Angela Alban, president & CEO of SIMETRI, moderated the 2023 Training and Simulation Industry Symposium’s first industry panel discussion, “Maintaining Superiority Through a Resilient Defense Industrial Base: Can the MS&T Ecosystem Drive and Answer This Challenge for DOD?”

Participants included Robert Epstein, senior solutions architect for Leidos; Tim Hill, director of Central Florida Ops & FL Innovation at Intuitive Research and Technology Corporation; Bill Platte, vice president of business development for Ad hoc Research; and Christopher Andert, director of Lockheed Martin RMS Supply Chain Operations.

Alban began by asking for an example of the benefits from early investments in modeling, simulation and training (MS&T) that resulted in superior capability, accelerated schedule, and reduced costs during acquisition.

Epstein affirmed that MS&T was a force multiplier and an enhancer, and cited the M-RAP (mine-resistant ambush protected) vehicle program, which Epstein said came about because significant numbers of U.S. troops were getting killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. While multiple vendors began building vehicles that were V-shaped and mine-resistant, efforts for optimal employment lacked an important factor.

“As usual, training was an afterthought,” Epstein said. “Our company ended up using our common driver trainer, and within 120 days was able to build a cab to build training opportunities so the hardware wasn’t arriving without the capability of using it. [It’s important] that if you have acquisition programs, you have the technologies to actually prepare people to get on the equipment.”

In addressing how government can enable industry to move quickly in terms of contractual flexibility, like OTAs and other contract vehicles, Hill stated four points he considered significant in terms of requirements of the contract process to help expedite industry’s efforts.

1) Broad and flexible requirements
2) Using the fastest vehicle available
3) Maintaining a continued conversation so that industry partners are not surprised when requirements are announced (and to help potential pieces of the solution be already in place)
4) Looking at “nontraditionals” in the MS&T space

“This is something I got passionate about toward the end of my Navy career and certainly as I’ve come to the industry side,” Hill said, regarding his fourth point. “We have to draw [them] into our space because of the wealth of talent, the wealth of innovations, and make sure they’re properly supported coming into our environment. If they don’t know what they don’t know about cost counting systems and government contracts, [we need to make sure] there’s a support system, whether it’s a formal mentor/protégé relationship, an informal situation, or a matchmaking that happens at a place like Tech Grove.”

When asked about his experience in employing MS&T early in the acquisition cycle, Platte discussed his involvement with the Marine Corps in developing virtual embedded training during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq to address rifle marksmanship challenges. Platte said his efforts ultimately involved exhaustion studies conducted at the University of Iowa that focused on the effects of Marines carrying 110-pound packs, specifically on their backs and joints. The purpose was to develop a capability that would replicate individual postures to predict medical challenges in five to 15 years.

“[We used] a Vicon motion capture system to capture all [the subjects’] profiles, to include Vicon points on their fingertips to [discern a squeeze, instead of a pull,] of the trigger,” Platte said. “You want to look at the weapon’s tilt and consistency across the training environment… [to] transfer that over for a digital twin embedded training system that people can use immediately. We built this embedded training system for rifle marksmanship that was absolutely critical at that time.”

Alban later asked Andert about instances where it had been helpful to bring in an MS&T solution with a best-of-breed solution, and Andert discussed what Lockheed Martin called “turnkey training.”

“We’re doing it today on F-35s and F-16s,” Andert said. “Whether it’s for domestic or international projects, we use that ‘turnkey’ or digital twin approach to simulate what the end result would be while the engineer is still designing it.”

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