One of the interesting conversations I had down at the Riverine training week at Fort Knox last month was with an instructional systems specialist who works for the Naval Air Warfare Center training systems shop down in Orlando.
The guy -- who I'll keep anonymous since he didn't clear our conversation with the PAO -- has been working since May interviewing instructors (all of whom are either former SEALs or SWCC Sailors) to figure out what would be needed for a potential Riverine craft simulator. He then sat down with the crews for a week and interviewed them.
"First I asked them, what is it that they do?" our NAVAIR friend said of his conversations with instructors and crews. "They each came up with a task list; and we're looking at how in the world of technology we can come alongside that list and simulate what's on it."
He then came down to Knox to ride around in the riverine craft to see for himself.
The expert admitted that it was a hard task. Sure, the Navy can make pretty realistic flight simulators and there's the ever-important fire simulators that teach Sailors how to fight flames on a ship. But our source admitted that there are so many factors that go into simulating movement on the water -- not to mention firing from that platform and creating the dynamic environments where the Riverine Sailors would fight.
"The gleam in the eye is a full blown boat simulator," our source said. But that would entail making a simulator big -- and dynamic -- enough to handle seven crew positions (five gunners and a coxswain and boat captain).
"Then there's a reality check," he admitted. "We're trying to create a system as realistic as is beneficial. You can't give them a river in Venezuela."
Basically NAVAIR is looking into whether this could be done at a cost that's reasonable, given the expense of maintaining, running, convoying to training areas and firing on their current fleet of river boats.
"We're here to see if there's a bang for their buck," the NAVAIR source said.
He'll submit a report of his findings in a couple weeks and the engineers will do some trades to see if it's doable.