Facility Function: Research and Development
Year Founded in Orlando: 1965
Location: Central Florida Research Park
Employees: 1,500 civilian, 40 military
Square Footage: 40 Acres
Orlando is home to the world’s largest cluster of modeling, simulation and training (MS&T) organizations and the center of the U.S. military’s activities in this field. NAWCTSD is one of the anchoring organizations of Team Orlando, a collaboration between the four armed services in the region that is the focal point of the federal government’s sizable MS&T presence here. The division is a significant component of the Naval Air Systems Command and the Navy’s principal center for MS&T systems technologies.
The city’s robust transportation infrastructure and preeminence in the public- and private-sector MS&T fields make it a natural location to nurture the next generation of military personnel training and readiness.
- NAWCTSD plays a central role in the Navy’s technology-driven Ready, Relevant Learning initiative to modernize how it trains sailors.
What Do They Do Here?
The U.S. Navy operates on the leading edge of technology. It needs a highly trained workforce to make the most of its investments in the ship and flight systems it uses to defend the country. Developing the best training systems for sailors and aviators to use those technologies is where NAWCTSD comes in.
The Navy training systems division that would eventually become the NAWCTSD was one of the early organizations to see Orlando’s potential. Officials relocated from Long Island, New York in the mid-1960s to set up a campus that would establish the city as a global MS&T leader. Navy Support Activity Orlando, one of the service’s smallest bases, serves as the division’s home.
NAWCTSD leverages internal and outside MS&T expertise to innovate training systems, services and content for warfighters at any stage of their career. The center provides training systems development for many of the military’s most important programs, including aircraft, surface ships, submarines and other specialized requirements.
- NAWCTSD typically manages $1.5 billion of funding for Navy MS&T development per year. Up to 60 percent of that stays in the local economy.
- The division runs more than 300 MS&T programs concurrently.
What’s the Secret Ingredient to Their Success?
The Navy is both a foundation of Orlando’s MS&T industry success and a recipient of it. With a presence of more than five decades in the city, NAWCTSD was a catalyst that attracted all of the other military branches to build their simulation R&D presence here. With total federal government funding averaging $6 billion a year, the area is a global magnet for specialized talent and a hotbed of new ideas on improving human performance through training systems.
NAWCTSD’s leaders actively engage with the community to formalize military-civilian alliances, working groups and two-way technology transfer. It invests in local intellectual capital by fostering business incubators and partnering with venture capital firms and the University of Central Florida (UCF) to help carry new technologies from idea to market.
The division’s partnerships across Orlando have proven especially fruitful. NAWCTSD is one of the anchors of the Florida High Tech Corridor through its leading role in Team Orlando. These efforts have led the region to become recognized as a national center of excellence in MS&T .
The Navy’s collaboration with UCF has also played a central role in Orlando’s dominance in this high-tech area. To further the region’s unique MS&T capabilities, UCF founded the Institute for Simulation and Training in 1982. The institute, which actively works with NAWCTSD, focuses on advancing human-centered MS&T technology and increasing the role of modeling and simulation in training and education.
This creative thinking has led to unexpected partnerships, like one with Orlando’s theme park and entertainment industry to develop an immersive training simulator called Battle Stations-21. The Navy actively recruits from and contributes to Orlando’s workforce while licensing locally produced intellectual property in technologies including gaming, virtual reality and wireless communications.
Where Does the Magic Happen?
NAWCTSD is located next to the University of Central Florida, the second largest U.S. university in terms of enrollment. Its De Florez complex sits on a 40-acre base called Naval Support Activity Orlando. The campus is located in the heart of the 1,000-acre Central Florida Research Park, the nation’s 6th largest research park and a global nexus of MS&T innovation.
Its physical address is only one small part of the division’s presence in the region. NAWCTSD researchers partner with academic institutions throughout the region as well as businesses in industries ranging from theme parks to aerospace and from defense to research.
Seeing the collaborative opportunities in the region, in 2019 the Navy created an organization called the Central Florida Tech Grove in Orlando, which will be managed by the UCF Research Foundation. Officials noted NAWCTSD’s longstanding relationship with five major universities, neighboring government partners and regional experts when they announced the tech grove’s founding. This effort creates a direct pipeline for local partnerships to service the Navy’s national and global operations.
- The partnerships and facilities that comprise Team Orlando and the National Center for Simulation have created a tremendous collaborative environment between the military, academia and industry.
The Final Word
We’ve got innovation districts all around town. We’ve got MS&T here in Research Park. We’ve got gaming and FinTech downtown and medical tech in Lake Nona. And, of course, there’s the entertainment industry on the west side. There’s a lot of cross-pollinating going on here in Orlando.Capt. Tim Hill, Commanding Officer, NAWCTSD and Naval Support Activities Orlando