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Published by: Chris Nash on Jul 26, 2008
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Clausewitz separately identified ‘‘friction’’ as a
major force on the battlefield. SIMNET can repli-
cate some sources of friction, such as vehicle
breakdowns, but many believe the real world of
the battlefield to harbor a myriad of misadven-
tures not provided for in SIMNET or other mod-


Predictions generated by computerized combat
models are often received with skepticism—how
can a computer program possibly capture such a
complex activity as combat? The issue here is the
validity of models and simulations and, more fun-
damentally, the process—validation—by which
validity is assessed. The Department of Defense
defines validation as ‘‘the process of determining
the degree to which a model or simulation is an ac-
curate representation of the real world from the
perspective of the intended uses of the model or
simulation’’ (153,155,185).
A variety of techniques have been proposed
and used to validate computer models of combat;
they include critical analysis of the data and com-
putational procedures used in the models and
comparison of the outputs (predictions) of models
and simulations to actual outcomes—of historical
battles (e.g., see references 34 and 15) or exercises
(e.g., see references 41 and 141)—or to the predic-
tions of other models and simulations.
Critical analysis of data for correctness is an
element of data verification, validation, and certi-
fication (VV&C). Critical analysis of the com-
putational procedures used in models is called
structural validation, which ‘‘includes examina-
tion of [model and simulation] assumptions and
review of the [model and simulation] architecture
and algorithms in the context of the intended use’’
(174). Comparison of model and simulation out-
puts to outcomes of historical battles is one type of
output validation, which “answers questions on

how well the M&S results compare with the per-
ceived real world’’ (174).
Two related steps in the acceptance process are
often considered along with validation: verifica-
and accreditation. DoD defines verification
as ‘‘the process of determining that a model or
simulation implementation accurately represents
the developer’s conceptual description and speci-
fications’’ (185). It establishes that the computer
code is free of technical ‘‘bugs’’ (i.e., errors37

DoD defines accreditation as ‘‘an official deter-
mination that a model or simulation is acceptable
for a specific purpose’’ (185).
To date, validation of SIMNET has rested
largely on users’ assertions that it ‘‘feels right.’’
Such declarations are evidence of face validity
i.e., that on the face of it the experience is not so
unrealistic as to preclude the intended use. How-
ever, such declarations do not guarantee that the
effectiveness of the vehicle, crew, or unit will be in
combat what it was in simulation. In fact, some
observers worry that SIMNET may feel too
right—that it may be ‘‘seductive’’ (32).
For example, a tank commander must discern
an enemy tank at a distance of a thousand yards or
more, despite the camouflaged appearance of the
enemy and his likely exploitation of concealment
offered by vegetation or terrain. This task pushes
human vision to its limits. Although target ac-
quisition feels the same in SIMNET as in real life
(each requiring great alertness and a quick reac-
tion to the first sign of the barely-detectable en-
emy), real-life target acquisition entails the
interpretation of visual details far too subtle to be
presented on a SIMNET screen, creating a dis-
crepancy in the average distance at which targets
are acquired. Such a discrepancy can be discov-
ered only through a systematic validation effort,
such as one that was undertaken to validate target
acquisition models (205). Other discrepancies,
such as the tank commander’s limited field of
view in an M1 simulator, are more obvious and are


Reference number (78) describes the origin of this use of the word ‘‘bug.’’

36 Distributed Interactive Simulation of Combat

This illustration depicts a virtual battlefield scene such as might be displayed in a Close Combat Tactical Trainer simulator--except the armored

vehicles and aircraft are cut away to show cut-away views of the simulators in which crews are controlling the operation of their simulated vehicles on

the virtual battlefield. Also depicted is the cabling that connects the simulators. The vehicles shown include Abrams tanks (foreground and center), a

Bradley armored fighting vehicle (Ieft, with infantry troops dismounting), an Apache helicopter (above left), a U.S. Air Force A-10 Warthog close air

support aircraft (above Ieft center and above right), dismounted infantry troops (center, beyond Abrams tank), and various enemy vehicles (above
right). Close Combat Tactical Trainer simulators have not yet been built.

SOURCE: U.S. Army, Combined Arms Tactical Trainer Project Manager, 1995.

being addressed in the Army’s Close Combat Tac-

about the Battle of 73 Easting (a tank battle in the

tical Trainer (CCTT) project—the follow-on to

Persian Gulf War). DARPA compared the data to

SIMNET-T (see figure 6).

the results of SIMNET simulations to see how

Various approaches to validating SIMNET

closely the simulated battles compared to the real

through comparison of its results to presumed

one (15). Similar comparisons have been per-


can be imagined. One validation project

formed with constructive models such as CAST-

conducted by DARPA collected detailed data

FOREM (50), the Concepts Evaluation Model


It is sometimes difficult to identify the real world to which a model’s or simulation’s output should be compared: “The basic point about

‘reality’ is the non-existence of general agreement as to what it is.. . .As in science generally, the dichotomy of’ fact’ and ‘theory’ is an oversim-
plification” (140). See also reference number (174).

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