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Training & Simulation Forum

ARTICLE: Feet firmly on the ground at CAE

03 Feb 12 | By Tim Mahon



Sometimes we need to challenge our assumptions. For those of us who study the military training and simulation community, it is occasionally too easy to pigeonhole a company, assuming that we know exactly what it does. That can lead to a dangerous lack of appreciation of precisely where that company might startle or surprise us.


Such a company is CAE, Inc., widely known as the pre-eminent global developer of flight simulators. But that is a definition that, while accurate, belies a wealth of capability and experience in other modeling and simulation domains that are an integral part of CAE in the twenty-first century.


CAE is not just about flight simulation and training. In fact, the company is fully engaged in applying its modeling and simulation technology to markets ranging from healthcare to mining. And perhaps surprisingly to some, CAE boasts a wealth of experience and capability delivering simulation-based solutions for ground forces, ranging from direct fire gunnery trainers and tank driver trainers to constructive simulations for command teams.


In part, the company’s expertise in the land systems domain stems from strategic acquisitions, one of which was made as recently as 2011 when CAE acquired the Technology Assisted Learning unit of RTI International. Now part of CAE USA’s Ground Training Systems division, the business has a twenty-plus year legacy of design and development of high fidelity maintenance trainers for armoured vehicles such as the M1 Abrams main battle tank and the M2/M3 Bradley infantry fighting vehicles (IFV). Some 340 virtual desktop trainers and full-scale, hands-on trainers have been produced for the US Army for these two vehicles alone and work continues on providing state-of-the-art maintenance training solutions for these and other platforms, including the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS).


CAE’s land simulation expertise, however, does not only come from recent acquisitions. At the heart of the company, the extensive investment in research and development – an area that some 10 percent of CAE’s revenues are dedicated to each year – has resulted in a number of capabilities that are enhancing ground training systems solutions. For example, using the proven CAE Medallion 6000 image generator, the CAE INFRONT 3D system provides initial and continuation training for forward artillery observers and forward air controllers. Over the past decade, the system has been supplied to the armies of Great Britain, Turkey, the Netherlands, Thailand, Kenya, New Zealand, Belgium and Oman as both a deployable, mobile training system as well as a classroom-based solution.


Direct-fire and artillery systems training is a major feature of CAE’s strong and abiding relationship with the British Army. The company has been actively involved with the British Army as the principal contractor for Warrior IFV Gunnery Turret Trainers over the past several years. Most notably, the company delivered networked Warrior Observation Post Vehicle (OPV) trainers to the Royal School of Artillery that now extend training from individual crew members to collective battle group level fire support training.In addition, CAE has provided major upgrades as part of the British Army’s Artillery Fire Control Trainer program.


CAE has also been a strong player in the air defence domain, producing simulators for the Rapier, Starstreak and Sky Guard systems. Interestingly, it is a little known fact that CAE produced and has sustained the Canadian Army’s Air Defence Anti-Tank System (ADATS) simulators since 1990. A few years ago, CAE furnished two new networked Centralized Appended Trainers for the ADATS that are used to build aerospace and radar operator awareness skills and execute tactical missile engagements in dynamic 3D aerospace environments.


More recently, CAE has provided the Indian Army with a comprehensive training solution for its indigenously-developed Arjun main battle tank. The Arjun training systems designed and developed by CAE include motion-based driver trainers, desktop trainers and turret simulators for gunnery training, and the ability to network the suite of Arjun simulators for individual, crew and troop level training.


General Mike Ward (Ret’d), Senior Director of Global Land Systems for CAE, believes the combination of CAE’s extensive experience in modelling and simulation, coupled with the legacy of its experience and recent acquisitions, places the company in a strong position to be able to move deeper, further and faster into land domain training solutions. "We have the capability to bring multiple skill sets and technical solutions to bear on land and joint training – whether it is in replicating the ‘fog and friction’ of ground combat, simulating the situational awareness challenges faced by vehicle crews operating in a ‘closed down’ environment or improving the cognitive capacity of commanders and staffs to operate on the contemporary battlefield,” said Ward. "We can do this in highly realistic synthetic environments that are safe, environmentally friendly, and cost-effective, all of which are becoming increasingly important as armies around the world address budget challenges yet still need to maintain proficiency and readiness.”


Small wonder, then, that one of the contracts on which CAE has its sights set is the forthcoming Land Vehicle Crew Training System (LVCTS) for the Canadian Army. "This is a requirement in the order of C$350-400 million that will provide an enterprise-level solution on an open systems basis, linked to other organisations within the Canadian military,” said Ward. He added that, although the requirement has yet to be fully defined, the apparent intent will be to replicate to a degree what CAE has been able to do for the Air Force in the Operational Training Systems Provider contract. OTSP is an umbrella contract under which CAE provides comprehensive aircrew training services, not only for selected aircraft in the current inventory, but potentially for airframes yet to be acquired. Clearly, the company hopes to leverage this experience and capability in bidding for the LVCTS requirement when a fully documented Request for Proposal becomes available.


In vehicle maintenance, gunnery, driving, artillery fire control, air traffic management for military aircraft or the often forgotten aspects of recognition training, CAE has a broad panoply of proven solutions and innovative approaches to military training for ground forces. You thought you knew CAE? Think again!


[Image courtesy of CAE illustrates British Army’s Warrior Gunnery Turret Trainer.]


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