by Staff of Submarine Learning Center
Modern learning technology assumes various names such as augmented reality (AR), adaptive training (AT), simulation learning, and computer-based learning. Aside from the different acronyms, the basic concept is enhancement of teaching, learning, and assessment through the application of technology.
The educational needs of today’s Navy have shifted, with increased emphasis on the Navy’s Ready Relevant Learning (RRL) initiative. RRL is the Navy’s transformation to more effectively recruit, develop, manage, reward, and retain Sailors by modernizing schoolhouse content based on validated fleet training requirements.
Submariners across the fleet are now engaged in modern, hands-on, learning technologies that use a variety of applications, all of which provide Sailors opportunities to create training environments that continually refine their learning experiences.
Augmented Reality Learning Technology
One of the biggest areas of learning technology is in hands-on augmented reality (AR). Long before mobile AR applications were popular, the Navy had implemented AR real-time overlaying technology for its submarine diesel governor’s engine maintenance training.
In years past, governor maintenance replacement training was performed on an operating submarine diesel engine. Due to high costs, environmental concerns, and limited ability to conduct casualty training on operating engines, the operational engines were retired and removed from the training curricula. As a result, the detailed understanding of how the governor works and how adjustments affect an operating diesel engine has decayed over time.
Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) Submarine Training Directorate teamed up with the Submarine Learning Center (SLC) and Huntington Ingalls Industries to develop a solution—the 3D-printed Woodward Governor and AR tablet. The innovative AR governor tablet improves crew readiness, as crews learn how to replace and properly adjust a governor while at sea.
Branded the “Woodward Governor 3D Augmented Reality,” it provides the Navy with a solution to reverse the knowledge decay. NAVSEA funded the tool’s research and initial development in 2016, with prototypes deployed to Naval Submarine School (NSS) in Groton, Conn. and Trident Training Facility in Kings Bay, Ga. in 2017. The Woodward Governor 3D AR tablet was deployed to the remaining submarine training facilities in 2018.
The Woodward Governor 3D AR tablet provides a computer graphic overlay that enables Sailors to visualize maintenance procedures on the governor. AR lets Sailors see the effects of adjustments to the 3D Woodward governor that are often required following governor replacement on submarines. The AR overlay software includes a cut-away view that gives Sailors the ability to look at internal mechanisms and components from any angle and even observe how internal components react to operator adjustments to the governor’s controls. Instructors now use these new tablets to teach diesel generator Woodward governor maintenance inspection tasks exactly as they are performed aboard submarines.
Sailors have been training with 3D printed Woodward governors and Woodward Governor 3D AR tablets for over a year. They have performed various maintenance and operational inspections on the Woodward governors in their advanced maintenance training in ways that traditional methods simply could not reproduce.
Machinist Mate Auxiliary Petty Officer 1st Class Mitch Williams from Waverly, Iowa, who instructs submarine crews in an advanced AR diesel maintenance course at NSS, Submarine Base New London, said, “These program tablets are great; they walk students through a sequence all the way from removal of the governor to installation, as well as testing and inspection.”
Throughout the submarine training domain, innovative modern learning technologies such as 3D-printed components and AR technology are replacing outdated and static instructional methods that had limited ability to demonstrate complex concepts. The 3D-printed Woodward governor and Woodward Governor 3D AR learning technologies provided at submarine learning sites are two components that ensure that the Submarine Force remains ready to meet today’s challenges while building highly skilled and technically proficient warfighters.
Adaptive Training Learning Technology
Along with AR learning technology, the Submarine Force is using other new learning technologies to enhance proficiency in new ways. Sailors across the Submarine Force are using new Submarine Electronic Warfare Adaptive Training (SEW-AT) technology that turns instructor-led training classes into interactive, hands-on learning experiences.
Summary of SMMTT characteristics
- Located at two larger submarine bases: New London and Pearl Harbor.
- SMMTTs are hard-wired interfaces linked at various NSS sites.
- Submarine crews interact with each other from two different SMMTTs that make head-to-head competition possible.
- Provides operators with realistic, game-based simulations of what they could encounter while on deployment, including inclement weather like rain, snow, fog and even dust.
- The Submarine Force is developing long distance SMMTT connectivity, allowing two submarine crews from different submarine bases to compete against each other.
- The goal is to test this capability in the fall of 2020 and debut it the following year.
- Long distance connectivity opens up several possibilities for competition in training, including potential playoffs and championship matches.
Electronic warfare (EW) is possibly the fastest growing field in submarine warfare. The ability to use the electromagnetic spectrum to our advantage and to limit its use by our adversaries is critical to our success in combat. To develop and grow this ability, U.S. submarine crews are training on new learning technologies available to the fleet.
Developed by the Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems Division (NAWC-TSD) with funds from the Office of Naval Research’s science and technology departments, SEW-AT is an innovative EW adaptive training technology system designed to improve crew performance when operating EW systems. It provides Sailors the opportunity to practice EW skills while reducing reliance on tactical training equipment and its associated costs and labor requirements.
NAWC-TSD designed and developed SEW-AT by drawing from multiple learning theories and principles. Using an AN/BLQ-10 emulator, it allows Sailors to practice standing watch during periscope-depth operations using a single PC-based, stand-alone training system. Applying scenarios derived from the Submarine Force’s Continuing Training and Qualification Manual, the adaptive algorithms within SEW-AT observe operator actions and assess performance on criteria including safety-of-ship, report timeliness, contact classification, and emitter parameter changes.
ETSC Petty Officer 1st Class Patrick Parks, from Baltimore, Md., uses the SEW-AT computer as both an “A” school and pre-deployment training tool. Parks said, “This provides new Sailors their first experience in standing their prospective watch station and also allows submarine fleet Sailors the opportunity to refine and enhance their skills. SEW-AT provides adaptive learning to first accession students, junior ship personnel, and any Sailor new to electronic warfare.”
SEW-AT responds by adapting scenario difficulty and provides immediate operator feedback using verbal cues by using a dynamic operator assessment. Feedback either challenges the operator with tougher scenarios or relaxes the difficulty based on operator performance. These adaptive instructional interventions avoid a “one size fits all” approach to training and, instead, provide tailored hands-on training based on an operator’s strengths and/or weaknesses. When the scenario is complete, SEW-AT generates a detailed narrative along with scores in several skill sets.
SEW-AT contains more than 100 scenarios and covers every theater of operations. It and other similar training systems can inform instructors of specific student weaknesses, help students gain familiarity of a new operating environment, or simply get “reps and sets” in search and reporting procedures without occupying an entire trainer.
Across submarine training, modern hands-on learning technologies are replacing outdated and expensive instructional methods. The SEW-AT training provided at submarine learning sites ensures that the Submarine Force remains ready to meet current challenges while building relevant and capable warfighting readiness.
Simulation Learning Technology
Developing modern learning technology training products that use robust, interactive, game-based simulation learning technology is essential to training the new generation of Sailors. In fact, the Submarine Force has created a game-based simulation training method integrated by the Submarine Multi-Mission Team Trainers (SMMTTs) simulation attack center, where submarine crews can fight against other crews in a game-based simulated battlespace.
The SMMTTs’ attack center provides game-based simulation learning to enable submarine crews to rehearse tactical missions in environmental conditions and realistic scenarios found anywhere in the world.
In the undersea domain, there are winners and losers, and the losers often do not get a second chance. Combat readiness demands a mindset where there are no exercise orders, no warning notices, and where second place means failure. It means that there will not be time to practice and build skills. The skills must become habits in order to be successful.
To help build this mindset and to put some incentive in training for combat, the Submarine Force recently implemented competition in training to encourage submarine crews to test their mettle in combat simulation scenarios. These simulated war games determine who can achieve a kill the fastest, sink the most tonnage, or even win in a fight against another crew in a connected SMMTTs simulation attack center.
Lt. Gregory Morgan from Detroit Mich., tactical instructor at NSS Naval Submarine Base, New London, who oversees submarine crews’ combat training scenarios, said, “As the competition-in-training coordinator, I create the scenarios on the SMMTTs to challenge the Submarine Force and to instill the warfighter mind state. Warfighting competition in training makes training fun, but still provides a large amount of practice for life-and-death situations. After each computer-based scenario, our teams are debriefed on what went wrong and what went well, to improve teams and training in the future.”
Submarine Force competition is organized in a manner similar to professional athletic leagues. The Submarine Force competition league is divided into two conferences, the Atlantic and Pacific. The two conferences are further divided into divisions, which consist of submarine crews in each fleet, connected by the SMMTTs’ simulation attack centers. The commanding officer of the local submarine training facility serves as the umpire. Crews compete in seasons that are about six months long.
The matches consist primarily of combat scenarios in Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) and Anti-Surface Warfare (SUW) in a variety of formats: head-to-head, simultaneous and stand-alone.
The head-to-head competition is between two submarine crews who fight in linked SMMTTs’ simulation technology. The crews can fight against each other or compete in the same battlespace.
In the Simultaneous format, two submarine crews conduct the same scenario at the same time in separate SMMTTs. The match is over when the first crew sinks its target while successfully evading the remaining enemy forces.
The Stand-Alone format is similar to simultaneous, but crews conduct the scenarios back-to-back in the SMMTT. This method is ideal for smaller training facilities or training facilities that only have one SMMTT. The crews flip a coin to see who participates first, and the second crew cannot observe the first crew in battle. Whichever crew achieves its goal faster while living to tell the tale, wins.
Scoring the competition is relatively simple, and results matter. In combat, killing the enemy but being killed in the process of doing so is clearly not sustainable. Therefore, to win in the competition, a crew must kill the enemy and survive to fight another day or press another attack.Crews that get themselves killed are not rewarded with a win. It is possible that two crews can fight against each other and both end up losing. However, it is not possible for both crews to fight and for both to win. The crew that achieves the first kill and survives is the winner.
Each umpire coordinates with the squadron commanders to develop a schedule, score the matches, and track the results of each submarine crew. Umpires publish warning orders to identify the competitors, lay out the scenario, and schedule the competition. The umpires report competition results and lessons learned to the commissioner, who then coordinates with the type commanders (TYCOMs) to post results and update divisional standings on TYCOM websites. Throughout the competition season, submarine crews are divided into one of three categories:
Rookie: A submarine crew that has yet to participate in team competition.
On-Deck: A submarine crew that competed but was either killed or out-gunned by another submarine crew. Submarine crews whose matches result in a draw also receive on-deck status.
Veteran: A submarine crew that has achieved victory. A veteran team is typically removed from the normal pool of eligible teams for competition. However, they may opt to remain eligible to obtain more victories and bolster their divisional standing. However, if a veteran submarine crew subsequently loses, they forfeit their veteran status for on-deck status.
Submarine crews are now doing battle in the SMMTTs simulation attack centers, to test their skills, and the competition is fierce! In a recent tournament, a crew that had just changed homeport humbled an entire waterfront, while another crew that drove down from a remote shipyard crushed a recent deployer. Crews that win plan ahead, show mastery of basics, and act boldly with calculated risk. Crews that lose underestimate their opponents, spend excessive energy on basic skills, do not follow fundamental doctrinal and procedural Target Motion Analysis tenets, or act recklessly. In all cases, the crews learn important lessons while enhancing proficiency.
Virtual simulation learning technology is an extremely useful training aid, providing high levels of training in a short period of time. Simulation allows for multiple repetitions, which aid in building competence. As Sailors gain proficiency, the training level can be elevated in complexity.
Submarine Firefighting Learning Technology
In the same way that Sailors gain proficiency on the SMMTT simulation learning technology, so can they gain training proficiency when fighting fires. Indeed, the next generation submarine firefighting learning technology-training facility is up and running at the Submarine Learning Facility in Norfolk, Va. This new simulation facility adds complexity and realism that is long overdue in submarine firefighting training.
The catastrophic results of the 2012 USS Miami (SSN 755) fire tragedy necessitated an assessment of submarine firefighting training, which identified that existing legacy trainers lacked capability in providing the necessary realism in firefighting training. They were typically single-level trainers that ran a few different scenarios and did not account for the close-quarters environment on the submarine. Most of these trainers did not get hot enough to provide realism to student firefighters during scenarios and they did not simulate fires that spread from a source to outboards and to the overhead. The next generation firefighting trainer (NGEN FFT) solves those issues.
The NGEN FFT simulation learning technology is a computer-controlled, gas-fueled, live-fire training system. This multi-level trainer simulates Class A, B and C fires in a realistic submarine environment. Instructors now can link and expand fires both vertically and horizontally to challenge submarine crews’ responses to an expansive dynamic casualty.
The gas-fueled fires do not create smoke when burning; instead, they generate it by using non-toxic smoke fluid, which creates smoke to obscure vision, simulating what teams will experience in actual fires on a submarine. The increased smoke-generation, and the training system’s ability to sustain higher temperatures for longer periods, provides greater authenticity to firefighting training than before. The current legacy trainer operates at 145 degrees, with an upper limit of 175 degrees. The NGEN FFT operates at 300 degrees, with an upper limit of 400 degrees. The NGEN FFT is reconfigurable with removable bulkheads in order to simulate racks and berthing spaces and includes a galley area with correct-size doorways.
These tight spaces allow firefighters to practice ingress into tight spaces and around corners while fully dressed in protective gear and fighting a fire with a fully charged hose. Teams that do not demonstrate proper firefighting techniques get to feel the heat when the fire flashes into the overhead, a truly impressive feature that gets the team’s attention quickly.
The NGEN FFT was developed by NAWC-TSD, NAVSEA Submarine Training Systems (07TR) with consultation by Atlantic and Pacific TYCOMs, and the SLC.
NGEN FFT firefighting training capability that safely delivers the simulation necessary for submarine crews to build their skills in fighting complex submarine fires. Training on the NGEN FFT enhances warfighting readiness through the realism inherent in the trainer and by providing a first-hand appreciation of the skills necessary to extinguish a potentially devastating submarine fire.
Computer-Based Learning Technology
Another example of how the Submarine Force is applying technology to enhance teaching and support learning and assessment to prepare Submariners for battle is by using Submarine On-Board Training (SOBT) computer-based learning technology.
NGEN FFT Technology Features
- Automatic fire re-ignition capability.
- LCD touchscreens to create and store training simulation scenarios.
- Central PC control room with customized burn building floor plan.
- Room-to-room programmable fire growth.
- Programmable rate of fire growth over time.
- Expanded fire control parameters.
- Agent application detection.
- Operates at 300 degrees and shuts down at 400 degrees.
- Intuitive advanced diagnostics for system fault identification and correction
Experienced Submariners may remember when SOBT consisted of laser discs as large as vinyl records and cassette tapes. Since then, SOBT has evolved to respond to today’s Sailors’ training needs and now provides modern learning technology to supplement traditional instructor-led training classes and, in some cases, has replaced brick-and-mortar schoolhouse courses with an interactive, hands-on, simulation learning experience designed to train combat-ready warfighters.
Today most of us have a home computer and a smartphone with information available at our fingertips. We log into the computer and have ready access to email, websites, reference materials or projects because the computer recognizes our profile and leaves bookmarks to return us back to where we stopped the video or left the webpage. We also watch short videos to help us fix our cars or appliances. The team at SOBT recognized the power of easy access to information and has incorporated these simple yet powerful capabilities into the program to place training and reference materials at Sailors’ fingertips.
SLC and the Naval Undersea Warfighting Center (NUWC) deliver updates to SOBT each spring and fall, reliably delivering content and other materials to the entire Submarine Force and ensuring that the Force is using the latest training and reference materials available.
Sailors can access SOBT material through the Seaware learning management system, which is accessible on computer desktops connected to the submarine network. Seaware organizes the material and connects to each Sailor’s account, allowing each Sailor to customize the Seaware system to fit his or her needs.
In addition to traditional SOBT interactive multimedia instruction modules, Seaware allows Submariners to access the Submarine Learning Channel, which contains more than 300 short videos that provide explanation or demonstration of a wide variety of tasks. This enables a subject matter expert to demonstrate through a short video a critical part of a procedure or techniques that are difficult to describe in a technical document. The videos provide simple yet powerfully effective training on tasks or concepts without having to sign up for a course and sit in a classroom.
The quality of videos continues to improve as the SOBT team recently updated video development standards with the assistance of experts in the video production field. Rather than showing instructors giving lectures in a classroom, these three-to-five-minute-long videos consider the perspective of the viewer and are generated on topics based on requests from the fleet. The instructors in the videos are not actors, but actual Submariners who are experts in their fields and are properly trained to film these videos.
The Submarine Learning Channel environment is a simple and familiar construct that allows Submariners to identify favorites, generate a playlist, or assign videos to others to support a training plan. They are deliberately bite-sized but hard-hitting and targeted to specific pieces of equipment or concepts. With videos hosted in SOBT’s Seaware system and accessible from any laptop aboard, the Sailor is ready to watch when it fits his or her schedule.
The content in SOBT’s Interactive Multimedia Instruction (IMI) modules is detailed and reference based. In most cases, the student must pass a test to earn a completion certificate. Recently, the TYCOMs identified specific SOBT products that, when successfully completed, can allow commanding officers to grant credit for knowledge factors on some qualification cards. The team at SOBT is continuing to evaluate their IMI content to determine where Sailors can meet other qualification standards.
In addition to the material developed by the SOBT team, Seaware also delivers over 200 IT professional topics. These topics provide the necessary knowledge certifications for Electronics Technician Communication – Submarine (ETR) Sailors to convert to Information Systems Technician – Submarine (ITS) Sailors without requiring connectivity to an off-hull network. These products also provide continuing educational units (CEUs) to all ratings of our cybersecurity workforce.
Seaware also contains links to reference materials essential to the Submariner. Current tactical doctrine published by Undersea Warfighting Development Center, (UWDC), intelligence products published by the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI), and lessons learned published by TYCOMs are included with each SOBT update. Submarine crews no longer have to download publications, search the network, or be concerned with having the right version of doctrine because the information is at each Sailor’s fingertips through Seaware.
The SOBT team knows it must engage the fleet; bottom-up feedback is best when it comes directly from the afloat Sailor. SOBT’s chiefs and officers who are developing training priorities want to hear the fleet’s voice to help steer their efforts. Seaware facilitates SOBT feedback using email, comment sections, and usage metrics to evaluate the fleet’s needs. The feedback goes directly to the active-duty Sailors managing SOBT product development. The SOBT team also visits each submarine homeport annually to provide assistance to crews, answer questions and get feedback on SOBT products.
The ability to deliver high-quality training and reference materials uniformly across the Submarine Force through SOBT and integrate them into the Seaware learning management system is a critical enabler for combat readiness. The training and materials available ensure consistency in delivering training products, reducing crew time necessary to find reference materials and providing opportunities for training, anywhere, anytime.
By engaging our Submarine Force, both new and experienced, in the modern, hands-on, learning technologies discussed here, Sailors are being afforded the exciting opportunity to explore the newest depths of computer-based learning technology currently being taught throughout the Submarine Force. Submarine crews will now be able to more readily develop relevant warfighting readiness skills and become better prepared for the fight.