How the Military Metaverse is Transforming Defence Training Programmes

In Part 2 of his series, Andy Fawkes looks at current defence programmes in the UK, US and NATO and their increasing need for cloud-native solutions which enable interoperability, scalability and security – three key requirements for the creation of a persistent and accessible military metaverse.

19 June 2023
Andy Fawkes

As consumers and organisations we expect to be able to securely access and share a whole range of digital content and data 24/7 on multiple device types anywhere in the world.  Advances in cloud infrastructure and technologies and ubiquitous networking are meeting this demand and although we may not be living in metaverse-like virtual worlds just yet, our physical and digital worlds are entwined like never before.

For effective training and mission preparation, warfighters too need to be able to access and share the latest data whenever and wherever they are.  This data may be about their area of operations, data about their equipment, or data about their opponent’s.  The data generated in training and shared is valuable for analysis, for example tracking trends in performance, or for training new AI models.  For the enterprise there are benefits in providing software and security updates across a large range of legacy and new devices such as simulators.  Less expensive hardware is required if training content such as video and interactive 3D can be streamed over a network, and streaming reduces the need to keep potentially classified data on the device.  These are just some of the benefits of a persistent cloud-based approach.

Cloud-based training solutions are also increasingly important for the military as the digital and physical worlds blend towards a military metaverse, and multi-domain training must respond quickly to a more uncertain world.  They are a step-change from today’s approach of integrating different simulation products through standard interoperability protocols. Rather, organisations can run containerized technology in the cloud, using a modern and open web architecture.  

Here we look at some current initiatives to exploit the cloud for military training.

United States

The US Army Synthetic Training Environment (STE) is a training capability that will enable Army units and leaders to train realistically and effectively in a single, interconnected system combining the live, virtual, and constructive (LVC) simulations for all levels of training and mission rehearsal. It will be a transformation from the current complex federation of Army simulation capabilities that are hard to keep up to date and not flexible nor integrated sufficiently to meet current and future threats. The STE concept envisions delivering training content from the cloud to the point of need using DoD and operational networks such as will be provided by the DoD Joint Warfighting Cloud Capability Procurement project.  In doing so, all soldiers will be able to access the latest training updates and environments whether at home station or deployed. A critical component of the STE is the One World Terrain which seeks to render the entire world in 3D so soldiers can train virtually for missions located anywhere on Earth prior to a mission with the latest data streamed from both open and closed sources.

The USAF too has similar aspirations through its Joint Simulation Environment (JSE) project.  Originally designed to serve as a high-fidelity, virtual testbed to certify the capabilities of the F-35, JSE is now being used to support F-35 training as well.  JSE is being developed to support other aircraft types with the ultimate goal of being a digital test and training range for the USAF.  Alongside JSE, the Simulator Common Architecture Requirements and Standards (SCARS) initiative is a USAF sustainment effort to incrementally establish an open architecture infrastructure for all its simulators.  The driver of SCARS is that there are 2,400 USAF training devices globally ranging from desktop trainers to full-motion simulators and they all require software and security updates.  SCARS is aiming to exploit cloud technologies with local clouds to run the simulators, supported by a centralised private cloud providing the sustainment for all the sites. The transition from legacy technologies will take some time but the SCARS vision is to move to an apps store concept with a common applications library provided by the centralised cloud within the same cyber-secure private infrastructure.

NATO

With over 30 nations in the Alliance, NATO has the challenge of orchestrating and supporting the coalition training and exercising of members who will each have a range of simulation systems and tools, many of which do not interconnect nor represent the full picture of contemporary warfare.  A further complication is that the nations that take part may well vary from exercise to exercise and so it is important to be able to prepare quickly and flexibly whatever the desired training outcome.  For such reasons NATO has been developing a Modeling and Simulation as a Service (MSaaS) concept that supports the rapid composability of simulations from shared M&S components, data and services, all in a cloud-based environment.  Building on such work, NATO has launched its Next Generation of Modelling & Simulation initiative which aims to provide a persistent and flexible M&S capability that supports not only training but other activities such as capability development and support to operations.

United Kingdom

The British Army is seeking through its Collective Training Transformation Programme (CTTP) to transform its collective training to better reflect the scale and complexity of the future multi-domain operating environment.  CTTP will provide an integrated, expeditionary, and digitalised Future Collective Training System (FCTS) that can deliver training anywhere across the globe.  The cloud is seen as a key enabler for this more distributed and unified approach to its array of legacy and new training systems which include instrumented live training systems and simulators.  To explore cloud approaches the British Army has sponsored a number of CTTP pathfinder activities.  As an example, exploiting cloud technologies, Hadean developed a persistent central simulation to aggregate data and stream training outcomes in real-time from training exercises that were using LVC simulations. 

The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) is seeking to exploit cloud technologies in support of all defence activities as set down by its Cloud Strategic Roadmap for Defence, with direct support to CTTP and other training programmes through the Defence Synthetic Environment Platform (DSEP).  DSEP will be a scalable, agile capability to provide and exploit M&S data, government furnished assets, models, services and applications in support of the generation of M&S for various use cases such as training and operations.  For programmes such as CTTP, DSEP will assure interoperability with federated components, compose applications from content and components, then deploy it into the training environment.  A key outcome for DSEP is that it will bring M&S producers and consumers together with the potential to disrupt traditional approaches.

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