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EXECUTIVE VIEWPOINT – Dan Gelston, President CAE’s Defence & Security Group

EXECUTIVE VIEWPOINT – Dan Gelston, President CAE’s Defence & Security Group


President of CAE’s Defense & Security Group

With the advent of augmented reality / virtual reality headsets, networked computers, and individualized instruction, military training is undergoing a fundamental shift from the ‘one size fits all’ classroom-based approach of years past.

CAE’s Defense & Security Business Group is at the cutting edge of this shift, according to Group President, Daniel Gelston. In a one-on-one conversation with CDR’s Ottawa Bureau Chief, James Careless, Gelston outlined his company’s response to 21st-century military training.

CDR: Dan, thank you for speaking with me. With complex, near-peer threats facing modern defence forces, what is the impact on training?

Dan Gelston: Hi James. There’s no question that modern training solutions are needed to deter and, if necessary, fight and win a complex battle against a near-peer or peer competitor. As many countries invest heavily in emerging technologies such as hypersonics, artificial intelligence, autonomy, advanced space technologies, quantum computing, integrated sensing, and advanced cybersecurity measures, to name a few, we are seeing a profound impact on training needs.

These advancements in technology have created a much more complex, multi-domain, multi-tiered environment that we’re fighting in, and requires elevated training. If you don’t train how you fight, you’re not going to be successful. There’s an old saying, the more you sweat in training, the less you bleed in battle. The better we emulate that multi-domain, multi-person, multi-unit environment, the better we’re going to train our military personnel for the potential fight ahead.


CDR: How is this shift changing CAE’s approach to training solutions?

Dan Gelston: As the world’s leading pure-play, platform independent training and simulation company, we must provide solutions across all five battlespace domains [air, land, sea, space, cyber] through more modular, scalable, and agile environments. Depending on our customer’s requirements, we can provide synthetic training and, at the same time, link that training into other assets and trainees around the world.

By really focusing on modular, open architectures with secure connectivity, I think we’re overcoming this traditional silo that’s always kind of limited synthetic training, which has pushed customers to live exercises / training. Don’t get me wrong, the in-person approach has got a lot of excellent aspects to it, but it is very costly, difficult to organize, has environmental impacts, and increases exposure to security vulnerabilities and risk.

CDR: What role does training modernization play in creating an advantage for defence forces?

Dan Gelston: Well, I’d really look to the example of Ukraine to answer this question. True military capability isn’t just a country’s weapon systems. Weapons systems, military personnel well-trained on those systems, and decisive leadership working in concert is what really gives you military power. Not only to deter the adversary, but potentially to defeat them. I think if we evaluate the Ukraine conflict, it’s a tremendous example of this. Traditionally, you’d look at the weapon systems and military assets that Russia brings to bear and would assume they have a massive advantage. So why, thankfully might I add, has Russia been so stymied in their campaign? It isn’t a lack of assets giving Russia so much challenge, it’s their lack of effective training and coordinated leadership with those military systems that is making them so ineffective.

“Unlike some of our OEM competitors, training is all that we do,” says Gelston


CDR: Are technological advances alone sufficient to bring about progress in training? If not, what else is needed to enhance training?

Dan Gelston: Connectivity is extremely important. Let’s face it: We don’t have the budget — nobody does, not Canada, not the United States, not Europe — to individually modernize every single siloed training system. So, solutions like the USAF’s Simulators Common Architecture Requirements and Standards (SCARS) program are extremely beneficial. SCARS will integrate and standardize the service’s aircraft training simulators, a cost-effective way to take what we’ve got and make it work better. CAE is the prime contractor on this project. The SCARS capability provides a cyber-hardened network that is open in its architecture yet maintains the strictest of classified requirements that allow linking various training assets and simulators across various domains to engage in a single synthetic training environment.


CDR: How can industry enable faster and more cost-effective solutions to meet the needs of military customers?

Dan Gelston: Biometrics is a big piece of the puzzle and something that CAE has been working on for quite some time; specifically biometrics-enabled AI being used to enable adaptive training.

Let’s use the pilot example. You have a common syllabus that is very linear in fashion, and what it doesn’t capture is each student’s individual abilities. Did they pass that final test with ease? Or was it extremely stressful for the student? With biometrics, we’ve got some amazing abilities to monitor that stress load on the human body, heart rate, sweat, eye gaze, and then use AI to compare that student’s performance across a vast swath of real-time data.

By doing that, you can have a much more adaptive training environment where you can figure out, “okay, we’ve got two pilots, and they both passed this week, but this pilot was literally blowing through this with limited stress. This person can accelerate their training”. Then maybe the person on their left just barely passed. And you realize that they were at the limit of their capability, maybe really inefficient in their eye scanning and looking all over the place. That person probably needs some additional training before they move on. All in all, this kind of advanced AI-enabled technology, particularly neat stuff like biometrics, gives us what every customer is looking for – better, faster, and cost-effective ways to achieve readiness.

CDR: Finally, what is CAE doing to enable defence customers to achieve their training modernization goals?

Dan Gelston: We’re not beholden to specific platforms like some of our OEM competitors are. We really can train and support any and all platforms across air, land, sea, space, cyber; you name it. Unlike OEMs, where training is probably secondary or even tertiary to the selling of major platforms, training is all that we do. It’s all we do in both the military and civilian sectors.

Finally, we’ve seen the onslaught of civilian platforms being used for military purposes, such as Bombardier’s Global 6500 or Boeing’s 737. CAE can leverage its civilian investments to bring economies of scale and expertise to defence. I really don’t see anyone else having that advantage of size, scale, and breadth across the domain of platforms – particularly in the air tier – that CAE has.

CDR: Thank you.

James Careless is CDR’s Ottawa Bureau Chief

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