by Carl Haines, Jimmy Lee, Bill Beatty, and Carlos Tavares

Historically, all combat and sonar trainers have not had the fidelity to conduct effective training at anything more than the basic level. This problem, combined with a need for trainers that reflected the integration of commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) technology into our combat and sonar systems, required a new solution. The Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) Training Program created a unique team arrangement that led to the development and fielding of the world’s most modern sonar and combat control training system: the Submarine Multi-Mission Team Trainer (SMMTT). SMMTT is the Submarine Force’s premier ashore combat system team trainer; it provides team training for the entire submarine attack party. This trainer, used primarily in pre-deployment training (PDT), hones submariner’s skills in strike warfare; anti-submarine warfare; anti-surface warfare; Navy special warfare; mine warfare; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; navigation; and command, control, communications, computers and intelligence. To ensure mission success, SMMTT allows for the officer of the deck and his sonar, combat control, weapons launch, electronic warfare support, imaging, and ship control teams to execute complex scenarios in a high-fidelity, realistic simulation that replicates forward-deployed operations.

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The Submarine Multi-Mission Team Trainer (SMMTT) at the Naval Submarine School in Groton, Conn. Photo by William Kenny

The Submarine Force has used combat control trainers for decades. However, they lacked the fidelity and complexity required for realistic training due to computer modeling and simulation limitations. The latest version of this trainer, SMMTT, includes tactical databases and the Oceanographer of the Navy’s highest fidelity oceanographic models running in real time. SMMTT simulates an unlimited combination of operating environments, anywhere in the world, at any time of year, allowing the submarine crew to practice submerged or surfaced operations.

In the 1970s submarine training facilities received the first digital submarine sonar and combat system trainers. These trainers were stand-alone devices used for individual operator and small team training. Fully integrated team training did not begin until 1981, when an interface allowed two simulators to operate within the same scenario. As the Ohio-class SSBNs commissioned with digital sonar and combat systems, team trainers were developed and fielded to support crew certification and proficiency.

NAVSEA developed SMMTT Phase I and II in response to the Acoustic Rapid Commercial off the Shelf (COTS) Insertion (ARCI) program. These trainers replicated the various ARCI system configurations and established a hardware standard as the ARCI program grew. Due to the lower cost of COTS tactical computers, SMMTT was able to use superior training software, which in turn decreased the amount of time needed to deliver an operational trainer to the Fleet.

More recently, in response to technological developments in software and sensors, NAVSEA and a cross-functional team of industry and Navy experts developed SMMTT Phase III. This team substantially improved SMMTT’s quality and overall capability, while decreasing the cost of the trainer by a factor of two. They achieved these savings and maintained the unmodified tactical software by utilizing less expensive, commercially available hardware. SMMTT Phase III now provides greater fidelity, which in turn fully supports the Fleet’s requirement for immersive training. This product was so successful that NAVSEA and the diverse team that coordinated on SMMTT Phase III won both the 2008 Warfare Center Collaboration Award and 2008 Secretary of the Navy Acquisition Innovation Excellence award.

Three different Navy laboratories collaborated to create a unique team. Each group contributed its core competency of excellence in new software development and repurposed existing software components to form SMMTT. Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division (NSWCCD) provided high-fidelity synthetic signature generation for sonar, visual, and infrared signatures. These raw signatures stimulate actual tactical systems. Naval Undersea Warfare Center Division Newport (NUWC Newport) provided simulation/stimulation of the BYG-1 combat control system, including extensive tactical Tomahawk support and an external interface to support Fleet synthetic training. Naval Air Warfare Center Orlando, Training Systems Division (NAWCTSD) provided emulations for combat system components where it is too costly to use real tactical systems. NSWCCD, which acts as the system integrator, led the successful delivery of eight SMMTT installations at six major submarine homeports. This level of successful collaboration is a prime example of Warfare Centers teaming to provide the Fleet with superior products.

In 2005, to prepare for a weapon system upgrade on USS Boise (SSN-764), NAVSEA delivered the first SMMTT Phase III to Norfolk, Va. Since then, the program has delivered a variant for Ohio-class SSGNs to the submarine bases at Kings Bay, Ga., and Bangor, Wash. Additionally, NAVSEA plans to deliver SMMTTs for homeports with Virginia and Seawolf-class submarines.

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Simulated high contact density environments in the SMMTT consist of optical and infrared signatures projected on small, high-resolution displays. Images courtesy of the Submarine Learning Center

SMMTT is designed to remain synchronized with tactical development TIs and APBs delivered to the Fleet. Fleet synchronization enables seamless submarine participation in Fleet Synthetic Training exercises via the Navy Continuous Training Environment (NCTE). Complementing this synergy, the Weapons Analysis Facility (WAF) in Newport, R.I. simulates newly delivered weapons and can provide the weapons model for SMMTT.

The heart of SMMTT simulation is the All World Environment Simulation (AWESIM) for sonar. AWESIM generates a full spectrum signature — speed-, aspect-, and operating mode-dependent — for each target in the scenario and stimulates the sonar system for each array. Each array receives up to 40 simulated ray paths from each target and directional ocean noise. Actual tactical sonar system capability is required to handle the magnitude of processing in simulation. Before SMMTT was developed, the common thinking was that this was impossible.

SMMTT Phase III also provides a quantum leap in periscope simulation. High-contact-density environments are some of the most challenging situations a crew faces on deployment. Simulating this environment is critical to support crew training and mitigate future risk in real-world engagements. Not surprisingly, the hardware solutions that enabled the NAVSEA team to develop a new periscope simulation (PSIM) came from the video game industry. Optical and infrared signatures project on a small, high-resolution display located in the periscope and on tactical displays for over 80 targets in the field of view. This imagery is correct for sea state, ambient lighting and atmospheric conditions (fog, rain, snow, dust, haze). Also, the sun, moon and star positions, as well as land masses, are correct for latitude, longitude, time of day and year.

On top of crew training, SMMTT can host crew certification for deployment. SSGN crews receive their squadron certification, a continuous 72-hour training exercise, in the SMMTT. Trainer-based certification is critical to the SSGN operational schedule; the crews are transplanted from their homeport SMMTT to deployed submarines in very short order!

SMMTT also provides a venue to develop and refine tactics for operational war plans, to develop doctrine on the employment of the combat systems (with both today’s and future capabilities), and to test APBs in the Submarine Warfare Federated Tactical Systems (SWFTS) facility. This advanced, high-fidelity integrated string testing has reduced software problems in units delivered to the Fleet. APB07 SWFTS testing resulted in the most successful APB sea test in the history of the program. SMMTT supports operator loading analysis (Watch Section Task Analysis), return on investment studies, and testing of foreign weapon systems. The SMMTT simulation is the foundation for the new surface ship sonar trainer and Integrated Undersea Surveillance System trainer.

SMMTT also contributed to the proof-of-concept demonstration of the Submarine Littoral Defense System (SLDS), a submarine-launched surface-to-air missile. For this demonstration, SLDS developers integrated a new prototype display into existing menus so that a periscope could target and fire a simulated SLDS in a realistic environment. The SMMTT-based simulation, easily integrated in the open-architecture design, provided proof of concept for this exciting new capability.

The SMMTT approach represents a revolutionary step forward in the delivery of high-fidelity virtual trainers. Warfighters can synthetically train in the areas they will deploy, training on their own tactical systems. This new approach is delivering trainers at higher fidelity and much lower cost than previous trainers. The synergy of SMMTT’s capabilities allows support in applications beyond the originally designed role of submarine team training. SMMTT integrated technologies are being used for sensor research and development, doctrine and tactics creation, and a test bed for laboratory and industry evaluation prior to Fleet introduction. Because of the success of SMMTT, NAVSEA adopted the SMMTT approach across all of its submarine trainer efforts. Leveraging processes, architecture, and technology will continue to produce more capable trainers at lower cost for the Submarine Force. Adopting the SMMTT model beyond its current applications has the potential to deliver significant additional benefits across the NAVSEA portfolio.

Mr. Haines is the Division Director for Submarine Training at Team Submarine in Washington, D.C.

Mr. Lee is the Combat Systems Trainers Program Manager at Team Submarine in Washington, D.C.

Mr. Beatty is the Submarine Multi-Mission Team Trainer Technical Manager at NSWC Carderock, Md.

Mr. Tavares is the Submarine Multi-Mission Team Trainer Lead Engineer at NUWC Newport, R.I.