The Navy is awarding several contracts that will give Orlando a huge economic boost and new jobs, according to a briefing U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson has received from Navy Secretary Ray Mabus' office.
Four contracts worth up to $307 million could mean many more jobs, largely in Orlando's growing simulation industry, officials said.
Orlando is now known as one of the most prominent hubs of military simulation training in the country, officials said.
Late Friday, the Navy awarded four contracts to one Orlando company and one Melbourne company.
The Orlando company, Cubic Simulation Systems, Inc., received three contracts worth up to $298 million for simulation programs. The Melbourne company, Southeast Aerospace Inc., received a smaller contract for $9 million to upgrade two-engine airplanes used to train Navy and Marine pilots, officials said.
Cubic Simulation Systems is going to create a simulated training experience for crews on small, lightweight warships.
A company executive said the news was a "great thing" for Orlando and his operation there.
"This goes to show how important simulation is going to be in our military, and Orlando will play a big role in that," said Nelson, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee who has been a strong proponent of modeling and simulation training. "As we continue trying to reduce the deficit, this type of high-quality and cost-effective training will become even more important."
Nelson was briefed on plans for expanding the simulation operations late Friday by Mabus' staff. Among his support for the simulation industry, it was three years ago that Nelson helped obtain funding for one program here that teaches medics how to perform certain emergency procedures in combat situations.
Simulators allow the military to train personnel in a close-to-live environment by mimicking situations that one could face in battle. Simulators developed with the money awarded today would allow sailors to train as if they're on close-to-shore combat ships, without actually having to be aboard for the experience.
This news comes on the heels of other notable recognition for the local simulation industry. In 2010 the Veterans' Affairs Department designated Orlando as a National Center of Excellence in Simulation and Training. And, former president Bill Clinton has cited Orlando's simulation industry a great example of economic growth in the United States.