The Simulation Industry Association of Australia’s annual SimTect conference was held at the Brisbane Convention Centre between May 31st and June 3rd.
With the theme of ‘Improving capability and reducing the cost of ownership’ several presentations were aimed at forthcoming Defence ‘big ticket’ programmes such as the ADF’s ‘holistic’ Pilot Training (AIR 5428) and Helicopter Aircrew Training Systems (AIR 9000 Phase 7); Amphibious Landing Helicopter Dock (LHD) vessels (JP2048); Joint Decision Support Centre (JDSC) and the Defence Simulation Programme (JP3028). “This year the conference is taking a slightly different direction, to focus on areas where simulation users and simulation suppliers must work together more effectively to create sustainable simulation solutions for long-term projects” said SIAA Conference Convener Deanna Hutchinson.
Keynote speakers included Major General Steve Day Joint Capability Coordinator in VCDF, Dr Mike Brennan Director-General Simulation for Defence (not DSTO as was incorrectly stated in ‘Navigating the Simulation Roadmap, APDR Vol 36, No.4), Brigadier Barry McManus Director General Capability and Plans and Mr Dennis Thompson Director Marine Air Ground Task Force (MAGTF) Training Simulations Division.
Besides the keynote addresses, a series of pre-conference courses and site visits was run and during the conference proper somewhere between 75 and 100 papers were presented to delegates, in four main streams.
In addition to this, some 22 companies and organizations were represented in Trade Exhibition Hall (see listing below).
Once again Defence and the mining industries were the major players, as these (along with the entertainment industry) are seen as the primary users of simulation. A dedicated simulation conference for the health industry (SimTectHealth 2010) will be held in Melbourne in August/September.
SimTect 2010 was noticeably quieter than the previous one, held in Adelaide last June, with several of the delegates putting this down to the recent lack of traction on several major defence projects, notably AIR 5428 and AIR 9000 Phase 7. The mining industry is also seen as the more lucrative, as it wishes to enhance its efficiencies as soon as it possibly can and, if simulation can clearly provide these benefits, the industry is quick to embrace the technology.
Defence on the other hand is more ponderous. As one industry representative lamented, “Why struggle for a decade to make a thousand dollars a week from Defence, when you can make a thousand dollars a day from mining companies almost instantly?”
Despite this there are opportunities for the simulation industry in the near term with lucrative projects such as the ADF’s Interim Basic Flight Training (IBFT) requirement imminent and although the numbers were, as stated, probably down on previous years, the mood was largely upbeat.
DEFENCE SIMULATION – FUTURE REQUIREMENTS
Delivering the first keynote address of SimTect 2010, entitled ‘The Need For Change’ MAJGEN Steve Day said that strategic reform within Defence needs simulation to achieve its objectives, and offered the following five points for consideration: The Strategic Reform Plan’s requirements to save $20 billion between 2009 and 2019; the need for simulation in Defence; The likelihood that the increased use of simulation within defence will be evolutionary and not revolutionary; The structure of JP3028 and how it will form the ‘backbone’ of Defence’s simulation roadmap; and finally the requirement to sometimes look beyond the technology to determine if (and if so, which) simulation can assist in the achievement of desired outcomes.
MAJGEN Day was appointed Head of Joint Capability and Coordination within VCDF in February 2010 and says that his (new) role is to improve Joint Capability and “joint-ness” on operations: “Put simply, we need to improve coordination between components of Defence. Simulation is with me because, as an emerging Joint Capability within its own right it is in need of coordination, but also because it s evolving to be a key-enabler of other joint activities”.
Because the Strategic Reform Plan is being developed from within the ADF, and not imposed upon it by outside consultants or bureaucrats, MAJGEN Day says that it being accepted within the organization. Although noting that it is early days yet, he says he is happy with progress thus far and applauds the flexibility to make adjustments as time goes by.
He said that simulation will place a key role in this flexibility, with the need to develop models in areas such as preparedness (readiness and sustainability) and personnel operating costs. In both of these areas Day notes that the need for simulation is ‘vital and growing’.
Although Defence has been investing in simulation for some decades and the recent White Paper continues the tradition of supporting its wider application, MAJGEN Day said that the most important reason he needed simulation was to improve human performance, to give an edge over opponents.
“As we look forward two or three decades it is likely that the conventional military dominance that Western civilisation has enjoyed for centuries will be matched and possibly surpassed, at least in quantity. We are bending our minds to the task of how we achieve the strategic edge in the new circumstances” he said, “At least two will be ‘super joint-ness’ and the quality of our people. Simulation has a role in both of these”.
Echoing Dr Brennan’s comments to APDR earlier, MAJGEN Day said he believed that Defence was not on the verge of a ‘simulation revolution’ but that growth in both simulation and modelling will be evolutionary. “One of the most important aspects of this evolution must be the use of common data across platforms and tactical training simulators” he noted.
Citing Defence’s focus on current operations in the Middle East, MAJGEN Day said “There is not enough capacity to energise and implement rapid transformation in simulation and modelling within Defence today, but there are significant opportunities”.
MAJGEN Day was largely referring to what he calls ‘the big potato’ or JP3028 with regard to industry opportunities, noting that it is still in the project definition or ‘discovery’ phase (referred to by some as a spiral development). He asks if Simulation has entered a similar phase that Defence IT industry found itself in during the mid 1990s, with a lack of central management during the information technology explosion, and points to JP3028 as the roadmap to the future.
One major deliverable of JP3028 will be to ensure that future simulators and simulations become increasingly more interoperable, particularly with the United States. This process is well underway with significant interaction during the recent ‘Pitch Black’ and ‘Talisman Sabre’ series of exercises, but there is a long way to go before the major capabilities of both Australia and the US are at a ‘plug and play’ level.
Other deliverables for simulation within the JP3028 framework include the requirement to support strategic decision making, to maximise the amount of training that is carried out outside the platform itself, to facilitate concept development, capability testing and the management of personnel and facilities, and maximise preparedness whilst decreasing the cost.
MAJGEN Day’s final discussion point was to invite industry to ‘look beyond the technology’ when developing simulation. Citing a personal example of how he was beguiled by the technology on offer during a critical build up of preparedness for overseas duty. He warned that it could actually seduce decision makers away from the mission at hand.
In conclusion MAJGEN Day drew delegate’s attention to a ‘Simulation Precinct’ in the United States. Known as ‘Team Orlando’ it is a Defence/Industry coalition in Florida that includes US Army Simulation acquisition personnel as well as equivalent members of the US Air Force and Navy. Industry members include representatives from the entertainment industry and the University of Forida as well as a ‘significant presence’ from the larger simulation companies. Capabilities include Research & Development, Programme Management, Effective Life-Cycle Management and Support.
Pondering the simulation ownership model as JP3028 gets into its stride, MAJGEN Day said, “We need to spend intellectual energy on getting the simulation concept right” and invited delegates to look at the ‘Team Orlando’ concept: “Should we? Can we, industry, universities, State Governments and Defence, should we develop such a model?”
Despite the industry frustration at what it sees to be a lack of progress on many Defence projects, JP3028 will be a major influence in future developments. With other ongoing programmes such as JP2048 and the JDSC there is nevertheless plenty for it to look forward to.
In the meantime, a decision on IBFT is imminent and both AIR 5428 and AIR 9000 Phase 7 should have progressed significantly by the time the next conference is upon us.