3D Combat Simulation Software for the Navy
Client: U.S. Navy’s Southern California Offshore Range (SCORE)
Challenge: Replace aging warfare training monitoring software with a more robust, more flexible open-source simulation application.
Solution: CSC developed SCORE IO, a Java-based 3D command-and-control application that provides the Navy with a visually rich combat simulation training environment.
Results: Much improved user interface; the ability for training participants to operate multiple functions; and highly enhanced audio and video playback capabilities, allowing for improved post-exercise analysis.
While training for dangerous combat missions, U.S. Navy pilots face split-second decisions that can make the difference between life and death. To help aviators and ground support personnel improve their skills and increase combat readiness, CSC software engineer Michael Tran developed an innovative 3D combat simulation application that lets the Navy monitor training exercises in a real-world live-fire environment.
Tran works as a software engineer and programmer at the Navy’s Southern California Offshore Range (SCORE), a multi-warfare training area off the coast of San Diego. There, he developed the Information Operations Command and Control application, called SCORE IO.
The SCORE IO application provides a vivid operating picture for a variety of sensors and simulators at sea and in the air and renders individual 3D models for a variety of training participants such as aircraft, ships and submarines.
‘A huge hit’
CSC has maintained a strategic partnership with the U.S. Navy for more than 25 years, and at SCORE, we provide operational, maintenance and logistical support. Tran had the good fortune of replacing a retiring CSC engineer at Naval Air Station North Island, based in Coronado, Calif. SCORE provides support for aircraft, ships, submarines and other tactical units prior to operational deployments around the world.
SCORE’s infrastructure, including SCORE IO, is able to support the wide variety of units from basic unit-level training through advanced multi-warfare exercises where complete carrier strike groups are trained and evaluated.
Tran started working on the Navy simulation application at home on his own time, and after it quickly gained acceptance among users, it ultimately became a key asset to the Navy’s training operations. SCORE IO features a full set of tools that lets personnel monitor ships, helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft during training.
The combat simulation application also lets users pan, tilt and zoom cameras, and control multiple types of radios, sensors, and other types of digital equipment. In addition, SCORE IO is able to record all the training data for playback during post-operations evaluation.
After starting his job at SCORE, Tran recognized the need for a replacement for the aging electronic warfare software being used in training exercises. Looking for more robust user tools and increased flexibility, Tran started researching open-source solutions at home and discovered World Wind, a Java-based software tool developed by NASA for viewing visually rich 3D environments.
“I took the initiative and downloaded the open-source files and began tinkering with WorldWind on my own time,” Tran recalls. “I was inquisitive and wanted to see what this 3D program could do.”
After developing the initial version of the application, Tran brought it into work, and the Navy asked operators to test it out to see how they liked it. “The response was two thumbs up,” enthuses Tran. “The program proved to be a huge hit with SCORE operators.”
SCORE IO was not only more stable than its predecessor — the user interface was much more intuitive. Tran says, “The operators began to use this product exclusively during their exercises and wanted more functionality.” At that point, Tran received the go-ahead to work on SCORE IO development full-time.
Tran worked directly with targeted users such as training exercise coordinators and equipment operators to better understand their needs and requirements for accurate Navy simulation environments. Part of the success of the application is that Tran deployed user-friendly interfaces — the video function has TiVo-like recording and playback capabilities, and the operator interface replicates the simplicity of Google sites.
Command and control
U.S. Navy Commander Derek Teachout, officer-in-charge, SCORE, describes how the Navy uses SCORE IO: “An aircraft can go out there and fly a mission and we track them the whole way during the mission. Then they come back, land and come into our space here, where they can debrief and watch their flight actually happen right on the screen.”
Another chief benefit of SCORE IO is that it allows users to operate multiple functions independently or together. Tran says, “The elegance of SCORE IO is that it allows many more exercises to be conducted simultaneously, which increases the amount of training that can be performed at the range.” SCORE IO also increases the number of training scenarios that can be run, and lets operators keep tabs on all elements of an exercise.
Heidi Nevitt, SCORE operations director, says, “At another range, it might take 15 people to operate a surface-to-air missile site. Here, what Michael Tran has allowed us to do is have a single operator for multiple surface-to-air missile batteries, if you will, on San Clemente Island, and that’s a huge efficiency.”
SCORE IO also gives training exercise participants control and display of multiple sensors, including satellite GPS tracking systems. It also provides remote control of camera systems to support vessel detection across the training range, day or night; enabling capabilities such weapons impact assessments.
What makes SCORE IO especially innovative is its wide range of features. For example, the combat simulation application is able to integrate situational awareness data and display positional information of all range participants. Recorded audio and video streams from training missions are sent over a network and stored as computer media files, allowing post-exercise data for analysis. Combat situations can be instantly replayed while the exercise is ongoing, and users are able to switch between 2D and 3D displays.
Tran says SCORE IO is also highly flexible. “Since it is developed in house, along with its modular software architecture, SCORE IO lends itself to rapid implementation of new features,” he says. Recent enhancements include monitoring of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) radio interface capabilities simulating an integrated air defense communication network.
Through it all, preparing pilots for successful missions is a primary aim. Robert Street, a technical support supervisor with CSC, says, “We want to make sure that the Navy personnel are the finest equipped and the finest trained in the world, so when they have to go someplace that’s bad, they have a very, very good chance of coming back.”
Teachout sums up Tran’s contribution: “The fleet is not going to go over the horizon until they’ve done the training out here, and CSC is a huge part of that,” he says.