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CSCS Takes Shipboard Air Controller Training to New Heights

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS051116-16
Release Date: 11/16/2005 3:18:00 PM

By Center for Surface Combat Systems Public Affairs

NORFOLK, Va. (NNS) -- In October, the Navy took delivery of Phase I of a revolutionary computer-based training system to better support Antisubmarine and Antisurface Warfare Tactical Air Controller (ASTAC) training at the Center for Surface Combat Systems (CSCS) Learning Site in Norfolk, Va., and Fleet Antisubmarine Warfare Training Center in San Diego.

The trainer combines the power of cutting-edge simulation with real-time intelligent tutoring and adaptive interactive multimedia instruction (IMI).

Developed by Sonalysts, Inc., under a Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) program, the ASTAC Intelligent Training Aid (AITA) employs Closed-loop Adaptive Training technology to support ASTAC student knowledge and skill acquisition in a realistic and cost-effective manner.

“There has been significant interest in the military training community in recent years about leveraging sophisticated, high- fidelity commercial military simulations as training tools,” said Brian Deters, technical support director at CSCS Dahlgren, Va. “CSCS has pursued such a solution to address the difficult challenge of training prospective ASTACs – the individuals responsible for controlling helicopters and maritime patrol aircraft assigned to a ship for prosecution of submarines and surface contacts.”

The Navy has faced significant shortfalls in the number of qualified ASTACs due in part to a lack of an effective training system to support operator practice and remediation. Seeking a solution to this training deficiency, CSCS evaluated an advanced training approach developed by Sonalysts Inc., under the SBIR program. This approach, called Closed-loop Adaptive Training, was demonstrated in a prototype PC-based AITA. After reviewing the merits of the technology, CSCS contracted with Sonalysts to build a production version of the AITA.

Operations Specialist 1st Class (SW) Jamie Metcalf, an instructor involved in the AITA development, feels Sonalysts has done an outstanding job and set a new standard for Navy training. “The AITA software that Sonalysts is building is spearheading the Navy’s Revolution in Training and setting the benchmark for all future training devices to achieve,” he said.

The AITA system consists of three different but mutually supportive components: simulation, intelligent tutoring and adaptive interactive multimedia instruction.

“The simulation component that was used in the AITA is derived from ‘Sonalysts Combat Simulations – Dangerous Waters,’ said Sonalysts Program Manager Jack Wayne. “The simulation provides a PC-based emulation of the Aegis Baseline 5.3 Anti-Submarine Tactical Control Officer (ATACO) submode including all applicable controls and displays. In addition, the Antenna Control Monitor (ACM), LS-653 communications panel, State Tree, Status Boards, and Brief Sheet are modeled. Student interactions are accomplished via a touch-screen monitor, trackball, and headset.”

Wayne said that the simulation will initially function in an instructor- control mode, in which the AITA PCs are paired in a network configuration with one PC designated as an instructor station and one as a student station. The instructor will control the scenario, providing coaching as appropriate and assessing student performance. The second component, scheduled for deployment in 2006, is intelligent tutoring or coaching. The computer-driven coach will offer real-time coaching to students training with the simulation. The third component, adaptive IMI, is scheduled for deployment in 2007 and presents classroom lessons in a visually engaging format.

Applied in a seamless combination, the three components enable a second mode called the Learning Center. In the Learning Center mode, the student receives individual training (one student per PC) in the form of adaptive IMI and simulation-based intelligent tutoring. The adaptive IMI is used to provide the student with multimedia instruction in knowledge-based learning topics. Adaptive learning technology is used to provide the right instruction at the right time to address student-specific deficiencies.

Simulation-based intelligent tutoring is used to train the student in tactical skill requirements employing simulated aircraft against one or more subsurface or surface threats in a variety of tactical scenarios. This closed-loop adaptive training application automatically creates and delivers an individualized training plan based on the student's mastery of defined learning objectives and the available content objects to support effective and efficient knowledge and skill acquisition.

ASTAC Instructor Chief Operations Specialist (SW) Ed Smith said, “Implementation of this technology is expected to achieve a significant return on investment and lead to decreased trainer maintenance costs, reduced student attrition, higher student throughput, and more effective instructor staff utilization. We also expect to see marked increases in student proficiency.”

The Office of Naval Research, which contributed to the cognitive task analysis underlying the coach initiative, is conducting an effectiveness evaluation of different versions of the ASTAC tutor through a separate SBIR. The evaluation will enable developers to maximize the cost-effectiveness of future intelligent tutoring systems.

“This revolutionary closed-loop adaptive training approach is being considered for use in providing training for other shipboard watch stations,” Deters said. “There is tremendous potential in this exciting new technology to better train our Sailors.”

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