Today is the second and final day of the second international training and simulation conference hosted by the South African defence industry association with local and international speakers extolling the virtues of the cost-effectiveness of simulation in the generally harsh economic environments militaries worldwide find themselves in.
“While there’s no way one can have better than the real environment where one smells the diesel and dust for training we accept the cost-effective alternative that is simulation is here to stay,” Colonel Leon Puckree, SSO Force Preparation for the SA Army’s Air Defence Artillery Formation, told delegates.
This was also the message delivered by Brian Armstrong, capability development manager at Agusta Westland. His presentation included the example of three different helicopter types operating in Afghanistan.
Using what he called “rudimentary” graphics and equipment, aircrews of Mil-8, Cougar and A-109 rotorcraft are put through an intense course to properly utilise equipment in the harsh Afghani conditions.
Keynote speaker Brigadier General William Wagner, Commandant of the SA National Defence Force’s (SANDF) College for Educational Technology (COLET), said there was no doubting the South African military needed digital learning but asked if the force was ready for it as an adjunct to simulation training.
He took this stance in view of the “poor basic education” South Africans received.
“It’s not good, especially when it comes to maths and science,” he said adding half of the country’s Grade Eight pupils did not reach Grade 12.
This extrapolated into the defence force and the use of mobile and computer technology should be implemented to allow soldiers to learn at their own pace and in their own time.
“This will lead to a situation where those who want to learn will do so and benefit by promotion,” he said.
At last year’s conference a suggestion was made to formalise the use of simulation across all four arms of service in the SANDF. While presentations have been prepared and attempts made to arrange for these to be viewed by, among others, Chief Joint Operations, this has not yet happened so no recommendations can yet be made to the Military Command Council. It means that simulation is used almost on an ad-hoc basis by commands, formations and units with no over-arching control mechanism to ensure the same standards are employed across the board.
An indication of the importance attached to simulation in the 21st century military was given by Puckree. He pointed out the term “war-gaming” was no longer considered apt and had been replace by “simulation training”.