SLATE demo highlights live, virtual, constructive environment for pilot training

  • Published
  • By Gina Marie Giardina
  • Air Force Research Laboratory
The Secure Live Virtual Constructive, Advanced Training Environment, program in the Air Force Research Laboratory's 711th Human Performance Wing, concluded a 40-month effort with a Phase III capstone demonstration in September at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada.

This final phase, just one of three two-week demonstrations that began in June, showcased live United States Air Force F-15E and U.S. Navy F/A-18/F aircraft; virtual F-16 and F/A-18 simulators; and constructive computer-generated entities within a highly secure virtual environment.

“This training capability will allow pilots to train like they fight against realistic threats in a secure, high fidelity training environment by combining synthetic and real-world air combat training,” explained Dr. Winston “Wink” Bennett, AFRL’s 711th HPW technical advisor. “Until the SLATE demonstrations, there were only limited and constrained LVC integrated evaluations. The three Phases of SLATE allowed us to fully demonstrate technical capabilities and alternatives to reduce risk for LVC as a future readiness concept.”

Bennett lauded the successful demonstration, but also alluded to future improvements in the training, if necessary.

The team was able to record mission performance and enterprise functional data at a level of quality and quantity that has never been done before, Bennett said. “We were also able to get solid feedback on what works and needs further work in the concept if it is to move forward.”

He also spoke of a specific event during the last phase of the demonstration that was particularly exciting for the future of pilot training and LVC.

“One of the things we demonstrated was something we call ‘untethered LVC.’ What untethered allows us to do is conduct realistic live and constructive training anywhere we need to. This is because the modified aircraft and pods can host and distribute specific scenarios we can program into the pods with or without a range infrastructure,” Bennett explained. “Moreover, we were able to demonstrate in Phase III that the untethered mode can supplement their actual live training even if the range infrastructure goes down or air to ground infrastructure slows down. One of the aircraft can serve as the host and the other aircraft as clients, but they can all see and tactically work through the same scenario in real time anywhere.”

This Advanced Technology Demonstration was established in March 2015 with the specific direction to evaluate critical enabling technologies required to field a live, virtual and constructive-capable training system architecture and structure.

“There are two major pieces of SLATE,” explained Bennett. “The first is the secure piece – we want to be able to train realistically and not give away the things that make us the best in the world to the bad guys. So it has to be a secure way of transmitting information back and forth. The second major piece is the LVC – live, virtual and constructive. The live aspect is the military members actually flying in their operational airplanes, driving in their operational truck or vehicle on the ground, remotely piloted aircraft – they’re using their operational equipment. But we’re able to tie that to a virtual environment which is a simulation of that operational equipment. And the constructive environment which is computer generated models and entities that allow us to create realistic threats, realistic bad guys and behaviors that our folks can actually go after.”

Although managed from AFRL’s 711HPW, SLATE is a Department of Defense program that leverages expertise in other AFRL directorates, Air Combat Command, Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, and the United States Navy, among others.

“For the last 40 months, the team really pushed hard on the ‘state of the art’ in terms of some key technologies that were needed to make SLATE a successful demonstration,” Bennett said.