;
• Individual and collective training in combat and non-combat roles;
• Mission rehearsal; and
• Support to operational planning, execution, and other high consequence planning.
These simulation services and systems will require the support of an underlying synthetic environment, which will aid the efficient management of simulation in Defence.’

Significant as JP 3028 is, it is only one aspect of the range of simulation portfolio activities to be carried out by Defence. At the moment it appears fairly nebulous, with no evidence in the 2012-13 Defence Budget of any intention to seek First Pass Approval from the Government in the coming financial year.

An allied project is JP 3021 Joint and Combined Training Capability. This project, to cost under $100 million, will supply simulated electronic warfare threats, from a vehicle, ship or aircraft transported transmitter, to enhance realistic training and evaluation of ADF and allied partner platforms.

The adjoining simulation precinct table indicates the level to which progress has been made introducing simulation technology into Defence.

Projects LAND 400, LAND 121, LAND 40 are all Defence Capability Plan activities which have a simulation component. The use of products in the VICE domain, mainly VBS-2 (Virtual Battle Space 2) and Steel Beasts, is being increased.

Bohemia Interactive Australia (BIA) began developing VBS-2 after Defence purchased an enterprise license for VBS-1 in 2005. ADSO funded a range of improvements in VBS-1 to make the product more suitable for mission rehearsal and training, as part of Mission Rehearsal Exercises for deployments to Iraq. ADSO sponsorship was through a Deed of Standing Offer for the provision of Software and Software Support Services.

VBS-2 is an excellent example of the Australian defence industry creating a product which is in effective use throughout the western military world. The US Army and Marine Corps are probably its most extensive users, incorporating VBS-2 in nearly all of their infantry simulation training.

Pacific 2012 demonstration of simulated amphibious assault

BIA and Calytrix Technologies spectacular joint demo scenario depicted an Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) conducting an LHD-based ship to shore amphibious assault. It covered the key aspects of an amphibious operation including movement (and sea passage); pre-landing operation; mine countermeasures operations; ship to shore operations; force protection; establishing a beachhead; naval gun fire support (NGS); defensive counter air (DCA); close air support (CAS); and air mobile operations

Now follow some examples of simulation systems in already in use or planned for the ADF.

Joint Decision Support Capability (JDSC)

The Roadmap states that this is a collaborative venture between the DSTO and Defence’s Capability Development Group. ‘The JDSC has been developed to fill the gap for a Canberra-based simulation capability to explore military concepts and capability options. It is an emerging capability that leverages tools, techniques and technologies from across Defence and Industry and applies rigorous scientific consideration to the question at hand.’

Aircrewman Part Task Trainer (APTT)

Another example from the Roadmap. ‘Seven APTTs are used to train Army helicopter aircrewman in a virtual reality environment across their full range of tasks including approaches, external loads, hoisting, gunnery and crew interaction. They have improved course pass rates, training standards and safety, while reducing flying hour requirements. APTTs can be reconfigured as Chinooks, Black Hawks, MRH-90s and Bell 412s. They can be networked together and have the potential to network into the broader Army simulation network.’ These PTTs will continue to be used in AIR 9000 Phase 7 HATS.

Wedgetail Simulator

The Wedgetail Operational Flight Trainer (OFT) allows experienced pilots to undertake training using a high-quality flight simulator instead of an actual aircraft. The OFT is situated
at the Airborne Early Warning & Control (AEW&C) support centre at RAAF Base Williamtown alongside the Operational Mission Simulator (OMS) for the radar and sensor operators.

C-17 Aircrew Training System (ATS)

The ATS consists of a realistic, full-motion weapons systems trainer (WST) for pilot training, a loadmaster station, a learning centre and various support systems. The potential late delivery of the ‘Loadmaster’ simulation was flagged in the 2012-13 Defence Budget as ‘The key risk for the project is the complex design, building integration and transportation challenges associated with achieving delivery of the Cargo Compartment Trainer in time to commence in-country C-17 loadmaster training by the end of 2014.’

Navy Bridge Training Facility a World Leader

Junior officers in the Royal Australian Navy learn to pilot the next generation of warships in an upgraded $10m training facility at HMAS WATSON, Sydney, opened in March 2011. The bridge training facility is one of the most advanced simulators in the world.

The simulators replicate the full range of maritime operations likely to be experienced while on the bridge of a warship and can be reconfigured to match most classes of ship in the RAN’s current fleet. New functionality includes boat operations, interdiction and docking and beaching evolutions pertinent to the new LHDs, the first of which is due to enter service in 2014.

“An example of a complex scenario is manoeuvring a 3,500-tonne warship within 2,000 yards of a number of other ships while under air attack, or ships within 50 metres of each other conducting replenishment-at-sea approaches” said Commander Australian Fleet, Rear Admiral Gilmore, at the facility’s opening.

The graphics system can replicate different environmental conditions from a clear day through to a raging storm, detailed land-and sea-scape features as well as dynamic models of aircraft, tugs and other ships, including the Canberra Class LHDs and Hobart Class AWDs.

Customised simulation training for Royal Australian Navy engineers.
Kongsberg Maritime was selected by BAE Systems Australia and the Defence to provide a custom engine room simulator for the training of engineers aboard Canberra Class Landing Helicopter Dock (LHD) vessels. The new LHD Engineering System Trainer (LEST) will significantly enhance the Navy's ability to train LHD vessel engineering personnel, an important and critical factor in operational availability.
The LEST project is scheduled for February 2013 delivery. It will include both full mission and desktop simulation systems, with integrated e-Learning facilities. The LEST will simulate operational control of all Marine Engineering (ME) systems and equipment installed on the LHD, enabling training for the operation of ME systems and equipment in remote, local, manual and emergency/casualty modes.
The full mission part of the delivery includes control room operator stations with software mimics & panels, electrical switchboard mimic & panels, local control engine-room mimics and bridge control and steering panels.

Virtual Crew Training System for the LHDs

KBR is contracted by BAE Systems Australia to develop and deliver by 2013 a virtual training program to train crew for the LHDs.

They will also develop more than 50 different virtual models of crew members, which will be used for individual and team training scenarios. Trainees will be able to network in a classroom environment, while working together inside the LHD to complete simulated exercises and emergency response scenarios they will be required to undertake once deployed on the real ship.

Key benefits of this computer-based training include a reduction in training and operating costs, increased trainee safety and on-board productivity, and enhanced training system availability, flexibility and portability.


Despite the considerable commitment to simulation in Defence, there remain a number of significant issues which need to be addressed and overcome before the full potential of this technology can be realised.

The existing simulation capability is under-utilised in some areas. There is a need to leverage current and planned capabilities to contribute to distributed combat team, joint and campaign level training and decision support.

Logistics training and operational planning should co-exist, but development has been limited because of a lack of accurate real world data. This is a crucial challenge to improve operational outcomes by incorporating feedback from current operations.

Real-time Command and Control (C2) systems have not kept pace with ADF’s digital systems and platforms.

There remain some constraints because of limitations in the ICT structure, although this is being addressed by the CIO Group.

Apart from DSTO, there is a shortage of qualified, trained and experienced simulation staff to work on concept development, capability planning, acquisition and sustainment roles. This is where more strategic partnerships with industry are essential.

Where to next?

Implementing the Roadmap, through provision of staff, equipment, facilities and finance is the key to moving on to the next stage. Defence has done well so far, but in the words of many a school report ‘Can do better.’

Relationships between Defence and industry must be further stimulated to gain access to the knowledge, tools and skills already resident in Australia. Innovation needs to be encouraged through the Priority Industry Capability program.

The Joint Combined Training Capability (JCTC) gives Australian and United States defence personnel an advanced training system for combined operations in increasingly complex environments. The linking of simulation and command systems enables real and virtual ships, aircraft and troops to train with a very high degree of realism for training participants. JCTC was first operational with Talisman Sabre 2007. This biennial exercise has a roadmap leading to ADF Amphibious Capability being certified following Exercise Talisman Sabre 2017.

The Roadmap concludes by stating ‘The 2009 Defence White Paper recognised that simulation will increase its contribution and provides guidance on the future of simulation in Defence, including greater use of simulation throughout the capability life cycle and directing that the simulation capability also evolve towards an integrated, enterprise wide capability’.

The 2013 Defence White Paper and Defence Capability Plan should take a similar view.

Locations of simulation precincts and some of the trainers used at them

Darwin and Tindal
• Battle Simulation Centre
• Weapons Training Simulation System
• ASLAV Crew Procedural Trainer
• ARH Cockpit Procedures Trainer
• ANZAC Ship Support Centre
• Hawk Tactical Weapons Training System

• Submarine Training Support Centre
• ANZAC Ship Support Centre
• Hawk Tactical Weapons Training System

Oakey & Canungra
• Battle Simulation Centre (Planned 2013/14)
• ARH Full Flight & Mission Simulator
• ARH Cockpit Procedures Trainer
• Blackhawk Flight Simulator
• Aircrewman Part Task Trainer

• Air Warfare Destroyer Systems Centre
• AP-3C Advanced Flight Simulator
• New Base Simulation Centre (BSC)

East Sale
• Synthetic Navigation Trainer
• Air Navigation Trainer
• Air Traffic Control Simulators

Puckapunyal & Melbourne
• Battle Simulation Centre
• Weapons Training Simulation System
• ASLAV Crew Procedural Trainers
• DSTO Fishermans Bend
• HMAS Cerberus Trade Training

• Joint Decision Support Centre
• Tactical Information Exchange Integration Office
• Weapons Training Simulation System
• Army Simulation training Royal Military College Duntroon

• Air Warfare Systems Centre

Newcastle & Sydney
• Wedgetail Flight Trainer and Operational Mission Simulator
• F/A-18 Air Combat Manoeuvring
• Instrumentation (ACMI) system
• RAAF Simulator Complex
• JWDTC Training, Technology and Simulation Centre
• F/A 18 Integrated Avionics Systems Support Facility
• Bridge Training Facility
• Mine Warfare Training Centre
• Maritime Warfare Training Centre
• Weapons Support Centre
• Aircrewman Part Task Trainer

(opening 2012)

Brisbane & Amberley
• Battle Simulation Centre
• Weapons Training Simulation System
• ASLAV Crew Procedural Trainer

Townsville & Shoalwater Bay Training Area
• Battle Simulation Centre
• Weapons Training Simulation System
• Joint and Combined Training Capability
• Combat Training Centre - Live Instrumentation System


APDR at a glance