Changing the Vision of Naval Aviation

Rob Wedertz – Director, Navy Programs

Rob Wedertz – Director, Navy Programs

In the very early days of learning to fly the FA-18 as a student in VFA-106 I was scheduled, along with the other students in my class, to attend a NVG (Night Vision Goggle) lab at the simulator facility.  I remember being excited about the prospect of being exposed to a technological “tool” that would remain the backdrop of my tactical flying for the next several years.  As it turned out, the lion’s share of the discussion in the lab that day did NOT focus on the supreme advantages that NVGs would provide on the battlefield, but instead the many limitations of the goggles, that if not considered carefully would place even the most proficient aviator in peril.  The most significant of these limitations was the restricted field of view (FOV).  The NVGs I would fly with over the next few years were early generation technology and design capabilities at the time limited that FOV to only 40 degrees.  To overcome this limitation, pilots had to develop a technique of continually rotating their heads from left to right in order to accurately assess the environment, both on the ground and in the air.  Without doing so was akin to flying with blinders on – not a problem if you’re a racehorse sprinting to the finish line, extremely dangerous if you’re flying a jet in congested airspace at night and at high speeds.  As luck would have it, I did learn to train my body to change the way I viewed the environment and became proficient at not only assessing what was right in front of me (within 40 degrees) but also those things that lay on the periphery.

I use the NVG discussion above often as a metaphor to promote the advantages of changing the way we view our surroundings (i.e. training our bodies to act differently) in order to assess challenges in a more holistic and comprehensive fashion.  From a business perspective, this translates to the premise of assuming a more “enterprise” perspective of challenges and opportunities in order to achieve measurable successes.  To be clear, there are often times when a laser-like focus on what is right in front of you is appropriate.  But doing so for too long is much like staring at the sun.

ProModel’s Naval Synchronization Toolset (NST) is a software-enabled decision support platform that was developed for Naval Air Systems Command to facilitate the pro-active management of the FA-18 inventory.  Much like the first generation NVGs I described above, it provides a high fidelity (limited FOV) perspective of the FA-18 inventory in order to efficiently and effectively extend the lives of FA-18 aircraft to bridge the gap to the introduction of the F-35C.  And while it has provided significant benefit to the FA-18 program office, in its present state it does not include other Navy and Marine Corps assets (i.e. E-2/C-2, MH-60, etc.)  This is potentially about to change…

As outlined in Naval Aviation Vision…

“In today’s environment of constrained resources and geopolitical challenges, the demand for Naval Aviation forces is growing, and the need has never been greater for an enterprise approach to generating readiness. Affordability is approaching the same level of importance as performance. A decade after its formation, Naval Aviation leadership maintains the enterprise approach to generating readiness pioneered by the Naval Aviation Enterprise (NAE). It remains a strong partnership among leaders and stakeholders who ensure Naval Aviation will remain a whole and ready force by creating a cost-wise and collaborative culture of continuous improvement that addresses both current and future readiness requirements.”

Naval Aviation Vision 2014-2025

ProModel has recently been invited by Commander Naval Air Forces to discuss the necessary steps to transition NST from an FA-18-centric platform to one that captures the “enterprise”.  In doing so, the Naval Aviation Enterprise (NAE) would implement a capability that embodies Naval Aviation Vision.  The benefits of doing so are outlined below:

  • As NAVAIR and the NAE face the challenge of providing ready basic aircraft to the fleet and meet readiness requirements, this approach would provide a common methodology and platform to assess all T/M/S. It would provide an “electronic” record of the decisions that were made, the COAs used to reach those decisions and the resulting quantifiable metrics supporting those decisions. The solution is a living representation of the enterprise enabling true decision support.
  • By proactively managing the NAE inventory and making decisions in a low risk environment, cost avoidance associated with non-optimal decisions will be significant. The solution enables stakeholders to see secondary and tertiary impacts of decisions immediately without waiting to collect “real time” metrics.
  • The solution supports both tactical operational and strategic analyses. The ability for key stakeholders to visualize the Health of Naval Aviation predicated on operational schedules, against the backdrop of programmed budgets, and with a constant eye on capabilities and readiness across the enterprise cannot be overstated.
  • A common operating picture of the NAE will provide stakeholders with qualitative and quantitative metrics to influence decisions that should be made today to influence tomorrow.

ProModel is supremely positioned to facilitate the rapid transition of NST from a single platform decision support tool to one that supports the Naval Aviation Enterprise.  As the NAE implements its enterprise perspective initiatives, we will “train our bodies” to assess the landscape in lockstep with them in order to achieve the same successes with the “Enterprise” version of NST.

Incidentally, NVG technology has evolved over the years (wider FOV, less scintillation, etc.)  Ironically, when using the newer technology, it was difficult to adapt muscle movements accordingly.   Fortunately that well-honed muscle memory embedded a more robust scan pattern, and in the end optimized the use of the newer technologies.  The same can be said about the NAE’s initiative to develop a more holistic view of providing aviation assets to the units tasked with carrying out our national security strategy.  That muscle memory will ensure that the NAE is consistently attentive to the needs of the enterprise as it competes for resources, manages limited budgets, and ultimately achieves success sustaining a fighting force that is centered upon warfighting wholeness.

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