Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Simulations – An Increasingly Effective Tool For Trial & Testing

By Gp Capt. Anupam Banerjee (r.) 

Gp Capt. Anupam Banerjee (r.), Consultant, SIDM

In a significant but not very publicised move on 6th August 2021, the Ministry of Defence had issued guidelines on using software-based and other simulation platforms in the trial evaluation process of Defence Equipment. This concept of a trial evaluation incorporating simulation/certification intends to focus on a timely and cost-effective approach with systematic progress towards Simulation and Certification, which is the trend world over. The primary method towards trials is proposed to be hinging upon the following;

  • Integrity of Evaluation Process- It is imperative that the integrity of the Trial evaluation process is maintained at all times.
  • Core and Critical Parameters- Evaluation of Core & Critical parameters may be carried out by physical evaluation, and the same may be supplemented by a simulation/certification based evaluation process. 
  • Non-Critical Parameters- Parameters other than Core and Critical parameters may be evaluated using Simulation Models or through certification, in some instances a combination of physical and Simulation /Certification. 
  • Cost and Time- The overall process would considerably reduce cost and time without compromising the evaluation process. 
  • Infrastructure for Simulation and Certification- Simulation and certification components in the trial evaluation process should get enhanced progressively with the development of suitable infrastructure for simulation and certification. 

Surprisingly, not much was discussed about this critical policy initiative in the public domain. Let us look at what simulation is and precisely how it is used in the trial and testing of military equipment. Humankind has been using simulation as a tool since time immemorial to train, learn and entertain. While simulation is physical, modelling is a symbolic representation of an equipment/system, event or task performance. 

Advancement in computer and other technologies has revolutionised simulation and has also incorporated simulation into a decision-making tool. Computer simulation is a recognised decision support tool, one which has been used in many military applications. Simulation offers the benefit of constructing and analysing multiple “what if” scenarios without disrupting day-to-day operation and training or incurring a high cost.

Simulation, in a way, is the re-creation of a real-world process in a controlled environment. 

It imitates real-world processes or systems, using software-generated models to enable investigation, decision-making, and training. The software generated model represents vital behaviours and characteristics of the process or the system, while the simulation itself represents how the model responds under different conditions over time. Simulations aid understanding and experimentation as the models are both visual and interactive. Simulation systems include discrete event simulation, process simulation and dynamic simulation. 

A simulation is a model that mimics the operation of an existing or proposed system, providing evidence for decision-making by testing many different scenarios. This can be coupled with Virtual Reality technologies for a more immersive experience. Simulations can be used to improve staff performance, safety, and training. Scientifically modelling the systems enables the user to gain insights into the effects of diverse conditions and different courses of action. 

Simulations can also be highly beneficial when the actual systems are inaccessible or too dangerous to access or when a system is in a conceptual or design stage. The key to any successful simulation is the information used to build the model and the protocols for investigation and validation of the model.

The initial concept and application of simulation can be traced to the early 1970s when it was primarily conceptualised and used for aeronautical applications. The democratisation of simulation was predominantly driven by the automotive industry, which resulted in the automotive sector being able to significantly reduce the product development, testing, validation & acceptance timelines, translating into significant cost savings and increased innovation.

Simulation delivers a wide variety of benefits such as:

  • Reduced financial risk – Simulation is less expensive than real-life experimentation, and it allows testing of various scenarios and possibilities while avoiding costly mistakes associated with the real-life experiment.
  • Repeatability of testing – Simulation allows the user to test different scenarios and possibilities, time and again, under the same circumstances. This enables the comparison of other ideas under the same conditions, enabling thorough understanding and well-informed decision making.
  • Ability to predict long term impacts – Simulation allows prediction of the long-term impact of usage of an equipment for many years. This supports different evaluations of both short and long term impacts and supports informed investment decisions, taking into consideration the long-term benefits.
  • Improving the stakeholder buying – Visual simulation can help improve the acceptance between the stakeholders (supplier and the user).

While simulation delivers many significant benefits, as mentioned above, any successful simulation depends on how accurately the equipment or system’s model is defined and how accurately the working environmental conditions are represented in the simulation process. While the simulation models represent ideal situations, real-life experimentation is performed in sub-ideal states, resulting in a factor of difference between the outcomes of the simulation and the real-life tests. 

The tolerance of this factor of difference is influenced by the mission criticality of the system or the equipment, or the simulated situation. It is also essential to highlight that various performance requirements, standards, and specifications must be adhered to during the design of the system or the equipment. 

The design & development agencies deploy digital tools for design, testing & validation. The data generated during the design, testing and validation process can be leveraged and reused for acceptance testing, resulting in a reduced requirement for real-life tests & experimentation. 

Some of the scenarios where simulation has been successfully used for testing, validation, and eventual acceptance of the equipment are detailed below. These simulations have helped in effectively addressing the complexities while at the same time reducing the time and cost involved in conducting real-life validation of these systems.

  • Validating the strength of the arrestor hook mechanism while landing the aircraft on an aircraft carrier and evaluating the impact on the impacted parts of the plane due to stress and deformation.
  • Validating the impact of wind loads of up to 200 km/hr on an antenna’s surface and seismic load’s effect on the pedestal on which the antenna is mounted.
  • Evaluate the sound/noise levels generated when a bullet is fired and as it emerges out the barrel of the gun. 
  • Evaluating the lift and the drag force on the rotor blades of a Quadcopter for the lifting of required payload, climbing up to the flight altitude and encountering gust wind-load ranging from 0-80 km/hr.

These are just a few examples of simulation in the testing of military equipment. The scope of using simulation to validate complex systems is only increasing with each passing day and with an incremental increase in computing powers and path-breaking developmental activity in the fields of quantum computing. Timely adaptation with available technology to make our processes more efficient and cost-effective is the need of the hour. The Ministry of Defence has taken a significant initial step. 

All that is required now is for all stakeholders to accept and integrate simulation incrementally as part of testing and trial procedures, thereby saving time, energy, and money


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