Start & End Date

Navy EW System Maintenance Course Enabled by MRTS 3D

03 December 2021

From Kurt Van Slooten

PENSACOLA, Fla. - Four years in the making, the AN/SLQ-32 (V)6 maintenance course using Multipurpose Reconfigurable Training System (MRTS) 3D trainers is up and running and has completed two pilot rounds of instruction.

What makes this significant is that prior to this the cryptologic technician technical (CTT) rating school responsible for training all CTT Sailors on the AN/SLQ-32 (V)6 system only had one actual system, with a price tag of roughly $12 million, which was frequently out of commission resulting in wasted training time and money.

CTT Training Lead, Master Chief Cryptologic Technician Technical Ryan Hartman, explained that upon arrival he was tasked with the rollout of a MRTS 3D enabled AN/SLQ-32 (V)6 course to train their maintainers and get their pipeline back up to speed.

“So, I got here in late 2017, the total throughput scheduled for the year was 24 total students, significantly below fleet demand signal,” said Hartman.

Through creative problem-solving, Hartman his team were able to increase the number of student throughput with the system they had, but due to other constraints, they knew that these gains were unsustainable. The mission to create the MRTS 3D trainer enabled classes to train the maintainers was essential, just as the mission of the actual system in the fleet. The AN/SLQ-32 v6 is the principal electronic warfare system used on many Navy surface ships, a key component of the Navy’s Ship Self Defense System.

Using MRTS 3D trainers was deemed an appropriate solution because they use gaming technology that most Sailors are familiar with. Through 3D imagery and touch-screen displays, the MRTS 3D trainer allows students to learn to interact with and maintain their systems while seeing a life-like environment onboard a ship.

Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division (NSWC Crane), Hartman explained originally was to supply two AN/SLQ-32 (V)6 systems for the school to use to train students, but due to power concerns on Information Warfare Training Center Corry Station and the need for the systems in the fleet the school was fielded a single system. The price tag for the second AN/SLQ-32 (V)6 in the form of a MRTS 3D trainer, which was built from scratch, was roughly $5.2 million. This was a significant cost savings, especially considering the majority of the cost was the software, which once developed was owned by the Navy. 

Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems Division, responsible for the creation of the MRTS 3D trainers, was in charge of the development of the AN/SLQ-32 (V)6 MRTS 3D trainer. They contracted with ProActive Technologies Inc. to use the USS Bainbridge, a guided missile destroyer, as the subject for image and video capture, and produce the end product.

The AN/SLQ-32 (V)6 maintenance course the way it was originally set up, Hartman said, consisted of one system with six (later eight) students and an instructor. Now with the MRTS 3D classroom, each of the eight students has their own system to work on, as well as a system for the instructor to teach from.

“We just had a second one (AN/SLQ-32 (V)6 MRTS 3D classroom) installed at the beginning of this fiscal year,” said Hartman, “and we have a third that will be coming online in February. Both of those combined only cost us about $270,000, so that is a drastic savings versus the $12 million for the original system.”

As the course had shifted to using virtual systems, the school determined that the curriculum had to be updated to reflect the new training realities. They began the process in the fall of 2020. Then around Christmas time, Hartman said, they stopped all other work in the office and devoted all their time and effort to revising the curriculum to get it ready for their pilot course that February.

“For the pilot we ended up saving three weeks of time, and it goes back to the fact that every single Sailor had their own system to use, they weren’t all waiting to use the one system,” said Hartman. “Not only did we end early, but each Sailor had more hands-on with the system. They were doing more troubleshooting, they were correcting more faults; which is what the fleet asked us to do, more sets and reps.”

We even added a capstone event, said Hartman, where we try to simulate as realistically as possible what they will encounter on the ship. We have a team of two Sailors that are told that the system is broken and given an error code and given an eight-hours, a typical day-shift to fix it.

Cryptologic Technician Technical 1st Class Zachary O’Connor, course supervisor for the AN/SLQ-32(V)6 maintenance course, said, teaching this course on the MRTS 3D system allows students to troubleshoot and follow procedures more efficiently, decreasing system down time and allowing for smooth transitions to different system components. An added benefit is he doesn’t have to worry about damage to the real-world system or the cost to fix it.

Once the new systems are online the accession training pipeline for the CTT’s AN/SLQ-32 course will be bumped up to 144 seats a year, with the limiting factor being instructors to teach the course. This is well above the Navy’s projected needs for fiscal year 22 and 23.

Hartman said they are continuing to make improvements to the course as they get feedback from the instructors and students. As it is a new way of doing business there will be some fine tuning. They are looking at adding some hands-on with the old system, in a powered down status, as a way of connecting the students to their virtual system knowledge gained on the MRTS 3D trainers.

Between the addition of the MRTS 3D systems and streamlining of the course, the Navy has realized a substantial savings for all SLQ-32 technician “C” schools, said Cryptologic Technician Technical 1st Class Thomas Lindsey, Course Curriculum Model Manager for the AN/SLQ-32(V)6 maintenance course. With the merging of content from a prior prerequisite course and updates to curriculum we were able to reduce the time to produce SLQ-32 technicians by 584 hours, reduce the time students were awaiting instruction by 25 percent, increase fleet throughput, and remove the bottleneck issues for CTT maintenance training pipelines. These changes have enabled CIWT to exceed annual through-put requirements without lowering the training standard.

During a visit earlier this year, Vice Adm. Kelly Aeschbach, commander, Naval Information Forces, said she was very interested in the MRTS 3D trainer technology and mentioned she may consider adding it as a training tool to IW Live Virtual Construct (LVC) training facilities in all fleet concentration areas. 

Center for Information Warfare Training delivers trained information warfare professionals to the Navy and joint services, enabling optimal performance of information warfare across the full spectrum of military operations.

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