How Virtual Training Makes Naval Superiority a Reality

The captain of the missile frigate could not believe his eyes. His ship was coming under attack simultaneously from two of today’s ‘new naval threats’-- a swarm of drones and hypersonic low-flying missiles.

How to avoid one threat and not expose fatally the ship’s flank to the other?

Multiple scenarios needed to be calculated at the same time. Each involved using the ship’s traditional tools including search by radar and sonar, signal scrambling for electronic warfare, and precise targeting and attack capabilities, both above and under water.

Fortunately, this time, the scenario was a simulation. In fact, it was created precisely to train the ship’s command for that decisive moment in a new environment. That is the moment when digital technologies make immediate sense of the massive information flow available and provide options for the best course of action.

Indeed, Artificial Intelligence, Data Analytics, Connectivity and Cybersecurity applied to naval operations are empowering a quantum shift in the capabilities of naval forces not only to act on their own but to take part in collaborative combat with air and ground forces.

The digital transformation is making possible a ‘new navy’ with all of its classic surveillance, targeting, defence and search and attack tools taken to unprecedented levels of precision and effectiveness through the ingenious application of digital technologies.

Yet, whether it’s a matter of augmented surveillance and fire control, search and attack or self-protection, making that potential a reality depends on one critical success factor: training of the crew.

If the crew isn’t trained properly, it doesn’t matter how advanced the equipment you have on board” acknowledges Admiral Stephane Verwaerde, Thales’s naval advisor on Thales’ training services.


In fact, the digital transformation itself is making possible naval training whose cost and scale through physical exercises had made it prohibitive otherwise, as Admiral Verwaerde explains, “The complexity of naval missions today and the evolving threats make it extremely costly to hold live exercises on a major scale as had been done regularly in the past, particularly given the diversity and number of forces engaged."

The virtual training program through simulation typically begins with specific schools for each naval specialty, including sonar, communications, and electronic warfare.  Then the training is adapted to each ship through virtual exercises that can involve cases of new threats.

Admiral Verwaerde concludes, “In this context, the ability to train crews is essential, up and down the command chain, through digital-based simulators. By creating this virtual exercise with ships, aircraft and command centers, naval superiority as a key element of collaborative combat becomes an attainable objective”.