Improbable Defence

Automating Exonaut: making training management richer and more rigorous than ever

In this blog series, we look at how specialists across industry are using Improbable’s synthetic environment development platform, Skyral, to collaborate in new ways and help defence transform how it trains.

By Vince Gapay, Product Owner

This morning, as the kettle boiled for a brew, I chanted the usual: “Alexa, play Radio One.”

Thirty minutes later and suitably caffeinated, I pulled on my trainers, set my smartwatch and went for a run. Good news – I set a personal best and my trusty watch tracked everything.

Back at home, I scrolled through my go-to news app for the latest headlines. Now, I’m writing this.

I promise I have a point to make: that data underpins all of the above to power an interconnected Internet of Things.

It’s a mark of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Huge volumes of open, accessible data are driving technological innovation and keeping us more connected than ever. And while we might be closer – technically speaking – the irony is palpable in a time of renewed Great Power competition.

The shattering of peace brought about by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, coupled with a data-driven change in the character of war, has shifted the threat landscape significantly. Web-enabled misinformation, cyber attacks and grey-zone operations are more prevalent than ever. Once again, data underpins each.

It has a lot to answer for, then. But thanks to data, we’re able to keep pace with this changing character of war through unprecedented technological innovation. Take collective training: through the application of data, we can take it to new-found heights. It’s data that drives Exonaut, a tool from 4C Strategies built for managing collective training exercises, including planning, execution and analysis. And it’s data that will see Exonaut integrate with Skyral via an API to make each of these stages more nuanced, detail-rich and efficient.

Exonaut: harnessing data to train for complex future warfare

Simply put, Exonaut is a no-brainer for better collective training. It’s mandated as the training management system of the British Army and provides personnel the means to plan, design, execute, analyse and exploit training, turning useful training data and information into actionable insight.

Using Exonaut, facilitators are able to design an exercise around Collective Training Objectives (CTOs). Once the exercise is underway, observer-mentors evaluate the training audience, using both subjective and objective metrics to assess whether a unit or an individual has met the associated CTO based on how they’ve performed in response to the designed mission and incident scenarios. 

For instance, if mass protests were to form in one part of the collective training environment, the observer-mentor might mark users against a CTO of successful crowd control. 

Once the exercise is completed, after action review takes place. Facilitators conduct analysis and aggregate the resultant insight into a report that allows personnel to better understand the training as it happened and how it can be conducted more successfully in future.

Automatic observations for more focused training management

You’ll note the need for human-in-the-loop interaction throughout the stages above. Observer-mentors and exercise controllers play a huge part throughout the planning, execution and analysis phases by preparing, watching and marking events as they unfold. But what if we could ease their burden so they can focus solely on those aspects of the exercise they’re most concerned with, safe in the knowledge that every incident, event and user response is being automatically captured for after action review?

Our collaboration with 4C Strategies aims to capture this. Exonaut will integrate with Skyral for added granularity, surety and contextual richness.

An exercise planned in Exonaut but executed on Skyral will capture user statistics at both an individual and collective level. These observations take place automatically, triggered via Skyral and pushed through to Exonaut without the need for observer-mentor interaction.

Such events and triggers couldn’t happen without the help of other specialist technologies, made possible through ongoing partner collaboration. To use my colleague’s piece on SimCentric’s SAF-TAC as an example: a user in SAF-TAC’s first-person training environment who – wisely or unwisely – cocks their weapon in a crowd of civilians could have this action flagged by Skyral and automatically noted in Exonaut, ready for after action review at an individual level. This degree of insight might mean a possible re-briefing in the short-term, but better training performance in future. 

More broadly, Skyral will detect large-scale events such as fire missions, mass fleeing and mass civilian casualties and generate an automatic Exonaut observation with pre-filled, contextually relevant data. An observation marker is then placed on the master timeline and Exonaut informs the appropriate user for further comment on the observation. 

To put this into practice: let’s say a protest has gone wrong, injected by the facilitator. Gunfire erupts and mass fleeing results. The number of civilian casualties is automatically captured by Skyral and beamed to Exonaut. It’s a boon for observer-mentors, providing objective evidence and saving them precious time and effort when previously these same casualties would have been manually counted and recorded.

Because of its integration with Exonaut and other specialist applications, Skyral stands as the single source of truth for such data. Analyst tools can access a wealth of data from multiple sources via a single interface for more holistic, streamlined analysis.

Bringing clarity to complexity through smarter data

Saving facilitators, observer-mentors and decision makers time so they can spend it on what matters strikes at the heart of what we aim to achieve by integrating Exonaut with Skyral. As threats get more complex, so too do the missions conducted to tackle them. And so too does the training that supports these missions, limiting the ability for facilitators to detect significant events for observation and review. If we can ease this burden through automation, we give personnel the breathing space to focus, hone in and extract the right kind of data. 

It’s not a coincidence that we’ve come full circle to that word. Data drives today’s most forward-looking simulations and defence synthetics. And the more nuanced and focused the data, the better we can glean actionable insight for better training, wiser decisions and more confident warfighters.

The Skyral Partner Network consists of organisations that share our commitment to developing the best possible capabilities and getting them into the hands of end users fast