What does training on a Lockheed Martin C-130 military transport plane, a Humvee all-terrain vehicle and a Mark V Special Operations Craft speedboat have in common? The back of Brett Vonsik’s napkin.
That’s where the Lockheed Martin Global Training and Logistics (GTL) engineer first sketched out the idea in 2010 that would in short order become a military go-to solutions for economical and multi-purpose training simulation—Lockheed Martin’s Multi-Function Training Aid (MFTA). Vonsik and fellow engineers Greg Mikkelson, Tim Martino, and Shawn Muir—who were recently awarded a patent for the MFTA design—were responding to requests from various military trainers for a training demonstrator that would be low cost, realistic and flexible enough to be used for planes, vehicles, boats, you name it.
Vonsik and company created their mock-up with two seats, providing plenty of design flexibility, under an integrated arch echoing a curved fuselage. The simulator had to incorporate 12 touch screens, all networked and connected to a single PC, which could be reconfigured to represent different vehicles. Multiple operators must also be able to manipulate several touch screens all at once. Once that technical feat had been accomplished, which even GTL’s hard to impress “gaming guy” conceded was “awesome,” Martino said they were ready to go. Loaded with Lockheed Martin’s commercial-off-the-shelf Prepar3D® software, the simulator can quickly reconfigure the touch screens to represent control panels from a variety of vehicle options. The total time to develop the MFTA from start to finish netted at six months.
The experience is so realistic that at trade shows and industry events some potential customers couldn’t believe that the simulator is as efficient as advertised. “Nobody could believe we were running this whole thing with a dozen touch screens and out-the-windows displays off one PC,” said Vonsik. “Some people actually wanted up to open up all the panels in the MFTA because they thought we had more computers back there.”