NAVAIR Training Systems Division Collaborates Across Service Lines
By NICK ADDE, Seapower Special Correspondent
NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — Surrounding the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) Training Systems Division headquarters in Orlando, Fla., a community of industry and academia has formed into somewhat of a de facto campus, dedicated to improving training systems.
Despite the NAVAIR connection, the division’s primary mission is to support all naval activities — to include the surface, undersea and cross-warfare communities. The collaboration extends further, its commander, Capt. Eric Etz, told an audience on April 3 at the 2017 Sea-Air-Space Exposition.
“It’s a collaboration across service lines, looking for ways to partner together, centering around common functions among the services,” Etz said.
He cited medical-services technologies as an example, but said the cooperation does not stop there.
“We are the primary provider of training systems, including all manned and most unmanned platforms,” Etz said.
His command provides simulated virtual environments to aviators and submariners, works closely with the other services in the F-35 joint strike fighter program, and addresses training areas relating to maintenance and operations of deployed surface vessels, too, Etz said. The tools they provide and maintain can come as small as computers, or as large as Battle Stations 21, the Great Lakes, Ill.-based small-scale virtual training “ship” in which young recruits learn how to fight fires and stop floods.
The command continually searches for ways to employ existing platforms in training, thus minimizing expense.
“For example, [he cites] the Navy platform for the C-40 passenger transport — a derivative of the Boeing 737. There’s no reason for the Navy to build a simulator for that,” Etz said.
While continually looking for ways to upgrade and update training equipment and protocols, Etz said that no changes can be effective unless they consider the Sailors who must operate them.
“You can’t deliver products to the fleet without understanding requirements up front, like human performance aspects and how a training system works with the men and women who use them,” Etz said.
The increasing presence of simulators has become a force extender, Etz said, eliminating the need to divert aircraft and ships from real-time missions. They allow for repetition, and simulation of catastrophic situations that would be impossible to replicate on real planes or vessels.
“We look holistically at how we can address training for future Sailors — how we can modernize the way training is effective … from the beginning of a Sailor’s career path until they retire,” Etz said.
Cyber security factors heavily, considering the heightened awareness of its importance.
“Our systems need to be able to withstand penetration, and when those attempts do occur, to move forward,” Etz said. “We need solutions that prevent network intrusions, and ensure that networks support all training needs of the Navy,” he said.
Gone are the days when Sailors were trained at the onset of their Navy careers, Etz said.
“We’ve migrated training now, where it’s blocked out [to] a more efficient sense of where and when they need it — be it the waterfront, vessel or hangar,” he said.
Training solutions are based to meet the needs of future training applications. Touch screens with different virtual-reality environments that can be changed within 30 seconds increasingly are becoming the norm.
“We’re taking training to the Sailors where they need it, to reduce infrastructure requirements,” Etz said.