The global T&S market is estimated to be worth $150 billion over the period 2020-25, with around 66% of this spent in the US. This prominence is unsurprising considering that the overall defence budget is greater than the sum of the next nine countries combined.
In 2018, this budget was $649 billion, although some observers claim that in FY2019-20, total spending will hit $949 billion. This includes a base budget of $750 billion plus spending on overseas military contingency operations, homeland security, the FBI, cyber security, the National Nuclear Security Administration and the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Clearly then, the US T&S market presents massive opportunities for national industry, but other factors are also at play. For example, the US is at the epicentre of what may be termed the ‘global simulation culture’. It is the US that invests dollars and intellect in developing standards and training concepts that are then adopted by the world’s military forces. Where the US leads, others follow.
Home or away?
The other factor to consider is business hunger. Some US companies concentrate predominantly on the home market, while others serve both domestic and overseas clients. This is not laziness but a recognition that the return on the investment of trying to secure foreign contracts is simply not worth it. An example of the former includes L3 Harris Link Training & Simulation. The majority of Link’s overseas business is conducted through the vehicle of FMS contracts that are managed by the US DoD.
The exception to this can be found in last year’s collaborative agreement with Saudi Arabia’s Advanced Electronics Company to establish rotary- and fixed-wing flight and aircraft maintenance technician training programmes for the Royal Saudi Armed Forces.
One company to have a focus on both markets is CAE USA. Its overseas activities cover Australia, Brunei, France, Germany, New Zealand, Sweden, the UAE and the UK.
A major development to emerge recently in the US has been the selection of Leonardo’s TH-119 to replace the TH-57 training helicopter. The new aircraft will be known as the TH-73.
Leonardo and CAE USA joined forces in September to collaborate in the US, offering integrated solutions for helicopter training requirements for the government market. A memorandum of agreement signed by the two is focused on delivering tailored helicopter and training packages to US government operators and FMS customers.
‘The integrated offerings from Leonardo and CAE could include advanced helicopters, simulators and training devices, courseware, training services and training centres,’ said Leonardo. ‘Each arrangement will be specific to the customer and determined on a case-by-case basis.’
As far as the TH-73 is concerned, the USN is expected to issue RfP documentation by the end of February for the ground-based training system element of the programme. As well as the synthetic training equipment, the expected winner will provide training services and simulator support.
‘CAE has had a very good year and we see lots of opportunities over the next 12 months as well,’ said Ray Duquette, president and general manager of CAE USA. ‘Our proxy company, CAE Mission Solutions Inc, has also been growing and won significant business over the past year.’
Included in the opportunities mentioned by Duquette are re-competes for the USAF’s KC-135 and C-17 Aircrew Training Systems and additional training requirements for the USN MH-60R/S fleet.
‘The US Air Force is also expected to release its requirement for future undergraduate pilot training as part of the PTN or Pilot Training Next programme,’ said Duquette.
Speaking to a number of senior executives at last year’s International/Industry Training, Simulation and Education Conference (I/ITSEC) held in Orlando in December, the mood was generally positive, but TRU Simulation + Training did highlight some issues that they believe are facing the industry as a whole.
‘One of the big challenges that industry is facing in the military training and simulation domain is extreme competition across the board,’ explained John Hayward, senior VP and general manager of military and business simulation. ‘We are doing everything we can to cut costs so we can be more competitive [when bidding for contracts].’
One of the big challenges that industry is facing in the military training and simulation domain is extreme competition across the board.
He also said that there is a lack of sufficiently ‘trained folks coming into the industry and so there is a skills shortage if you will. We’re working in a couple of different ways to solve that by liaising with universities and colleges to help them develop courses that can provide us people with the skills we require.’
Hayward raises a valid point. Historically, the T&S industry gained simulation technicians from the armed forces, but as more programmes moved to contractor service support, the military trained fewer technicians. Although initiatives from organisations such as the National Training & Simulation Association (NTSA) have helped raise awareness of this important issue, the problem remains.
For example, I/ITSEC 2019 included a job fair event where companies could register to speak to potential employees. NTSA also leads a number of initiatives intended to encourage students to pursue education and careers in STEM fields that include T&S.
One other area of concern for many companies surrounds the procurement process in terms of how long it takes from the issue of a requirement to contract award, and the churn in procurement officials with the associated loss of knowledge. At least some changes are afoot, according to W Garth Smith, co-founder and president of MetaVR.
‘This year is a record year in terms of sales for us,’ said Smith. ‘The US DoD has a lot of immediate needs so there is a sense of urgency that is pushing the acquisition process. The user community is being forced to use what works, and what is available, and that’s where we prevail.’
To highlight his point, Smith said that all of the demonstrations on the MetaVR booth during I/ITSEC were actual simulators running in real time. ‘What you see on the booth here in Orlando are simulations that are all deployed in the field, the exception being our new portable Deployable Joint Fires Trainer [DJFT] simulator networked to an F/A-18 Part Task Mission Trainer.’
The DJFT is designed to meet the US Joint Fires Support Executive Steering Committee Memorandum of Agreement accreditation for types 1, 2, 3, day, night and laser controls, and digitally aided close air support.
‘The core software used in the DJFT is our MetaVR Virtual Reality Scene Generator – that’s the 3D environment, the 3D terrain and the 3D models. And then there is Battlespace Simulation Inc’s MACE or Modern Air Combat Environment. Those two key components are used on the US Air Force’s JTC TRS [Joint Terminal Control Training and Rehearsal System], they’re used on the Air National Guard AAJTS [Advanced Joint Terminal Attack Controller Training System], and they’re used for the Navy CAVE [Combined Arms Virtual Environment] system,’ Smith explained.
Looking at future business opportunities, he said: ‘I’m positive for the year ahead as we’re getting interest from current customers and people that we’ve just met.’
Collins Aerospace is another company to reflect on a strong year for its business. Nick Gibbs, VP and general manager of simulation and training solutions, said: ‘We’ve had an outstanding year. Our core simulation business is solid and growing; 2019 was our best year ever and 2020 will be another good year, but there are some challenges, specifically our supply chain meeting our demands for components.’
One of the company’s highlights in 2019 was the completion of the Critical Design Review (CDR) of the Tactical Combat Training System Increment II (TCTS II) programme with Naval Air Systems Command’s Naval Aviation Training Systems programme office (PMA-205).
Completion of the CDR allows the programme to move into the manufacture, integration and testing phase, bringing the programme one step closer to becoming the next-generation military air combat training system that will replace the navy and marine corps’ training range infrastructure.
‘A key component to this programme has been the great collaboration between PMA-205, range users and our teammate Leonardo DRS,’ said Gibbs. TCTS II, originally awarded to Rockwell Collins in 2017, enables the adaptation of new missions and threats into training as well as enabling joint and coalition interoperability with fourth- and fifth-generation aircraft platforms.
The F/A-18 is expected to be the first aircraft to use the TCTS II pod, providing blended live and constructive training capabilities.
Another company involved in the provision of live airborne training is Cubic Global Defense. Company president Mike Knowles said: ‘2019 was a very good year for us where we won a number of new P5 Combat Training System pod [air combat manoeuvring instrumentation systems] and concluded the current SLATE demonstration phase. As well as the conventional podded P5, we’ve been supplying internal variants for the F-35 to Lockheed Martin.’
Cubic is the lead industrial integrator for the Air Force Research Laboratory Secure LVC Advanced Training Environment (SLATE) Advanced Technology Demonstration (ATD) that has now been demonstrated using F-15 and F/A18 aircraft.
In 2019, SLATE-ATD highlighted the integration of live fighter aircraft, man-in-the-loop simulators and hundreds of constructive air and ground entities, in a single training environment at Nellis AFB, where it validated a number of technologies including: operating with 20 air and ground entities; the new 5G-ATW data link; an off-board LVC processor; and multiple independent levels of security or MILS.
‘The P5 has also been a strong programme for us, and the US Air Force is expected to support it through 2030,’ said Knowles. ‘We are hopeful that SLATE will replace P5, although both systems are interoperable,’ Knowles noted, adding that this is not the case with TCTS II which cannot operate with the P5 pod.
Although well known for its expertise in the live domain for air and ground forces, Cubic has many more strings to its training bow, including virtual. The company has been downselected for the US Army’s Soldier/Squad Virtual Trainer (S/SVT) requirement, part of the overall Synthetic Training Environment programme.
S/SVT is designed to provide four training capabilities: close combat squad training; weapon skill development training; joint fires training; and finally, use of force training.
In conclusion, the mood music for future US T&S programmes is generally bright. Some companies are concerned about the recruitment of simulation engineer specialists, but that aside, there seems to be enough business to keep most companies happy.