Integration and Effectiveness of Military Training Simulations 

Wargaming is not a new concept but has been used for centuries to prepare military forces to overcome certain scenarios. Today, wargaming remains a top priority for the US military, as it is crucial to train service members in realistic operational environments. However, with rising costs, resource limitations, and safety concerns, modeling and simulation (M&S) can be a viable tool that can help address these issues while still accomplishing training objectives. There is not much empirical data to quantify the effectiveness of simulation-based training, but anecdotally it has proved to be beneficial.

Some examples include implementing simulations to support training of complex warfare scenarios using live, virtual, constructive (LVC) simulations, enhancing the tactical skills and procedures of pilots, and assisting decision-makers develop strategic plans, understand capabilities, and analyze all possible outcomes. By using simulation-based training, US forces have a significant advantage over its adversaries and will be more prepared against any obstacle.


Conducting economical military wargaming exercises for retaining job proficiency, readiness, and efficiency can be accomplished by implementing augmented or virtual training simulations.

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Currently, joint military exercises are expensive. The joint US-South Korea Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercise costs approximately $14 million annually [1]. This is only one of many combat exercises that the US is involved in. Moreover, these military exercises cannot explore a deep breadth of varying scenarios, and they are limited to available resources and personnel. Modeling and Simulation (M&S) can help reduce the costs of joint exercises while still providing a training environment with high fidelity.

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Using M&S at the joint operational level is only one example of M&S capabilities. M&S has been implemented in training combat operators, pilots, and other jobs with great risks or high hazards.


A challenge that the US military faces,is that there are significant areas of improvement within military wargaming, specifically training – some examples include cost, safety, and risk. Modern military conflicts highlight the growing importance of having a knowledgeable tactical advantage over US adversaries. John Warden, an architect of the Air Campaign against Iraq, stated, “If something is going to be done in war, it ought to be practiced in peace, and if it has not been practiced, losses are likely to be high and the plan is unlikely to go to plan [2].” Training is a top priority in ensuring national security. Integrating effective training simulations within the US military can help resolve or improve upon current training programs while maintaining readiness and performance within service members.


NATO defines wargaming as “A simulation of a military operation, by whatever means, using specific rules, data, methods and procedures [3].” The act of wargaming and strategic military planning to overcome an opposing force on the battlefield is centuries old, dating back to ancient Rome. The Roman Army would conduct live trainings between two military bodies that emulated actual environments Roman troops would encounter [4]. The concept of using simulations for training military entities has always been around, but it is now used on a larger scale. A simple wargame taxonomy splits wargaming into analytical/research and training (education). The analytical subsection of wargaming helps decision makers understand current/future capabilities, force development, and procedures for strategic and operational planning. The training subsection helps with training not only an entire force, but train decision makers and service members at an individual and team level. Modern live wargaming exercises are far more complex than during the Roman empire, and there exists numerous areas of improvements. For example,

  1. to conduct a live joint naval exercise, it requires using assets from other US departments and allied countries. Using said assets can be costly. Moreover, assets such as military airframes, have had their life expectancy shortened because of the high operational tempo over the last decade and need to be preserved for operational missions not exercises.
  2.  Live exercises can only expose a target audience to a limited number of scenarios with no repeatability. For example, to test a crew’s capability to respond to an opposing force, it may require multiple trials if the crew is unable to react appropriately. Repeatability is crucial for reinforcing established strategic, operational, and tactical procedures.
  3. Conducting live scenarios always runs the risk of personnel getting injured. The National Defense Authorization Act found that nearly four times as many US troops died in training accidents in 2017 than in combat with the House Armed Service Committee counting 80 non-combat training related accidents to the 21 combat related casualties.


Enhancing US military training procedures is important for national security, endeavors with foreign nations, and identifying the capabilities of current systems. The goal of implementing M&S within military training programs is to better prepare service members in combat, joint operations, job proficiency, and situational awareness. In the past, M&S was used to enhance military capabilities during the Gulf War in 1991. US armored forces used simulators as a training resource for wargaming in desert battlefields. Simulation training in the Gulf War not only reduced training costs, but also lowered casualty rates and lead to higher success rates [7]. Since then, the importance of training simulations has only increased. In the US Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 budget, the Department of Defense (DoD) placed priority on advancing technologies, which included wargaming and the development of new battlefield operating concepts [8]. M&S is a viable tool for enhancing and supporting training environments at a lower cost.


Simulation Approaches

There are different ways to implement M&S into military training programs, and it is depending on differing variables – commander’s objectives, budget, priority, etc. Live simulations have been in place for centuries; these are actual in-person exercises. Live exercises are considered simulations because they are not conducted against an actual adversary. There are limitations and draw-backs with live simulations, a big one being cost. Another approach would be to use virtual simulations. Virtual simulations are simulations of real people operating simulated systems; for example, flight simulators for fighter pilots. Virtual simulations can be cheaper than live simulations but will not have as high fidelity or resolution. Moreover, the resolution of a virtual simulation is limited by the hardware used; however, using a mouse and keyboard may be sufficient enough for one learning objective, and using more realistic equipment/tools are required to accomplish another. Constructive simulations are simulations consisting of simulated people operating simulated systems responding to inputs entered by real people.

For example, if a military user inputs instructions for a unit to move and engage a target, the constructive simulation would determine the speed, engagement procedure, and damage inflicted [9]. Constructive simulations are the cheapest but have the lowest fidelity. Constructive simulations are used primarily at a higher level, mostly to help decision makers develop strategies and make decisions without risking lives or resources. Finally, Live, Virtual, Constructive (LVC) simulations are the most effective method of implementing M&S into military training. LVC simulations are a cost-effective combination of all described simulations into one. They provide a customizable training environment based on the desired level of interaction and resolution for military personnel at all levels, e.g. combatant commanders to soldiers on the ground [10].

Required Technical Advances

Using M&S, especially LVC simulations, requires some advancement when integrating them in the DoD. 1) Interoperability, the ability of systems to exchange information and operate in conjunction, still remains a challenge from 1996 [11]. Developing a high-level architecture is required to address this issue. A 2014 case study was conducted on an LVC simulation of a complex warfighting scenario, a flight and anti-air missile defense operation. Creating a simulation framework for their complex scenario proved to be a challenging task because it required integrating various different simulations at a high level to have an adequate level of interoperability to produce a common operating picture for all personnel to understand [10]. 2) Increasing the fidelity, scale, and resolution of the simulations are other considerations for training progression. Simulations need to behave closer to the real-world scenarios they are simulating. The closer the training environment is to the battlefield; the better prepared individuals will be. 3) Creating robust hardware components that are easy to use and capable. Augmented reality (AR) was used to facilitate training C-130 loadmasters. Although the AR system was found to be “far superior” to “checklists and class discussion”, the AR headset was found to be uncomfortable, hampered their vision, and the reaction time of the software was too slow [12]. 4) Large complex simulations need stronger processing and computing power to handle the simulation requirements or need optimization.


There has been plenty of anecdotal evidence that virtual training simulations work, but there is a lack of empirical data to provide metrics behind its effectiveness. The preferable methodology for validation would be to collect concrete data based off the performance of troops who have used the simulation, but it is expensive. Most of the time, to validate a simulation, subject matter experts (SMEs) determine, based off their experience, how effective the simulation is for accomplishing certain objectives [13]. However, there is one case study that validated a training simulation by collecting empirical data based off the performance of experienced and novice US soldiers who were trained to clear a room via traditional or virtual instruction. The virtual training was conducted using the Military Open Simulator Enterprise Strategy (MOSES) simulator. The simulator primarily used a keyboard and mouse. Soldiers were then assessed in a live test with a “GO” or “NO-GO” rating. With the novice soldiers after their second round, 77.4% of soldiers trained traditionally passed and 82.7% of soldiers trained virtually passed. The data in the study showed that soldiers trained via virtual means were more likely to obtain a “GO” rating in a live assessment [14]. The study also found that when virtually trained students were paired with instructor feedback, their performance increased. For the future, there needs to be more empirical data collected to determine quantifiably the effectiveness of training systems.


The impact of implementing military training simulations is limitless. Training simulations have been applied to flight operations, joint naval exercises, combat scenarios, etc. Each application has seen favorable results. It should be noted that training simulations are not a blanketed solution for all training purposes, but that it can be used as an effective tool for reducing costs and enhancing training.

Reducing Cost

Using M&S in military training programs have allowed service members to train more effectively while reducing costs. One example would be how M&S is used for supporting coalition exercises for carrier and expeditionary strike group commanders (CSG/ESG) for the US Navy. Fleet Synthetic Training (FST) implements LVC simulations to enhance and improve upon military exercises. There has been over sixty FST events since its creation that have provided dynamic and complex scenarios for all levels of joint / multi-national force operations [15]. FST events can range from five to ten days and include planned / dynamic events to evaluate and train sailors either in-port or under-way. Overall, FST-joint event scenarios have provided fidelity and training that ensured strike groups were certified as Major Combat Operations-Ready (MCO-R) prior to deployment at 10% of the cost of live training exercises [15].

 Effective Training

The impact of training simulations within a flying squadron has allowed combat pilots to train in a safe environment while improving their capabilities. At Williams Air Force Base, Arizona, a team of qualified F-15 pilots evaluated a F-15 simulation. During their evaluation, the pilots highlighted key advantages of using the simulation. Aside from lower training costs, the pilots were able to analyze any event immediately after it had occurred. This is crucial for instructing student pilots, because it provides immediate feedback upon their actions. Another highlight of the simulation was the repeatability of specific scenarios. More dangerous or complex flying scenarios, such as reacting to surface-to-air missiles or egress tactics could be practiced multiple times so students could gain a better understanding without using additional fuel or flight time. Finally, the simulation allowed for mission performance to be recorded to be used later as reference for assessing training progression or for comparison with future scenarios [16]. Overall, simulation training has significantly enhanced training compared to just traditional means.

My Desired Role

My goal is to use M&S to continue to enhance military training operations. I would like to work alongside SMEs to provide cost-effective high-fidelity simulations that will help improve individual cognitive and physical skills, team cohesion, and situational awareness. My desire is that my simulations provide decision maker’s with accurate models that can replicate current systems and the operational environment to strengthen US capabilites. Moreover, through modeling current systems, I would be able to identify any capability gaps that need improvement. As I progress through my career, I want to collect empirical data to show the effectiveness of my simulations and their benefit to the DoD. Most of the foundational skills I will need, I will learn in my undergraduate degree; however, to gain experience, I plan on working under the Naval Sea Command in Virginia Beach, Virginia or the Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems Division in Orlando, Florida.


The implementation of M&S for military wargaming application has been proven effective in reducing costs and enhancing training and readiness among individuals and groups. From LVC simulations to support joint naval exercises to F-15 pilot training simulations, M&S has significantly impacted a current challenge the US faces. However, current simulations can still be improved upon. The training simulations in 2027 may leverage artificial intelligence to create more realistic entities with their own “digitally engineered personalities.” Farther than that, in 2037, we might see training simulations conducted with or by fully autonomous systems [17]. In conclusion, M&S can provide a rewarding a career that helps overcome US training obstacles.


  1. A. Macias, ‘CNBC,’ CNBC, 12 July 2018. [Online]. Available: [Accessed 16 November 2018].
  2. D. Cosma and M. P. Stanic, ‘IMPLEMENTING A SOFTWARE MODELING – SIMULATION IN MILITARY TRAINING,’ Revista Academiei Fortelor Terestre, vol. 16, no. 2, pp. 204-215, 2011.
  3. The Development, Concepts and Doctrine Centre, Wargaming Handbook, Wiltshire: Ministry of Defense, 2017.
  4. J. A. Sokolowski and C. M. Banks, Principles of Modeling and Simulation: A Multidisciplinary Approach, Hoboken: Wiley, 2009.
  5. J. Mchale, ‘Training in a virtual world is cost effective,’ Military Embedded Systems, 10 October 2012. [Online]. Available: [Accessed 17 November 2018].
  6. M. F. Annenberg, ‘U.S. MILITARY TRAINING NEARLY FOUR TIMES DEADLIER THAN COMBAT,’ 24 June 2018. [Online]. Available: [Accessed 17 November 2018].
  7. K.-H. Chang, Y.-C. Chang and H.-Y. Chung, ‘A Novel AHP-Based Benefit Evaluation Model of Military Simulation Training Systems,’ Mathematical Problems in Engineering, vol. 2015, pp. 1-14, 2015.
  8. P. Towell and L. M. Williams, ‘Defense: FY2017 Budget Request, Authorization, and Appropriations,’ Office of Management and Buget , 28 June 2017. [Online]. Available: [Accessed 17 November 2018].
  9. Modeling and Simulation Coordination Office, ‘Modeling and Simulation (M&S) Glossary,’ 1 October 2011. [Online]. Available: [Accessed 17 November 2018].
  10. K. Kim, T. Park, J. Pastrana , M. Marin, E. A. Cortes , L. C. Rabelo and G. Lee, ‘MODELING OF COMPLEX SCENARIOS USING LVC SIMULATION,’ in Winter Simulation Conference, Orlando, 2014.
  11.  G. Funaro, ‘Measures of Effectiveness for Live, Virtual, Constructive Integrated Architectures,’ in SISO Conference, 2009.
  12.  M. A. Livingston, L. J. Rosenblum, D. G. Brown, G. S. Schmidt, . S. J. Julier, Y. Baillot, E. Swan II, Z. Ai and P. Maassel, ‘Military Applications of Augmented Reality,’ Naval Research Laboratory, Washington.
  13. G. V. Jean, ‘Show Me,’ National Defense, vol. 93, no. 661, pp. 46-49, 2008.
  15.  L. Parent, Interviewee, Fleet Synthetic Training. [Interview]. 1 November 2018.
  17. G. W. Allen, R. Lutz and R. Richbourg, ‘Live, Virtual, Constructive, Architecture Roadmap Implementation and Net-Centric Environment Implications,’ ITEA, vol. 31, no. 3, pp. 355-364, 2010.

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Integration and Effectiveness of Military Training Simulations . (2022, Jan 01). Retrieved from

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