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Webinar Four Q&A


Following our most recent IT²EC webinar (Delivering Training Capabilities During COVID-19), there were some outstanding questions which we couldn't cover in the session.

Our webinar panel have answered some of your questions below.

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How do you deal with classified information using zoom?

Lt Col Giles: The MOD uses software and networks accredited for use up to Official routinely (Skype and MS Teams); higher classification discussions require bespoke solutions. It has proven challenging (particularly when communicating with individuals and organisations outside the MOD), but we’ve made it work!

Wg Cdr Henderson-Begg: As above. The RAF does not use Zoom for classified discussions for security reasons.  We use other (internal) video and telephone conferencing capabilities instead. 

What are the main priority areas that simulation needs to address to provide more effective representation of operational environments relevant to meeting future collective and coalition training requirements?

Lt Col Giles: The challenge remains scale and complexity. This speaks to the size of virtual environments required to exercise military forces as well as the numbers of entities represented (both as participants and as CGF/SAF entities), and the growing requirement to represent non-kinetic behaviours and effects within virtual worlds. I note that the gaming industry continues to push scale; complexity remains a challenge and an underdeveloped area I would like to see explored more.

Cdr Geneux:  Equally, realism has been a challenge as there has always tended to be a lag in synthetic solutions keeping up with the operational systems they simulate.  This can lead to bad training and deficiencies within the Force Generation/sustainment process.  It’s hoped that the greater use of COTS with the right contractual arrangement to allow unconstrained access to products and an enterprise approach to product development may help mitigate this by accelerating the changes needed within an affordable resource envelop.

Wg Cdr Henderson-Begg:  Scale and complexity are key but I would also add fidelity to the mix.  Gladiator will enter service as a Mission Preparation capability, using representative models and entities (weather, terrain, vehicle behaviours and characteristics).  We are mandated to move towards provision of Mission Rehearsal and T&E capabilities; this will require delivery of a higher fidelity environment.

Jeremy mentioned leveraging technical innovations but have you considered connecting to it? Merchant Navy training uses increasingly sophisticated simulation for research and a recent program, Sea Traffic Management, connected up to 10 training centres throughout Europe using multiple manufacturer platforms.

Lt Col Giles: Not sure if I’ve understood the question correctly, but connecting training locations is absolutely something Defence is pursuing (DOTC(A) is very much in this space). In the Army, collective training is very much a human experience, and the element of building a team and developing human interactions which will be tested for real face-to-face often calls for training audiences to be physically co-located, often over protracted and continuous periods of time; a Battlegroup exercise typically lasts 4-6 uninterrupted weeks! That said, we continue to explore the lengths to which value can be added to training by linking training audiences together remotely, particularly to enrich procedural training where specialists need to interact with other specialists for discrete tasks (e.g. Forward Air Controllers interacting with pilots).

Cdr Geneux:  Yes, we have viewed the training systems in Warsash and have considered their approaches and whether sharing those solutions are a viable option.  The RN is currently considering a major change in our navigation trainers as we need greater capacity and capability, but we are at the beginning of that journey.

Good to see Army’s pillar ‘Empowering individuals, team and commanders’. We spend a lot of money on training technologies. Do we invest enough money directly in our people and their individual development?

Lt Col Giles: I would argue: we absolutely do. The exploitation of technology is all about training the individual, and collections of individuals, to a higher standard. What we seek to get after in the Collective Training Transformation Programme is keeping up to date with what is now possible in data analytics to deliver better training through providing more detailed specifications of training needs, design and performance, and to put this specification (where appropriate) into the hands of the User at the lowest level. This will allow commanders at all levels – who know their people best – to deliver training optimised for the specific audience.

Wg Cdr Henderson-Begg:  I agree that we invest a lot of money on our people but I might question whether we invest that money wisely – in the right capabilities for example.  The problem is that MOD procurement methods are cumbersome and slow; we need to be more able to move quickly, assess new technologies at an appropriate level of maturity and be prepared to fail early.

Can virtual exercise replace traditional training?

Lt Col Giles: The perennial question! And you will get as many answers as you ask people. I hold the view that virtual training can replace a considerable amount of ‘traditional’ training, and indeed already has; it has been 20 years since we started routinely training armoured battlegroup operations in the virtual environment, replacing significant expense of additional vehicle platforms and track mileage to deliver the equivalent in the real world. But I would go further: without virtual training, you simply cannot train for the complexity of the modern operational environment; for sure, there is an irreducible minimum of getting cold, wet and hungry you need to do, but without virtual training the full spectrum of threats and capabilities cannot be replicated in the training environment. Virtual training is essential to preparing troops to face the real operational world.

Cdr Geneux:  In places yes as the mainly live training model that is currently used in the Royal simply cannot reflect the mass, complexities and realism of the Operational Environment – or reliably.  An example, we currently use Hawk aircraft to simulate Aircraft and missile raids which do not reflect today’s threats.  Equally, other live assets like Joint Enablers are scarce and are not always available for live training exercises.  Add to that weather considerations and being able to practice tactics in an OPSEC controlled environment, then a use of synthetics become crucial to the FGen/Sus process when used to augment/enhance live training. However, there are areas where there is less utility and where traditional approaches offer the best training and assurance benefits.

Wg Cdr Henderson-Begg:  Not entirely but I think the drivers behind live training will change.  From Air’s perspective, constraints on live training (security concerns, airspace limitations etc) are pushing ever more training into the synthetic environment but there are always going to be things we must, or will choose to do, in the live environment (Capability Assurance, Coalition Building, Deterrence).  I also agree with Jes that synthetic and live training are mutually supporting and mutually indispensable activities; unless we train effectively in the synthetic environment, we will not be able to train or operate effectively in the live environment.

Will COVID-19 change how we think about the delivery of virtual training, now so many of us are homebased?

Lt Col Giles: COVID-19 has forced us to reconsider how much training can be done remotely, and what the strengths and weaknesses of this approach are. I would suggest that education and individual training courses will increasingly be delivered virtually, but in addition to understanding the issues associated with the media there are certain physical constraints which will mitigate wider adoption, for example classification issues and protecting individuals’ time for training.

Geneux: It provides we can work and learn from anywhere so it supports the case for greater distribution of training as long as it can be sufficiently controlled and facilitated.  It becomes powerful when we break the traditional reliance on time in the learning process i.e. A course will last 2 weeks regardless of training audience experience, competence, motivation, intelligence.  The RN is seeking to use the new contractual arrangement as part of Project Selborne to bring innovation into the Individual Training pipeline.

Wg Cdr Henderson-Begg:  Part of the philosophy behind Gladiator is the move from a federated to a distributed solution, removing the need to move large numbers of people to a single location to train together.  There will still be a requirement for this sort of collective trg, especially in the live environment, but COVID-19 has provided additional impetus towards Main Operating Base-based training, thereby limiting the numbers of people in one place at one time.

I think COVID-19 crisis is interesting to rethink the way soldiers train. Whereas live simulation training with implicating quite a lot of contacts between soldiers, virtual training is quite interesting to train them in safe conditions. Do you use any types of simulation in UK's army? If yes, does it tend to be more live or virtual?

Lt Col Giles: Unfortunately, that’s a huge question to answer! Simulation is used across the individual and collective training spectrum, utilising a blend of Live, Virtual and Constructive systems to deliver training events optimised for the stage in the training progression and the desired training outcomes. The balance between ‘Live’ and ‘Virtual’ depends on many factors, but I would argue that in the Collective Training space the balance is more towards the virtual due to the flexibility and convenience of doing so. That said, Live tends to be the culminating event as it brings together the performance of specific tasks (be that operating a platform, planning an operation, etc.) with the physical demands of operating whilst cold, wet, hungry, etc. All our major ‘Live’ training events are, however, augmented with virtual elements, so blended training is now the norm.

How has Human Intelligence been affected by Covid restrictions? Has the use of drones and covert surveillance increased in Training Exercises? How has planning processes changed due to covid restrictions, specifically in relation to Intelligence?

Geneux: As discussed during the panel, the RN is increasingly using unmanned systems as training devices.  Many of which were Tech Demos that are being brought into core to aid Team and Collective training.  I expect this area will continue to grow as we rebalance the live, simulated and stimulated approach to FGen.

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