Feeds

How to simulate a light armoured vehicle

Thales Australia reveals tech behind trainers for eight-wheeled monster

The Power of One eBook: Top reasons to choose HP BladeSystem

The Australian Light Armoured Vehicle (ASLAV) is an eight-wheeled, 13,450-kilogram monster, which bristles with a grenade launcher, a pair of machine guns and a 25 millimetre M242 “Bushmaster” chain gun.

The ASLAV can carry six troops in addition to its three crew. Two of the latter ride inside the vehicle's turret, where the Gunner must be able to aim the Bushmaster in accordance with the instructions of fellow turret-dweller, the Crew Commander.

Australia has a large fleet of ASLAVs – more than 250 are in service – with many currently deployed in places like Afghanistan.

The vehicles get a lot of use, so it makes sense to use simulators for training. Thales Australia built the first nine such machines and has recently been engaged to build another set. When we heard that news, we decided to ask them how they'll do it.

The answers, provided by Tony Landers, Thales Australia’s Director of Business Development - Maritime & Aerospace, are revealing. But not too revealing – in order to write this story we had to agree to vetting by the Australian Department of Defence.

So what did we learn? Well … we expected the simulator would re-create the interior of the ASLAV, which indeed features a mock ammo belt for the Bushmaster and other similarly high-verisimilitude accoutrements.

What we didn't expect was Landers' insight that manufacturers of the various internal fittings of vehicles like the ASLAV now have half an eye on simulation market. Some items in the mocked-up interiors of the simulators are therefore identical to those found in actual vehicles, save for their simulator-ready USB interfaces.

The new simulators will also be joined, for the first time, by a desktop tool that runs on touch screens instead of a mock vehicle.

The Australian Light Armored Vehicle (ASLAV)

An Australian Light Armoured Vehicle

Which is not to say that assembling a simulator is as simple as daisy-chaining a stack of USB hubs: there's still plenty of bespoke electronics work to be done, which Landers explains in the context of the ASLAV's periscope. “We designed optical paths to LCD screens sitting at the end of tube that simulates a periscope,” he explains. “We built all the I/O and control it from the application software on the servers.” A team of nearly 30 spent three years building that kind of thing for the first nine simulators.

That team was helped by a Thales product called SETHI product that simulates a battlefield environment, animating enemies with artificial intelligence while creating a realistic 3D world.

The tricky part of building simulators, Landers says, is not necessarily the hardware or software. Instead, he says “the devil is in the detail, especially understanding the level of fidelity you need to teach the student the task. You could spend a large fortune simulating every element of a device to 100% accuracy, but that might not be required for training. You need to understand training design to understand what to build.”

For the ASLAV simulator, that means a “motion platform” that simulates working in a moving vehicle is not necessary. Students do get haptic feedback from the Bushmaster, but it is not felt that making the simulator rock and roll has a training benefit.

The new generation of simulators will refine the work from the first nine units. An important refinement will only be visible in the server rack that powers the sim. SETHI runs across almost two dozen servers which live in the same shipping container that houses the simulators. Landers said the servers run a mix of Windows and Linux, pack the most powerful graphics cards available at the time of building and house a number of virtual machines. The next-generation design requires just over a dozen servers, a number that has come down thanks to virtualisation.

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
Apple fanbois SCREAM as update BRICKS their Macbook Airs
Ragegasm spills over as firmware upgrade kills machines
HIDDEN packet sniffer spy tech in MILLIONS of iPhones, iPads – expert
Don't panic though – Apple's backdoor is not wide open to all, guru tells us
Mozilla fixes CRITICAL security holes in Firefox, urges v31 upgrade
Misc memory hazards 'could be exploited' - and guess what, one's a Javascript vuln
NO MORE ALL CAPS and other pleasures of Visual Studio 14
Unpicking a packed preview that breaks down ASP.NET
Captain Kirk sets phaser to SLAUGHTER after trying new Facebook app
William Shatner less-than-impressed by Zuck's celebrity-only app
Cheer up, Nokia fans. It can start making mobes again in 18 months
The real winner of the Nokia sale is *drumroll* ... Nokia
EU dons gloves, pokes Google's deals with Android mobe makers
El Reg cops a squint at investigatory letters
Chrome browser has been DRAINING PC batteries for YEARS
Google is only now fixing ancient, energy-sapping bug
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.