Power of Simulation : To Enhance Realism in Ground Based Air Defence Training

Issues Details: 
Vol 9 Issue 6 Jan - Feb 2015
Page No.: 
Sub Title: 
A study of contemporary technologies in the field of simulation
Lt Gen (Dr) VK Saxena, PVSM, AVSM, VSM
Tuesday, January 20, 2015

“Simulators are amazing - they create reality where none exists.”

Great Enablers. Simulators are great enablers and force multipliers. They are not only real-life training facilitators, but also, are a platform for dream-playing of designers of future combat/sensor platforms. In the field of air defence, such simulators (one example is EADSIM) provide many-on-many theatre level simulations of air and missile defence warfare which act as an integrated analysis tool for designers to model the performance and predict the effectiveness of ballistic missiles, SAMs, aircrafts and cruise missiles in a variety of simulated operational scenarios. Besides this, such simulators also serve as realistic air defence training aids.

The Case For Simulators. The rationale for simulators in the domain of air defence is very obvious. Given the inevitable space constraints in combat sensor cabins to accommodate anything more than two/three crew for training, exhorbitant costs (and hence, perennial paucity) of operational gun-missile equipment for training of crews, tremendous infrastructural and resource requirements to place on ground, real-life air defence training wherewithal (aircraft sorties, guns, missiles, ammunitions, BMC2 HQ, etc.) and above all, the difficulty in recording and analyzing the trainee performance (time to locate/track targets, communication responses, gun/missile hit/miss distances especially in Beyond Visual Range (BVR) engagements, etc.) make simulators a very viable and lucrative choice. This is so because simulators can create reality where none exists and can bring realism in training of not only individuals but the entire group at one go with comparative minuscule cost .

This Chapter attempts to give an overview of the emerging simulators/simulation technologies dedicated to enhancing realism and training in the field of ground based air defence.

Class-Room Variants of Sensors. To overcome space constraint requirements, most of the radar majors have produced Class-Room Variants (CRVs) of their radars. These variants feature the actual radars stripped open in realistic operational conditions for the whole group to be trained at one go. The realism in CRV based training is brought about by Signal Scenario Generators (SSGs) working in consonance. These SSGs emulate a variety of fly-over conditions to include multiple attack profiles, weapon delivery passes, EW attacks, etc. providing a realistic air-situation environment for radar crews to hone their skills. SSGs also act as platforms for sensor designers to test their new products/test equipment against multiple attack scenarios.

Gun Simulators: Level-1. The simulators for training the gun crews have different shades of configuration. The basic models generate 3D aerial scenarios on a stand-alone screen on which, attack scenarios are simulated. The firer response is accompanied by actual feel of gun firing (jerks, sound, equipment vibration, etc). These basically address the layer training requirements on basic sighting systems, bringing in as much reality of live firing, as possible.

Gun Simulators: Level-2. The higher level gun system simulators depict realistic aerial environment with banks of inter-connected screens or dome based structures in which simulated air threat vehicles (aircraft, attack helicopters, UAVs/UCAVs, cruise missiles, ARMs, SSM, stand-off weapons, smart/intelligent munition etc) execute synergic air threat maneouvers unfolding to a design and duly separated in time and space, as if in actual. The threat, as depicted, is taken on by crews with the help of high-technology simulators that create virtual reality of conventional sighting systems, radar-cued fire control systems, EOFCS, communication and BMC2 systems etc. Such simulators also cater for various ammunition types and their effect on the target end. There are provisions to cater for intangibles like vintage of equipment, EW suite of aerial threat vehicles etc.

VSHORAD (MANPAD) Simulator System

The Challenge. VSHORAD SAM systems mainly comprise of variety of short range, man portable/pedestal mounted heat seeking (Igla 1M, lgla-S), laser guided (RBS-70/Bolide), proximity/impact enabled (Mistral), Hit to Kill with laser-guided end-game (Star Streak) missiles. Training of crews on such a wide variety of SAMs requires multiple levels of practices on laying the missile in various air threat conditions, tracking the target steadily, identification of launch zone and a steady launch (which could also be in a hostile EW environment).

Solution. Most VSHORAD makers offer generic simulator solutions e.g the Konus simulator offered by Rosoboronexport Russia, can also be used for training of other VSHORAD crews besides the Russian-origin VSHORAD SAMs. The latest in the field is to produce a generic weapon effect signature simulator which replicates the launch signature of many types of shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles. The replication includes the weight/jerk/ vibration feel and a self-consuming pyrotechnic that replicates the real effect but leaves no residual projectile. All this is projected against a virtually created environment giving a 3D effect of the launch space featuring multiple target movements with attendant visual light and sound clues enabling training in evasive actions-counter actions. Effect-enhancers like actual/created weather or time-of-the day, help in enhancing further realism. A few state-of-the art simulators of this class were displayed in the DEFEXPO 2014

Higher Order SAM Simulators. For higher order SAMs, like the SRSAMs, MRSAMs and LRSAMs, the simulator trends are divided by way of combat functions. In that, there are stand-alone launcher simulators, driving simulators and sensor simulators etc. Each one is dedicated to create virtual reality of its relevant combat environment. Typical simulators in this class include motion platform simulators, simulators for commander, operator and gunner workplaces, simulators for background and target situation replay and simulators for creation of realistic air situation/air threat environment.

GIS Enablement. Today, GIS technologies combined with Digital Elevation Models (DEMs) provide opportunities to evaluate radar beam blockage and other ground clutter phenomenon. These technologies use the potential of the GIS to present topographic information in all their digital details, while specially developed software tools and programmes provide the technical signatures of the radar ordered to the desired range-height matrix as defined by the user. With these inputs in hand, the system then executes an interplay between the ‘technical radar signatures’ and the GIS created ‘3D ground’. The resultant outputs are the radar coverage diagrams which are accurate to the core. The great advantage of such an interplay is the inherent flexibility and dynamism provided to the user to check out any number of radar sites for their comparative merits (this comparison is both software driven, as well as, dynamic) besides having the power to generate real-time changes in coverage pattern when the radar origin is moved on a mouse-click within the permissible area of deployment, other variables remaining constant. Good sites/not so good sites/poor sites/overlaps etc, become eminently visible and hence exploitable. This was unimaginable on 2D static map-based display.

Into History. The erstwhile method of generating weapon envelopes and weapon deployment choices in order to address a particular air threat was an elaborate and a manual process of paper-based planning. This was archaic, besides being time consuming and inflexible. Also the manual procedure were neither open to dynamic changes nor flexible to comparing multiple deployment choices in real-time.

GIS Enablement. Most of the above deficits stand addressed on the wings of GIS based technologies and 3D Analysis systems. Such systems provide advanced visualisation, analysis and surface generation tools which permit viewing large sets of data in three dimensions from multiple view points, ability to query a typical solution, as offered and the ability to create realistic perspective images over raster and vector data maps covering the entire deployment area.

Exploitation. Exploiting such technologies, 3D virtual maps can be created of the type of terrain over which the training is to be imparted. On such terrains, the technical dimensions of the air threat to include the technical nuances of the air threat, ranges, heights, weapon types (conventional/PGMs), stand-off ranges, flight path details etc, as well as, the technical prowess of GBADWS in terms of ranges, heights, types of ammunition, kill effectiveness, etc. are interplayed by the system in ‘one-on-one’ and ‘one-on-many’ modes. This interplay provides effectiveness details of the GBADWS envelopes in taking on the threat, as defined. It also provides a comparison tool to check out, compare and optimise the deployment details through change in weapon types on their technical signature and effectiveness against the threat. The simulator is then played with the defenders utilizing their sensors, combat and C2 means in a synergetic fashion. The effectiveness of the defender in optimizing their weapons to ward off the ‘threat as a package’ is accurately calculated and is re-playable. The figure below shows one such simulator developed by Israel.

Deployment Simulators. Simulators are also active in the field of dynamically generating deployment options for a set of GBADWS, against a defined air threat. Such simulators require inputting of threat definition in terms of range, height, weapon release line, stand off capability, day/night effectiveness and munitions on one side, with technical signature of GBADWS on the other. In addition, effectiveness/success criteria of combat is also to be defined. Pitching one against the other, the simulator generates several deployment options in accordance with the terms of reference as defined by the user. These can be compared and contrasted before actually proceeding for deployment Radar Coverage Prediction Simulator. Based on the inputted technical signature (range, peak power, pulse width) of a radar, along with the details of the 3D terrain where such a radar is to be deployed, such simulators generate radar coverage prediction details using the tools of virtual reality and GIS integration along with applied mathematical models.

Aircraft Recognition (ACR) Simulation. ACR to distinguish between own and enemy aircrafts is an important combat function requirement for air defence warriors. World has moved many a miles forward of the original ‘epidiascope’ projecting 2D slide pictures of the aircraft profiles while air defence warriors struggled to recognize them. That was seventies. As time progressed and the computers made a headlong entry into our lives, the ACR Training graduated from the good-old epidiascope to computer-generated imagery showing aircrafts in motion. Around the turn of the millennium, with the advent of GIS/GPS technologies, the ACR simulation was revamped many a notches, upward. The latest simulators in this field make use of virtual reality to create 3D terrains over which simulated combat (true-to-actual) models of aircrafts/aerial threat vehicles are pitched in unlimited and unpredictable profiles presenting real-life scenario for the trainees to recognize them in motion. Such state-of-the-art simulators are as good as real, providing 3D images of the assets being protected, a 360 dynamic and real life view from the position of the observer, multi-dimensional and multi-aspect target profiles and an ordered background, environmental conditions and the time of the day.

Electronic Warfare (EW) Simulators. Given the growing severity, lethality and diversity of the EW capabilities of the aerial threat vehicles, one of the greatest challenges is to train radar operators in hostile EW environment. Since realistic field training in this domain is multi-disciplinary, hence, very difficult and cost prohibitive to implement. For example, to train a radar operator in the hostile EW environment, besides an operational radar, a live air sortie is required to carry out jamming of the victim radar. The jamming has to be effective, only then the radar operator will get a few fleeting a minutes of hostile EW environment to train. Besides this, only one/few crew (and not the whole group) can be trained at a time and operator performance is generally not useable as a training resource data in a later time frame. To address the above issue, Low Power Jammer Simulators based on multiple-type of vehicles are available in the world today which produce real-life jamming conditions in the victim radars at will. The training can be repetitive and performances are recordable for later analysis. Another version of such simulators provide hostile EW environment in the entire classroom permitting a whole group of radar operators to be trained simultaneously over IT platforms which carry technical signatures of victim radars. Softwares and algorithms built the required technicality and unpredictability.

In essence, riding on the wings of cutting edge technologies, the enabling power of simulators is being exploited in a big way to create realism in the training of air defence crews.

Military Technology