Winter Park, FL--How do you maintain proficiency of Marine Corps Reserve Light Armored Vehicle (LAV-25) crews when funds for such training are cut back? Universal Systems & Technology, Inc. (UNITECH) Training and Simulation Div. and its subcontractor Raydon Corp. (Daytona Beach, FL) provided the answer by using the vehicle itself as part of training simulations. Not only is the cost of a full-blown simulator saved, but an added bonus is the rugged, portable training system appended to the vehicle accompanies the leathernecks on shipboard deployments--allowing up-to-the-minute, objective-specific training on the way to any global hot spot. Simulating vehicle use also reduces wear and tear on equipment and thus maintenance costs.
The LAV-FIST (Full-crew Interactive Simulation Trainer) consists of hardware and software to hone the gunnery, crew communication and coordination, and mission tactical skills of the crew members. These tasks include: reconnaissance and reporting procedures, map reading and navigation, and calls for artillery fire. Target acquisition, aiming, and firing the main 25-mm automatic cannon and its coaxial 7.62 machine gun can be simulated. Sensors overlaid on the driving controls feed visual representation of vehicle movements into the displays, as do the turret controls, while the vehicle and turret remain stationary. Sounds that replicate vehicle and turret operations aurally heighten realism.
CRT-monitor displays, two each for the commander's and gunner's view out of the turret and three for the driver's station in front, provide visual cues and simulate day and night operations. A Lockheed Martin SE 1000 image generator, repackaged to fit a standard two-man portable container, supplies the computer graphics. The commander's helmet-mounted display uses an Intersense (Burlington, MA) inertial-motion orientation sensor rather than the usual magnetic system because of the metallic LAV structure.
A single instructor/operator (I/O) trains the crew with the FIST. The I/O station allows selection of weather conditions, time of day, composition of friendly and enemy forces, ammunition quantity, time standards, and vehicle locale. The system's Compaq (DEC) Alpha host computer can "drive" the vehicle to train just the commander and gunner, or can teach the gunner alone. Commercial 120V, 60 Hz, 30A power is supplied externally to run the simulation and vehicle systems--eliminating any use of vehicle electric power with its hazard potential of inadvertent vehicle travel or turret movements--and avoiding complex patching into vehicle hydraulics. Modular design allows a crew of three to set up the FIST in two hours. And Rick Wrenn, UNITECH project manager, says this includes cabling for video, audio, sensors and controls, data, communications, power, and Ethernet.
He also notes some of the adaptations made to provide realistic control-force feedback. For steering, the steering linkage is dropped and an appropriate torsion spring brake added to produce steering-column "feel." A BEI (Goleta, CA) encoder on the steering wheel (also used on the gun elevation and traverse controls) provides feedback to the visual displays and simulated systems. A separate odometer, tachometer, and gearshift are used, however, since these mechanisms do not function when the vehicle is not literally running. Interestingly, Wrenn adds, the appended brake and accelerometer sensors were adapted by a sharp-thinking design engineer who found suitable units at an auto parts store. The rugged EGR valve sensors are economical to buy but built for a demanding environment.
LAV-FIST simulator use has given Marine units more productive "live fire" when actually using the vehicles, as well as more quality combat-training time. Potential civilian applications for appended trainers may include such "high-risk" systems as emergency vehicles and locomotives.