Navy's Push for Blended Training Picks Up Steam

By Allyson Park

ORLANDO, Florida — While using a blend of live, virtual and constructive techniques to prepare warfighters for battle is not new, Navy officials have said the sea service has lagged implementing the concept. However, that appears to be changing.

In 2017, the Navy completed 917 manhours of live-virtual-constructive training. In 2023, that jumped to 60,000 hours, Capt. Sean Anderson, commanding officer of the Navy’s Tactical Training Group Atlantic, said during a panel at the Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation and Education Conference.

Such training might have real sailors operating actual ships, while F-35C Lightning II pilots sit in high-fidelity simulators. Both the sailors and the pilots might see enemy aircraft or drones approaching on their radar screen, but they are computer generated — the constructive part.

While the use of live, virtual and constructive training is growing in the Navy, there are still many areas in which it must be implemented effectively, Anderson said.

“For us, it’s about that tactical warfighting picture. … When we talk LVC, that’s where it all comes together, where that tactical picture that the tactical operators are looking at feeds [into] other shared information systems,” he said. “There are some areas we still need to grow to get fully there across the enterprise, but that’s kind of where we’re at. The LVC trend is exciting, and it’s still a growth industry.”

The Navy will reach a major milestone in live-virtual-constructive training when its new integrated training facility at Naval Air Station Fallon, Nevada, reaches initial operating capability in March, Capt. Michael Langbehn, deputy of Naval Air Warfare Development Command, said at the conference.

The facility is designed to host and leverage modern working models, rehearse missions in simulated environments and execute on a live range, and capable of running multiple engagements at one time. Langbehn called the facility “the best development we’ve had in a long time.”

As the Navy invests in modern capabilities, the main focus must be on integrating all the domains: sea, land and air along with space and cyberspace, the officials said. Live, virtual and constructive training also offers a solution for how the Navy can integrate with the Joint Force, Rear Adm. Michael Donnelly, director of the Air Warfare Division, said at the conference.

“There’s not a single platform or a single unit that has the capability to fight the array of capabilities that we’re up against with modern adversaries,” Langbehn said.

While the Navy is integrating live, virtual and constructive training efficiently on ships, Anderson said it is not being used effectively for naval aviation, specifically for pilots in the cockpit, which is a vital part of integrating the entire carrier strike group.

“We’ve got to get LVC into the cockpit. [We have a] little of the good stuff, but it’s a baby step, and it’s not enough.” Anderson said. “Investments there will be a game-changer in our exercises, because there’s a lot of artificial boundaries when the guy in the air can’t see and [isn’t] plugged into the entire battlespace.”

Rear Adm. Richard Brophy, chief of Naval Air Training, said during an I/ITSEC panel that his department is looking to employ LVC for air-to-air training, or target practice for airborne threats, specifically for Navy pilots.

While there may be gaps in live, virtual and constructive use for aircraft, the Navy is “successfully” integrating it onto ships, specifically for rapid deployment, Capt. Brian Miller, director of Maritime Operations, Carrier Strike Group Four, said at the conference.

“If somebody has to deploy early, we don’t have to leverage a bunch of other live ships and live aircraft, he said. “We have been able to put together some exercises for folks that need to deploy quickly, and we have leveraged that in a matter of weeks.”

The main limiting factor of live, virtual and constructive training on ships is the vast amount of data generated using virtual training scenarios. These exercises “push out a lot of information, and it just can’t handle the amount that we need for an exercise,” he said.

The training should be used to help the Navy improve data gathering and data analysis in training and simulation exercises. The service is currently failing to utilize the correct data to its advantage, Brophy said.

“The thing that continues to frustrate me is we, the Navy, buy systems that are bespoke, and I got all this data that I [generate] when I’m doing a simulator, and we don’t keep it. We don’t use it. We don’t analyze it,” he said.

In order to get the proper sets and reps in, operators and warfighters must be able to not only see the generated data but also know how to use it to their advantage. After a training simulation, they must be able to see that, for example, a pilot “was off when he flew his pattern, he was at 900 feet, and he should’ve been at 600. Check. And now you’re able to take that data time and time again that I fly, and I go and correlate it to see what do I need to work on?” Brophy said.

“Are we tracking that? The answer is no. We’re not,” he added.

Live, virtual and constructive training offers the opportunity to understand where operation outcomes are affected at a very low level, like fleet maintenance and logistics, and understand how the Navy can implement those changes where there is a finite manned force and still get the necessary results, he said.

The Navy cannot further develop and improve live, virtual and constructive training “without industry partners. [Their] ability to ask these hard questions, and then quite frankly, really challenge us is key,” Brophy said.

Live, virtual and constructive training must provide data, feedback and capability validation across the Navy’s entire spectrum of operations, from intel preparation and assessment of the environment through operational planning and orders production, command and control, operational maneuvers, sustainment and the logistics of how to maintain a presence and how to replenish a force.

“LVC [has] the ability to recognize, collect and potentially assess data that allows us to maintain that continuum across individual training events and connect them together, with the ability to get at what is too often [thrown aside] in that sustainment portion and understand our ability to endure in a fight,” Donnelly said.

One thing blended training currently helps the Navy track is mission capability of aircraft in the fleet, and it’s been “a massive improvement in our business,” Donnelly said.

“We’re looking at evolving to track full mission capability for the different platforms in the fleet. But until we understand what is contributing to the lack of full mission capability, whether it’s training, whether it’s maintenance process, how we collect all that data and assess that, because it’s huge, is going to be important.”

The Navy must also ensure that live, virtual and constructive training is able to operate in austere environments as wars in Ukraine and Gaza continue, using it to generate ranges in remote locations in real time, integrate ad hoc exercise scenarios with service counterparts and joint partners and provide feedback and validation across its entire spectrum of operations.

With industry’s help, the Navy must focus on achieving a multi-layered security environment using LVC, which is “essential” for training for maintenance, for austere, deployable solutions that allow warfighters to go out to the field and for integration with the Joint Force, Donnelly said.

“We need a network of virtual capability that allows us to plug all those disparate and different platforms into this seamlessly to get the value training that the deck point needs,” he said. “And all of this to provide an efficiency and effectiveness of training that we are going to rely on in the austere environment [that] we are facing.”

When it comes to industry, the Navy must rely on “transparency of communication” in order to elevate live, virtual and constructive training for Joint Force integration and requirements development, Donnelly said.

“You need the right level of expertise to just understand what questions to ask,” he said. “[That] innovation that comes from private industry — it certainly doesn’t come from government — helps us shape where we need requirements, where we have the opportunity [to] set requirements so we can continue to take things to the next level.”

As the Navy and the Joint Force continue to explore and implement modern training capabilities, the focus must be on integration, Anderson said. While live, virtual and constructive training is improving, its expansion may be in jeopardy due to budget uncertainty in the Pentagon, and continued investment from both government and industry is extremely important, he added. ND

Topics: Training and Simulation