The Simulated Approach
For shipboard synthetic training, the opportunities are VAST
By EDWARD LUNDQUIST, Special Correspondent
the buoys triangulate the fall of
shot to determine accuracy. We
then created a synthetic environment so it would appear to the
crew on the ship that they were firing at a land target, with a superimposed representation of the target space, with structures, vehicles,” Hawkins said.
Like in an actual fires event, a
spotter tells the gunnery team to
come 500 yards to the left, or that
they’re 200 yards short, and they
adjust. When they’ve moved in on
the target, they can then fire for
“For the ship, it’s basically the
same experience as Vieques,”
Following extensive testing,
“VAST allows Navy ships to train and certify surface
combatant guns and gunnery crews when a live gunnery
range is not available or the vessel is unable to be on range
due to scheduling conflicts,” said Glenn White, a maritime synthetic training specialist for ONR supporting
U.S. Pacific Fleet, where he has developed the live virtual
constructive training capability.
“It serves a dual purpose,” White said. “We can do
both training and assessment.”
As live training faces more restrictions and limita-
tions, it also is becoming more expensive, White said.
“You don’t need everyone on the ship to get underway
to train the gunnery team,” he said. “Synthetic training is
a supplement to actually getting underway or flying in
order to achieve and maintain readiness. … Synthetic
training can be a substitute or supplement for many
kinds of live training, especially repeatable tasks for basic
and intermediate training. Advanced training is used to
validate readiness and should be done live.”
Virtual At Sea Training (VAST), a simulated environment for naval gunfire support training and qualification, was developed in the absence
of suitable sites for Navy ships to conduct live-fire exercises.
■ VAST uses sonobuoys to create a field at sea that can locate
the fall of live rounds fired from a ship and triangulate it to determine accuracy. A synthetic environment makes it appear to the
crew on the ship that they are firing at a land target.
■ Because the buoy field is mobile, it can be deployed anywhere
there is a safe operating area near the Eastern Seaboard.
■ The technologies developed for VAST have been modified and
improved with newer advanced technologies to provide training
capabilities for maritime helicopters, surface combatants and
maritime patrol reconnaissance aircraft, among others.
When the Vieques training area in Puerto Rico closed in 2001, the U.S. Navy was forced to find
a facility for live-fire exercises. In the absence of other
suitable sites for the real thing at Vieques, the goal was
to find a virtual solution to substitute for live naval
gunfire support (NGFS) training for deploying Atlantic
Fleet ships. The Office of Naval Research (ONR) was
asked to examine the problem.
Most science and technology (S&T) efforts cost millions of dollars and take years. But there was a limited
budget and a sense of urgency since the next battle
group to deploy would need to be certified for NGFS.
“We had less than six months and under $300,000,”
said Harold Hawkins, VAST program manager at ONR.
Out of that necessity came Virtual At Sea Training
(VAST), a simulated environment to support NGFS
training and qualification.
“We used sonobuoys placed in a circle pattern to
create a buoy field at sea that could locate the fall of
shot, of live rounds. The ship fires into the circle and