What’s In A Name? Exploring the bounds of synthetic enablement in defence


When breaking new technological ground, incoherent naming conventions can cause undue confusion. As an industry, we must retain focus on precise definitions such that we can easily signpost to our customers exactly what capabilities we are developing and, most importantly, what benefits they have for the end user.

4 min read

A couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to appear on Dr James Rogers’ Warfare Podcast (due to release on HistoryHit.com on October 22nd). Together, we discussed the ‘gamification’ of military training: where it had come from, where it is now and where it will go in the future. It raised some interesting issues and debates, some of which we at Hadean are already exploring: how can next-generation technology further improve LVC training? What does a military Metaverse look like?

Speaking to James, an eminent historian, reminded me of the ubiquitous relationship between the past, present and future, and got me thinking about the origins of many of our existing concepts, particularly when considering training and simulation. Take simulation – it would be easy, in the current context, to consider this only as part of a computer generated application that can be used to support training, experimentation, capability development etc. If we take the literal definition of ‘simulation’ we can start to see the provenance of it across the history of warfare:

‘a model of a set of problems or events that can be used to teach someone how to do something, or the process of making such a model.’ (Cambridge Dictionary)

This definition identifies the central elements of models and problems or events. We can term these models as physical or conceptual, but they need not be computerised or digital. There is also reference here to learning, which by extension includes training, experimentation, innovation and so on. Fighting forces have been doing this for hundreds of years.

Wargaming is a helpful example that is well documented: in its modern form it originates in Prussia in the 1820’s. Two officers (von Reiswitz and his son) developed a set of ‘Instructions for the representation of tactical manoeuvres’ under the guise of a Kriegsspiel (Wargame). In 1824, the Kriegsspiel was demonstrated to General von Muffling, the Chief of the Prussian General Staff who, in turn, introduced the concept to the Army.

Famously too, the German Reichswehr, limited in its actions by the post-Great War Treaty of Versailles, conducted field training with ‘simulated’ tanks, i.e. bicycles dressed as tanks, in order to continue to train for and innovate with armoured tactical manoeuvre.

Fast forward to the present day, and James and I were able to explore how current systems, across all domains, are able to provide realistic and safe individual, crew/team and collective training of our modern warfighters. 

What we must be careful to do however, is retain focus on precise definitions of capabilities and technologies such that we can sing as one choir, and ensure that, as an industry, we can easily signpost to our Government customers exactly what capabilities we are developing and, most importantly, what benefits they have for the end user.

‘Synthetic environments’ is a good example of this: there are Single Synthetic Environments (SSE), Command Synthetic Environments (CSE), Synthetic Training Environments (STE)… I could go on. My point is that these terms vary in the recognition of their definition. Our own brand of ‘Defence Synthetic Enablement’ delivered through ‘Next-Generation Synthetic Environments’ sounds obvious enough but is in itself a novel concept even if the constituent parts are well known and clearly defined.

Where our approach has remained clear it that we focus on the benefits Hadean technology can have for our customers and the end user, all neatly packaged within our use cases or applications:

  • Training
  • Decision Support
  • Virtual Test and Evaluation 
  • Wargaming

It is this approach that we hope simplifies what can be the murky world of delivering, and continuing to develop, next-generation technology to enable simulation systems and synthetic environments – hopefully we can agree on that at least!

The Warfare Podcast, due to be released in Oct 22, will be available through www.historyhit.com, as well as on Spotify and Apple Podcasts.