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Australian Defence Force Builds $1.7m Linux-Based Flight Simulator

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the send-some-love-to-flightgear dept.

Graphics 232

scrubl writes "The Australian Defence Force (ADF) has revealed its latest flight simulator runs on SUSE Linux-based clusters of Opteron servers and uses an open source graphics platform. The Defence Science and Technology Organisation's (DSTO) Air Operations Simulation Centre in Melbourne creates virtual worlds that allow pilots to experience real-world combat situations without leaving the ground. The visuals software was written in OpenGL, using commercial and open source scene graph engines and making 'heavy use of OpenGL Shader Language programs.'"

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232 comments

I want one! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29254485)

I want one! Where can I get myself a sweet flight sim like this?! :-o

Re:I want one! (4, Informative)

ae1294 (1547521) | more than 4 years ago | (#29254539)

I want one! Where can I get myself a sweet flight sim like this?! :-o

In the Australian Defense Force?

Re:I want one! (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29254679)

In the Australian Defense Force?

No in the Australian Defence Force

Re:I want one! (0)

ae1294 (1547521) | more than 4 years ago | (#29254797)

Yeah, ahhh no....

Definitions of defense:
* (military) military action or resources protecting a country against potential enemies; "they died in the defense of Stalingrad";

*WOOOOOOSH*

Re:I want one! (3, Informative)

duguk (589689) | more than 4 years ago | (#29254831)

That's an Americanism [wsu.edu] . We're talking about Australia. The summary even spells it Defence, and how could that be wrong!?

Even their website is defence.gov.au [defence.gov.au] ...

Re:I want one! (2, Funny)

ae1294 (1547521) | more than 4 years ago | (#29254957)

That's an Americanism. We're talking about Australia. The summary even spells it Defence

Did you not see the WOOOOSH?

Re:I want one! (1)

duguk (589689) | more than 4 years ago | (#29255033)

Since when is your deliberate miscorrection of spelling deserving of a wHooosh? Oh, and yeah. its wHoosh, not woosh...

*ironic woosh*

Re:I want one! (5, Funny)

dmbasso (1052166) | more than 4 years ago | (#29254709)

sudo apt-get install oz-flight-simulator

Re:I want one! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29254787)

E: Couldn't find package oz-flight-simulator

Now to simulate some enemies! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29254499)

   

Re:Now to simulate some enemies! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29255107)

Exactly!

Mmmmm, Opterons (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29254509)

Or, I could have bought a 6600, like everybody else.

Kangaroos (2, Funny)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 4 years ago | (#29254531)

Kangaroos with stinger missiles?

Re:Kangaroos (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29254543)

You looked at goatse [goatse.fr] and you liked it.

Re:Kangaroos (1)

hort_wort (1401963) | more than 4 years ago | (#29254643)

Maybe they'll be operating drones this time. It'll be sort of like Star Fox, all the bad guys'll be critters....

It's pretty much a given that they saved money (5, Funny)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 4 years ago | (#29254533)

Instead of going with a licensed OS like Windows or VxWorks, they saved tens of dollars. Smart thinking and good use of money in these tough economic times.

It would be nice to see other departments try to realize these types of gains.

Re:It's pretty much a given that they saved money (3, Interesting)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#29254913)

Tens of dollars? The last military flight sim I played with cost £20m, which is about $32m (or $38m if we're talking Australian $) at the current exchange rate. Possibly costs have come down a lot since then, but they seem to have saved a lot of money somewhere. It was quite fun to fly - panoramic views through the simulated cockpit windows and hydraulic systems moving it in response to my actions - but it was even more fun to sit in the instructors' chair and add a flight in interceptors just as the pilot was coming up for mid-air refuelling.

Re:It's pretty much a given that they saved money (1, Insightful)

BitZtream (692029) | more than 4 years ago | (#29255299)

Which is why the cost savings on running Linux is funny.

Did you not hear the whoosh go by your head?

Spend millions of dollars on a project, and do stupid things like cut corners that save you statistically irrelevant amounts of money on the project and result in a far more difficult to support product.

And before someone starts screaming about how its better because its OSS, when you do a project like this, even Microsoft will give you source in order to get their name stamped on it.

Re:It's pretty much a given that they saved money (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29255407)

Spend millions of dollars on a project, and do stupid things like cut corners that save you statistically irrelevant amounts of money on the project and result in a far more difficult to support product.

Agreed that in a project that size the direct cost of the operating system will be relatively small.

But there are many indirect costs resulting from the choice of operating system. There may be better or less expensive development tools available for Linux versus Windows. There may be more or better or less expensive graphics/rendering libraries and other software available for Linux as opposed to Windows. It may be that the software for turning a pile of Linux boxes into a rendering farm is free or less expensive or more efficient than the equivalent for Windows.

And if you are talking thousands or tens of thousands of licenses for a rendering farm, you are no longer talking about tens of dollars.

Re:It's pretty much a given that they saved money (4, Informative)

Tubal-Cain (1289912) | more than 4 years ago | (#29255583)

It may be that the software for turning a pile of Linux boxes into a rendering farm is free or less expensive or more efficient than the equivalent for Windows.

Indeed. It's not a coincidence that only 5 of Top500's list [top500.org] are pure Windows environments.

Re:It's pretty much a given that they saved money (1)

gbjbaanb (229885) | more than 4 years ago | (#29255621)

Instead of going with a licensed OS like Windows...

They had to, Microsoft canned Flight Sim. Though I know of a load of unemployed guys who have some experience in writing this kind of software :)

OOS should never be used for war (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29254563)

It's a disgrace for to kernel hackers everywhere to have their knowledge and sweat used to run the machine of war.

War is just another profit-making venture for the rich.

Re:OOS should never be used for war (-1, Troll)

CarpetShark (865376) | more than 4 years ago | (#29254609)

Agreed. Personally I'd prefer the GPL to include an anti-warfare clause. Losing the ability to have your software included in distros or combined with other GPL'd software for the sake of a few militant types is too much, but if the clause was in the GPL from the start, that problem wouldn't exist.

Then again, RMS is pretty aggressive sometimes, so it'd be very strange if he "got" the need for an anti-warfare clause.

Re:OOS should never be used for war (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29254693)

linux is war

Re:OOS should never be used for war (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29255031)

Ok, so how far do you want to take that? If you want to get all bat-shit crazy, one could argue that since our taxes directly fund war then GPL software should not be involved with any commercial entity; this includes use, development, donations, etc. Oops...

Re:OOS should never be used for war (1)

CarpetShark (865376) | more than 4 years ago | (#29255369)

Well, nothing about wanting to make a particular move towards peace requires that you make every move possible all at once.

Re:OOS should never be used for war (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29255599)

All I am saying is that it's a slippery slope; if you give an inch then they'll take a mile. Just like religion doesn't belong in government, politics don't belong in a software license. It should be Free for all, not Free for some.

Re:OOS should never be used for war (1)

FourthAge (1377519) | more than 4 years ago | (#29254699)

What about class warfare? Is it ok by you if I use free software to fight the evil of global capitalism?

Re:OOS should never be used for war (5, Insightful)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 4 years ago | (#29254777)

> What about class warfare? Is it ok by you if I use free software to fight the
> evil of global capitalism?

Of course. What he really wants is a political correctness clause. After all, what if someone were to use Free Software to design a coal-fired power plant? Develop a strain of genetically-engineered wheat? Design an SUV? Manage a bank? Run a "right-wing" political campaign?

Re:OOS should never be used for war (5, Insightful)

FourthAge (1377519) | more than 4 years ago | (#29255205)

Yes. What on Earth has happened to people to make them imagine that this sort of thing is a good idea?

"Free speech should be restricted to things I agree with." "Free software should only be used for things I approve of."

It's just crazy.

Re:OOS should never be used for war (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29255709)

You can sit back and say "I don't want to help fight a war" but after a certain distance away from the matter things are so fungible it's ridiculous. Practically speaking, the Feds could a) build a simulator on free software with your kernel hacks or b) build a simulator on expensive with Microsoft Windows with a little more overhead, spend more on software and computers, and sending more tax money to our friends the Defense Contractors and Microsoft. And the world is a better place because... it... uh, huh, hmm....

Re:OOS should never be used for war (1)

drizek (1481461) | more than 4 years ago | (#29255769)

I think we absolutely must ban open source software from being used in right wing political campaigns. Having something so poorly managed being associated with Linux could backfire on us. I can already see the Microsoft ads:

"John McCain ran his campaign on open source software. Price of Hardware: $76,000. Price of Software: $0. Total Cost of Ownership: Failure. "

Re:OOS should never be used for war (4, Insightful)

PhunkySchtuff (208108) | more than 4 years ago | (#29254767)

Yes, because remember kids, nothing good has ever come from military funded research. You know, like the internet...

Re:OOS should never be used for war (1)

corychristison (951993) | more than 4 years ago | (#29254827)

Yes, because remember kids, nothing good has ever come from military funded research. You know, like the internet...

I agree. The Internet is a horrible place. You should never go there.

Re:OOS should never be used for war (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29255685)

Yes, because remember kids, nothing good has ever come from military funded research. You know, like the internet...

That's backwards.
Just because the side-effects of something are good doesn't mean that the primary effects are good.
In other words, war was used to create the internet, but that doesn't mean the internet should be used to create war.

Re:OOS should never be used for war (1)

spiffmastercow (1001386) | more than 4 years ago | (#29254789)

It's a disgrace for to kernel hackers everywhere to have their knowledge and sweat used to run the machine of war.

War is just another profit-making venture for the rich.

I'll bet you there's at least a few kernel hackers who don't mind a bit..

Re:OOS should never be used for war (1)

clarkkent09 (1104833) | more than 4 years ago | (#29254875)

Not only that but I hear that the simulator in question uses images of dirty hippies as targets for the shooting practice. Disgrace!

Use OpenBSD instead (1)

chill (34294) | more than 4 years ago | (#29255005)

But software which OpenBSD uses and redistributes must be free to all (be they people or companies) for any purpose they wish to use it, including modification, use, peeing on, or even integration into baby mulching machines or atomic bombs to be dropped on Australia.

--Theo de Raadt

http://www.monkey.org/openbsd/archive/source-changes/0105/msg01243.html [monkey.org]

Free means free, not "free only if I approve of what you do/look like/think/etc.

Re:OOS should never be used for war (1)

Zontar The Mindless (9002) | more than 4 years ago | (#29255021)

And if somebody throws you a left hook, you should let them. Better yet, make it really easy on them and just lean into it.

Just because the US turn the word "defence" into doublespeak doesn't mean that Australia shouldn't be able to defend itself if the need arises [wikipedia.org] .

Re:OOS should never be used for war (1)

couchslug (175151) | more than 4 years ago | (#29255047)

"It's a disgrace for to kernel hackers everywhere to have their knowledge and sweat used to run the machine of war.

War is just another profit-making venture for the rich.

Does that mean unquestionably defensive wars are unworthy of support and the only moral thing to do is surrender?

Re:OOS should never be used for war (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29255297)

Apparently, the OP is really the President of France...

X-plane pro? (1)

ducomputergeek (595742) | more than 4 years ago | (#29254587)

I like flight sims. Only games I still play are Falcon 4.0: Allied Force and X-Plane. But If I'm not mistaken, there a professional version of X-plane that's FAA rated. Why not start there?

Not really news. (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29254629)

I used to work for L3 Simulation - one of the biggest suppliers of flight simulation gear around the world. We used massive diskless Linux clusters for making flight simulator graphics systems - and have been doing it for maybe 10 years now. We used our own Linux distro, software written in C++ and using OpenGL for graphics with nVidia graphics cards. Pretty much every F16 pilot out there plus most US helicopter pilots train regularly on Linux-based flight simulators.

On a typical system, we'd either use a helmet-mounted display driven by two PC's or a dodecahedral "Simusphere" display with 9 rear-projected pentagonal panels surrounding the cockpit mockup. Each display would be driven by either 1 or 4 PC's with a hardware gizmo that combined four raster displays into a single video projector.

Additional Linux PC's were used to stream graphics data into the graphics PC's - more were used to draw the HUD and ancilliary displays within the plane.

The machines were diskless - booting from a central server over 1GHz ethernet. The reason for leaving off the disks on the 'slave' machines was to improve reliability. When you have 64 PC's - the reliability of all of those hard drives would result in more frequent failures than we could tolerate.

Neat stuff - but hardly new!

Re:Not really news. (2, Funny)

duguk (589689) | more than 4 years ago | (#29254845)

Very cool, thanks! I was really impressed until you said "1GHz ethernet". That seems... unlikely =D

Re:Not really news. (3, Informative)

dkf (304284) | more than 4 years ago | (#29254929)

Very cool, thanks! I was really impressed until you said "1GHz ethernet". That seems... unlikely =D

He was probably mixing up his terms when referring to gigabit ether [wikipedia.org] . It's not the fastest thing on the block, but it's still pretty nippy (and definitely beats what most people have deployed to desktop level) and the faster options (notably Infiniband) tend to only be used in specialist applications like tightly-coupled supercomputers.

Re:Not really news. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29255099)

Eloquently explained, though I guessed that much =D

Re:Not really news. (1)

BitZtream (692029) | more than 4 years ago | (#29255383)

Most people have gigabit at the desktop now, its been standard for the last few years on desktop PCs

Re:Not really news. (1)

dkf (304284) | more than 4 years ago | (#29255435)

Most people have gigabit at the desktop now, its been standard for the last few years on desktop PCs

That doesn't mean anything if you've not got a gigabit switch at the other end. And even if you've got that fancy switch, if your connection to the outside world is like most peoples', you'll only be able to use that bandwidth locally. Great for LAN parties, but not much point otherwise.

Re:Not really news. (1)

swb (14022) | more than 4 years ago | (#29255489)

So everybody should only have 1.5Mbit ethernet, because T1 speeds are some kind of standard outside the LAN?

Gig switches aren't fancy. The last one I bought was $50 and supported jumbo frames.

Re:Not really news. (1)

BitZtream (692029) | more than 4 years ago | (#29255315)

Which is ... gigabit ethernet ... which is rather common, can you even buy a computer without it now?

Re:Not really news. (1)

amn108 (1231606) | more than 4 years ago | (#29254885)

The machines were diskless - booting from a central server over 1GHz ethernet

You mean 1 Gbps Ethernet, right?

Re:Not really news. (1)

boxxertrumps (1124859) | more than 4 years ago | (#29255143)

Maybe, but regular cat5 transmits with a frequency of 100mhz. When you're sinking that much money into a project like this special networking hardware can go a long way.

Re:Not really news. (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 4 years ago | (#29255155)

No. Because "When you have 64 PC his (hyphen) the reliability of all of those hard drives would result in more frequent failures than we could tolerate." :P

Re:Not really news. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29254897)

When you have 64 PC's - the reliability of all of those hard drives would result in more frequent failures than we could tolerate.

But surely they would be representative of the real (lack of) availability of modern porkware?

Simulating what, exactly? (1, Interesting)

CarpetShark (865376) | more than 4 years ago | (#29254631)

Given that air forces seem to be moving to unmanned drone fighters, it seems silly to build a new flight sim for traditional *pilot* training at this stage. I wonder if it's aimed at training remote drone "pilots" instead.

Re:Simulating what, exactly? (3, Insightful)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 4 years ago | (#29254697)

There's still a lot of work for human pilots, and there probably will be for at least another generation. The first UAVs that can handle manned-aircraft combat tasks are just now being deployed, and in many ways they're Not There Yet. Are you suggesting that air forces should stop training pilots now on the assumption that drones will take up the slack?

Re:Simulating what, exactly? (1)

f0dder (570496) | more than 4 years ago | (#29254743)

With pilots you don't have to worry about your drone asset getting hijacked by a rogue controller.

Re:Simulating what, exactly? (1)

AHuxley (892839) | more than 4 years ago | (#29254939)

This is Australia, we will be loving the f111 long time :)

Re:Simulating what, exactly? (3, Informative)

maglor_83 (856254) | more than 4 years ago | (#29255341)

Actually we'll be retiring the F-111 next year. We will have a mix of Hornets, Super Hornets and JSF for some time, though.

Re:Simulating what, exactly? (4, Interesting)

Skillet5151 (972916) | more than 4 years ago | (#29255025)

Unmanned aircraft may be getting pretty good at firing missiles at buildings but I speculate that they're pretty far from being able to compare to the abilities of a real pilot in most situations. I'm sure Australia (like the US) coordinates its military to be prepared for a real war against another country as opposed to just the anti-insurgent potshot operations that UAVs are so good at.

Re:Simulating what, exactly? (1)

couchslug (175151) | more than 4 years ago | (#29255129)

An immersive simulation environment will be quite useful when UAS sensors evolve sufficient to give an immersive operator environment.

One of the objections to UAS is that the "stovepipe" situational awareness is limiting. Increased operator situational awareness can improve safety as well as combat effectiveness. Instead of being a "scope dope", a UAS operator in an immersive environment could employ their system much more like a manned aircraft.

Re:Simulating what, exactly? (1)

Ocker3 (1232550) | more than 4 years ago | (#29255225)

The Australian Air Force isn't going drone-only anytime soon. The Army has a number of UAVs in scout and recon roles, but we're still focused on piloted craft for ATA and ATG roles. Not even the USAF is going all-drone.

The new normal IS to not leave the ground! (1)

sl149q (1537343) | more than 4 years ago | (#29254739)

The head article says "virtual words that allow pilots to experience real-world combat situations without leaving the ground"...

The new reality is that most combat pilots in the new air forces around the world will be piloting their aircraft from the ground. Far cheaper and far more effective.

This doesn't mean that simulators are not required. Its just that the difference between simulated combat and real combat may be just what screen you are looking at from your flight station.

1.7 million for virtual words? WTF! (1)

gamefaces (1542337) | more than 4 years ago | (#29254747)

The Defence Science and Technology Organisation's (DSTO) Air Operations Simulation Centre in Melbourne creates virtual words that allow pilots to experience real-world combat situations without leaving the ground.

I should be paying all of you for my virtual words I'm typing now.

Screenshots pls (1)

w0mprat (1317953) | more than 4 years ago | (#29254779)

Screenies or it didn't happen.

I'm a little disappointed the journalists couldn't ask nicely for some in-sim imagery. This thing must be pretty! I presume current generation military flight simulators have amazing detail like volumetric clouds, weather conditions and atmospheric effects that were traditionally the hardest to replicate in the past.

Re:Screenshots pls (1)

amn108 (1231606) | more than 4 years ago | (#29254909)

The article that Slashot links to has an image on the top right corner of the page. It looks like something rendered in-game. Look at it, come back and tell me how it went.

$1.7m is dirt cheap! but missing something (3, Insightful)

erroneus (253617) | more than 4 years ago | (#29254881)

Flight simulators are good and all, but even the most expensive simulators are missing an important element -- gravity force feedback in some form or another. Not only do the controls need to feed back, but the cockpit should too. And when we are talking about military aircraft operations, that kind of simulation is quite likely impossible without putting the pilot into a centrifuge.

On the other hand, if this simulation system were for training people to control unmanned craft, then it's perfect I should think.

Now as for the $1.7m spent? That is an impressively inexpensive system if it matches or beats those that cost $10m or more.

Re:$1.7m is dirt cheap! but missing something (2, Informative)

Eil (82413) | more than 4 years ago | (#29255653)

Flight simulators are good and all, but even the most expensive simulators are missing an important element -- gravity force feedback in some form or another. Not only do the controls need to feed back, but the cockpit should too. And when we are talking about military aircraft operations, that kind of simulation is quite likely impossible without putting the pilot into a centrifuge.

Military and commercial flight simulators do have gravity force feedback. They are mounted on a hydraulic platform so that when the pilot pitches or banks the simulator, the platform moves in accordance with the maneuver so that the pilot experiences a force on his/her body approximate to what they would feel in a real airplane. The computer takes all parameters into consideration so that a balanced turn, for example, would hold the platform perfectly vertical. But a slipping or sliding turn would bank the platform to one side or the other.

And when we are talking about military aircraft operations, that kind of simulation is quite likely impossible without putting the pilot into a centrifuge.

Well, this is a simulation after all. The hydraulic platforms can only approximate real G forces. To really experience flying, you have to take an actual plane up into the sky. And trust me, they do.

That said, simulators are an amazingly useful technology even if they don't recreate the entire experience with perfect precision. You can learn 90% or more of what you really need to know about flying without ever leaving the ground. That saves fuel, maintenance, the cost of a plane, and lives.

Can it? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29255017)

Defense against nigger's?

virtual words (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29255131)

"The Defence Science and Technology Organisation's (DSTO) Air Operations Simulation Centre in Melbourne creates virtual words"

The words include whoosh and zoom.

Too stupid to buy a copy of X-Plane eh? (1)

BitZtream (692029) | more than 4 years ago | (#29255263)

Since X-Plane runs on Linux at this point, I'd have to say spending 1.7m for a Linux flight sim just makes you fucking retarded.

www.x-plane.com

And before anyone says something stupid, its FAA certified for training and used by several aircraft manufactures for training of pilots, certification of their test pilots, and most importantly, design testing.

Hell Bell uses it to train thier pilots on military prototypes that are too expensive to actually put the pilot in and scaled composites uses it to test their designs and train pilots.

Re:Too stupid to buy a copy of X-Plane eh? (1)

ThePeices (635180) | more than 4 years ago | (#29255579)

Well there you go, if Hell Bell is using it, then people who are not are just fools!

But, not to insult your obviously incredible intellect ( judging from your scornful post ), ever thought that maybe ( just *maybe* ) X-Plane doesnt fit their needs exactly?

Throw us a bone here (1)

arigram (1202657) | more than 4 years ago | (#29255295)

So, does that mean that the Linux community will be getting anything back or is it licenced in a way that we won't be seeing one line of code?

proof that linux is small (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29255437)

i guess it's a slow news day. 1.7 million in development is nothing in the real world.

FTFA: Linux for real-time scheduling (3, Interesting)

Zantetsuken (935350) | more than 4 years ago | (#29255697)

FTFA:

All the nodes run Suse Linux. Unlike traditional Linux clusters, which focus on throughput, these systems are tuned for real-time performance - using features of the kernel such as memory locking, real-time scheduling and low-delay communication.

They didn't use Linux "just because it has zero licensing costs" - they used it because Windows isn't going to give them the real time performance on physics simulations that they wanted, to track every projectile and object within a given area takes power, but also has to be able to give the results instantly.

NVIDIA != open (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29255721)

"...and uses an open source graphics platform."

Sanity check: NVIDIA's drivers and hardware are not open source.
 

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