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Fleet Synthetic Training Gets the Fleet Ready in a Virtual Battlespace

23 January 2020

From George Lammons

For a decade, Sailors in all of the Navy’s carrier strike groups (CSG), expeditionary strike groups (ESG), and amphibious readiness groups (ARG) have prepared for deployments with an exercise in a virtual environment called Fleet Synthetic Training.
For a decade, Sailors in all of the Navy’s carrier strike groups (CSG), expeditionary strike groups (ESG), and amphibious readiness groups (ARG) have prepared for deployments with an exercise in a virtual environment called Fleet Synthetic Training.

Fleet Synthetic Training allows Sailors assigned to any deployable platform, ashore or in classrooms prepare for deployments in an artificial environment that is geographically and seasonally appropriate for the deployment theater and time of year. Regardless of physical location, deploying Sailors can train in real time with the same setting and the same scenario.

“The whole program is designed to get all the different warfare communities – air, surface, special warfare, information warfare, expeditionary warfare – working together to support the strike group commander and staff,” said David Fishbaugh, Training Specialist for Naval Information Forces (NAVIFOR) Fleet Synthetic Training, and retired senior chief aerographer’s mate, the Navy’s enlisted meteorology and oceanography (METOC) rating.

U.S. Fleet Forces and U.S. Pacific Fleet established the program in 2007. Tactical Training Group Atlantic (TTGL) in Norfolk and Tactical Training Group Pacific (TTGP) in San Diego operate the program. Exercises involve every warfare area and every unit in the CSG, ESG or ARG, and are run for every staff before the groups deploy. The teams can also develop exercises to the unit level if a particular commanding officer requests it. Fleet Synthetic Training has become a regular part of pre-deployment training for all deployable groups.

The Fleet Synthetic Training METOC team loads historic data on systems that operate parallel to but separate from regular warfare systems and provide this virtual battlespace. Sailors and aviators participate from any location – ships at sea or still undergoing pre-deployment maintenance, or pilots in their aircraft or flight simulators. Regardless of the physical location or where they are in the deployment schedule, everyone sees the same readouts and data at the same time. TTGL and TTGP have elaborate mock watchfloors, and aircraft carriers have spaces correspondingly redesigned for the exercises.

“The training events are designed as if they are really out to sea involved in warfighting operations,” Fishbaugh said.

Fleet Synthetic Training also includes realistic, synthetic physical environments to simulate operations in a number of challenging conditions. A four-person team manages the METOC data with team members in San Diego, Norfolk and Monterrey, California, where the historic weather data sets exist; and at Stennis Space Center, co-located with the Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command, the Navy’s operational oceanography and meteorology command. Team members in Monterrey co-located with Fleet Numerical Meteorology and Oceanography Center pull and position the atmospheric data from the COAMPS-OS weather model database for use during exercise events. The ocean data sets exist at the Naval Oceanographic Office, also located at Stennis. Atmospheric and ocean data comes from actual METOC data sets saved from past reports.

Prior to an exercise the CSG Commander’s staff works with TTGL or TTGP to decide the environmental conditions. Exercise managers from each warfare area pick conditions that match the Commander’s parameters that are also appropriate for the CSG’s ultimate deployment site and for the season in that part of the world.

The Fleet Synthetic Training METOC team works with both TTGL and TTGP in coordinating the historical METOC environment to be used. The team selects the appropriate data sets in two to five months prior to the start of an exercise.

Exercise managers also can tailor the conditions, within the Commander’s parameters, for parts of the CSG that a department head or commanding officer wants a particular crew to face.

“The goal is to assist deployable units in understanding the capabilities of their Sailors and systems before they deploy over the horizon,” Fishbaugh said.

“The Fleet requires the highest fidelity virtual battlespace for Fleet Synthetic Training to prepare for operations in the era of renewed Great Powers Competition our Information Warfare team delivers,” said Vice Adm. Brian Brown, commander, NAVIFOR. “We are critical to ensuring the fleet’s readiness and warfighting effectiveness.”


Commander, Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command | 1100 Balch Blvd. | Stennis Space Center, Mississippi 39529

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