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Training Like You Fight On
USS Virginia
by Craig Kessler, Tim Bergland, and Dave Gibson

Prototype OBTT Master Controller for USS Virginia (SSN-774)
Prototype OBTT Master Controller for USS Virginia (SSN-774)

As submarines play an ever-increasing role in today's battlespace, maintaining combat readiness is critical to mission success. The winter 1999 UNDERSEA WARFARE article about USS Miami's two-theater TLAM strike missions really put the spotlight on just how critical realistic training is in preparation for a successful deployment - and particularly on the need to "Train like you fight, and fight like you train." This is just what the On Board Team Trainer (OBTT) concept is providing the undersea warriors of tomorrow - the ability to train anywhere, any time, for any mission. Taking this capability one step further on USS Virginia (SSN-774), however, the new Onboard Team Trainer Master Controller (OBTT MC) will tie together the entire complement of OBTT subsystems to make possible both individual task training and exercising the combat systems team as a whole.


In today's fast-paced international climate, the measure of success for a deployed submarine may well be how quickly the crew can respond effectively to any situation. In turn, that adaptability will depend critically on the breadth and flexibility of crew training. Outside of actual operations, the only arena where the undersea warrior of the 21st century will be able to practice and maintain the critical skills necessary to ensure battlespace dominance will be on the synthetic battlefield of the future, using modern modeling and simulation techniques. 

Historically, combat system team training has been conducted at shore-based training sites, since the technology of earlier times could not support the processor speed and bandwidth necessary to run complicated simulation models onboard, especially within the limited space available on a submarine. A drawback of this approach is that shore-based trainers use equipment that may not resemble actual onboard system configurations or components. 

Earlier onboard training systems that did go to sea were often packaged as stand-alone, carry-on equipment. These devices were limited to representing specific subsystems and could not, therefore, exercise the entire combat system team. 

Improved technology and the use of Commercial-off-the-Shelf (COTS) components can now give the Sailor an onboard capability to conduct at-sea simulated engagements comparable to those of a shore-based team trainer. Moreover, the OBTT approach offers the advantage of using the same system consoles that the crew would use in an actual tactical encounter. This kind of organic training improves combat system operator readiness by presenting complex, "just-in-time" complex warfare simulations on the crew's own equipment.

System Diagram for Virginia's Onboard Team Trainer
System Diagram for Virginia's Onboard Team Trainer

Controlling and Integrating On Board Team Training

The OBTT will allow combat system team training either pierside or at sea - alone or with a battlegroup - and with training profiles that can be tailored to specific mission needs. Whether it's a simulated TLAM Strike mission in the Mediterranean, or ASW operations in the North Atlantic, the system's robust simulation models will provide submarine Sailors an engaging and challenging experience. Simulated missions can be run without affecting normal operation of the ship's tactical combat system or the boat's continuing mission. 

The OBTT equipment networks the Sonar, Radar, Electronic Warfare Support (ES), Imaging (i.e., the Photonics Mast), Submarine Regional Warfare System (SRWS), and Combat Control subsystems into a single onboard training system. At the heart of the network lies the OBTT Master Controller (MC), which acts as a "traffic cop" for the whole and integrates the individual subsystem OBTs into the synthetic battlespace. The OBTT MC is being developed for the Virginia-class Submarine Program Office (PMS-450) by a government / industry team consisting of the Naval Air Warfare Center's Training Systems Division, the Naval Undersea Warfare Center, Electric Boat, and Lockheed-Martin. 

From the OBTT MC, training scenarios may be created or modified prior to training events or in real time during execution. Scenario instructions are passed to the subsystems, which in turn use a combination of simulation and sensor stimulation to generate realistic tactical displays for the subsystem operators. In response, the subsystems return information to the OBTT MC about ownship weapon and countermeasure performance and operator actions. The OBTT MC utilizes this information to drive the evolving training scenario and monitor student performance. This data can then be replayed to provide immediate feedback on team performance or saved for later evaluation. 

Onboard Team Training will include Stand-alone, Combined Team, and Full Combat Team Training, as well as Battle Force Tactical Training (BFTT) in conjunction with other units. Stand-alone Training will exercise individual operators or a combination of operators within a subsystem, independent of other subsystems and the OBTT MC. In this mode, the scenario for Stand-alone Training is generated and monitored by each subsystem's own OBT Controller.

Combined Team Training will exercise tactical teams operating multiple subsystems, while Full Combat Team Training trains all the subsystem operators linked together. In both modes, the separate OBTs would provide subsystem stimulation in accordance with a common and self-consistent scenario, which would be generated and controlled by the OBTT MC. 

In the BFTT mode, a number of tactical platforms and commands will be able to participate and interact in a synthetic warfare environment. The overall training scenario will be communicated from the BFTT Gateway to the OBTT MC, which would appear as a BFTT exercise participant to other units. This functionality will allow Virginia to interact with other ships in the fleet both nearby or - for that matter - on the opposite coast. This will allow fleet units to practice anything from battle group maneuvers to special warfare tactics, each from its own homeport. 

The onboard simulation system will be capable of supporting a whole host of contacts including up to:

. 10 Medium Frequency Active (MFA) and Passive Sonar Contacts.
. 20 High Frequency Active (HFA) Sonar Contacts.
. 20 Tactical Weapon Simulator (TWS) Contacts.
. 35 Imaging Contacts (Visual/Infrared).
. 128 ESM Contacts.
. 10 Radar Contacts, and
. 8 stored harbor models for ingress and egress training.

In the Team modes, the OBTT MC operator has the option of selecting from scripted scenarios generated off-line beforehand, or performing an on-line exercise. The pre-scripted scenarios allow for the programming of events such as contact weapon firings, off-hull target data, or special maneuvers like baffle clearing, ASW searches, or convoying. When the OBTT MC operator takes manual control of a target in a pre-scripted scenario, he can either retain control from that point on, or return it to the script. The operator will also be able to select environmental parameters that include ocean, oceanographic, and atmospheric conditions, such as sea state, rain, fog, visibility, and time of day. 

Testing out the OBTT Master Controller in the lab
Testing out the OBTT Master Controller in the lab.

In an on-line scenario, also referred to as Free-Play, the OBTT MC operator will select and "deploy" contacts from the master contact library and assign initial position, maneuvers and operational characteristics to each. These parameters include initial Lat/Long or range/bearing from ownship, course, speed, depth, and elevation. Other controllable operating characteristics include each contact's special sounds (motors, pumps, etc.), active emitters and sonars, and the launching of simulated countermeasures and weapons. The system architecture also allows the OBTT MC operator to select either real ownship navigational data or simulated data to support training exercises. 

Although there are currently no plans for the OBTT MC to interface with the ship's communications suite, the OBTT MC will have the capability to simulate Over-the-Horizon/Global Command and Control System-Maritime (OTH/GCCS-M) communications. The Master Controller will have the ability to simulate data for 100 Link-11 targets, 100 OTH-Gold tar-gets and 50 Tactical Receive Equipment (TRE) targets. The simulated off-hull sensor data will be sent to the JMCIS workstation in Combat Control. 

After each training evolution is completed the Master Controller will have the capability to play back the scenario immediately or save it for later analysis. This functionality will be of great use in evaluating and debriefing the crew. At a recent Concept of Operation Exercise (COOPEX), Fleet personnel provided the system designers valuable feedback about desirable features and potential applications of the OBTT MC in its forthcoming Fleet implementation. 

The Virginia-class OBTT MC facilitates a new level of integrated combat systems training. It provides a total battlespace environment and effectively delivers a capability previously not available to the Submarine Force. Virginia's innovative, organic, stand-alone OBTT approach will bring a new dimension to crew training and prom-ises to enhance combat system team readiness and watchstander proficiency onboard our best submarines yet.

Craig Kessler is the NAVSEA (PMS 450) Manager for the OBTT project.Tim Bergland and Dave Gibson are with EG&G Technical Services and provide engineering support to the program.



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