Deployable training devices promise new flexibility for the U.S.
Army, which wants to become a more mobile fighting force. They are
especially important to attack-helicopter battalions, with their
expensive aircraft and weapons.
The AH-64D Longbow Apache attack helicopter currently costs about
$3,400 an hour to fly and a full load of 16 Hellfire missiles is
priced at about $2 million. With the introduction of a new Longbow
trainer, crews will be able to fly basic and tactical maneuvers,
and engage targets with all onboard weapons—for a few hundred
dollars per flight hour.
Economics aside, Apache units in Europe and elsewhere simply don’t
have live-fire ranges big enough for safe laser-designated missile
engagements. The troubled Apache deployment to Albania in 1999 also
showed that training flights over difficult, unfamiliar terrain—at
night or in adverse weather—can cost lives.
Crews flying the Longbow Apache will be able to train for combat
on the first production simulators able to deploy with their aviation
battalions. The first trainer should be ready in 2002.
According to the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command (AMCOM),
the Boeing Co. Aerospace Support Group has demonstrated that the
Longbow Crew Trainer (LCT) can be prepared for shipment by C-5 jet
transport in less than five days and ready for training in another
Boeing says that tear-down and setup could be done much faster
in a crisis, with contractor crews working around the clock.
The high-fidelity LCT can be used at home bases or deployed in
a single C-5 sortie to theaters of operations. Its purpose is to
sharpen mission-critical skills of AH-64D pilots and co-pilot/gunners.
Longbow Apache crews will be able to fly in accurately-represented
AH-64D cockpits—in a detailed visual environment filled with
In addition to the LCTs, a deployable Longbow Collective Training
System (LCTS) will enable six AH-64D crews to train as a fighting
company. Ultimately, Longbow crew trainers and the collective trainers
will be networked with other forces over the Defense Simulation
Internet. “We’ve never had a training capability like
that in the Army,” explains Jim Reynolds, Boeing program manager
for Apache aircrew training devices.
So far, the U.S. Army has funded the modernization of 227 AH-64A
Apaches to Longbow AH-64Ds. The service expects to buy 501 Longbow
Apaches, and the most recent aviation force-structure plan—which
is reportedly being postponed—puts 10 modernized attack helicopters
and one LCT in each multi-function aviation battalion. The D-model
Apache requires a new simulator, because it comes with new components,
such as a glass cockpit, mast-mounted fire control radar, second-generation
thermal imager and digital interconnectivity.
Starting in 1986, Link Simulation & Training, now part of L3
Communications, delivered 10 AH-64A combat mission simulators (CMS)
to U.S. Army installations in the United States, Germany and South
Korea. One CMS was delivered to Egypt under a foreign military sale
contract. The sheer size of the CMS and the elaborate support requirements
tie them to multi-story buildings. Moving one would take months
and demand dedicated facilities constructed at the new site.
Though the Army considered deploying a CMS to Southwest Asia during
Operation Desert Shield in 1990, shipping the big simulator to the
theater was deemed impractical. Desert databases hurriedly developed
for stateside simulators still left pilots in Saudi Arabia to train
for war only on their actual aircraft. Deployable simulators promise
realistic practice before the fight begins.
AH-64D units will use their high-fidelity simulators to both introduce
crews to Longbow Apache systems and sustain crew qualification.
The AH-64A trainer achieves mission-critical skills with various
part-task and emergency procedures trainers, in addition to the
To make the deployable LCT affordable, Boeing used commercial off-the-shelf
technology to shrink the motion and visual systems. AMCOM estimates
the AH-64D LCT will cost about one-third the price of the Apache
CMS. Power PC-based host computers provide far more capability than
the 1980s vintage processors used in the CMS. Later-generation computer
technology and a simplified motion system also promise to slash
operating and support costs.
The first Army crews to transition from A- to D-model Apaches trained
on the Boeing engineering development simulator at Mesa, Ariz.
Boeing received its AH-64D LCT production contract from the Army’s
aviation program executive officer in October 1998 and is now building
trainers under a second multi-year contract. The company has overall
responsibility for Longbow flight and maintenance trainers, and
initial support while the systems are being fielded. Current contracts
cover 23 LCTs in both deployable and fixed-facility configurations,
with identical capabilities.
The contractor so far has delivered three Longbow Crew Trainers
to the Army Aviation Center at Fort Rucker, Ala., one to the 21st
Cavalry Brigade at Fort Hood, Texas, one to the 101st Aviation Regiment
at Fort Campbell, Ky., and one to the Royal Netherlands Air Force.
The Army Aviation Center at Fort Rucker ultimately will operate
four devices. LCTs at Fort Hood and Fort Campbell are deployable
versions, like those planned for operational Longbow Apache battalions.
Fort Hood also received the first Longbow collective training system
in December 2000.
See the Fight
Compared with the big Apache CMS, the deployable Longbow crew trainer
exploits a later generation of computer technology to pack even
more capability into two trailers. The LCT device trailer—with
crew and operator stations—is 53 feet long by 13.5 feet high
and expands from 8.5 feet to 16 feet wide, to erect the visual system.
The Boeing (formerly McDonnell Douglas) visual system provides
each crewstation a field of view 180 degrees wide by 60 degrees
high—on five projection screens. Visual resolution of the
LCT projection system is 5.7 arc minutes, significantly better than
the 6.9 arc minutes of the CMS.
Evans & Sutherland ESIG image generators provide the in-flight
scene from a suite of databases. Two databases create the visual
scene out-the-window and the infrared picture of the infrared pilot
night-vision sensor and target acquisition and designation sight.
A third database and image generator simulate the Longbow fire control
So far, Evans & Sutherland supplied databases representing
the terrain around the Aviation Center at Fort Rucker, the National
Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif., and Fort Hunter Liggett,
Calif.—with over-water training areas. European and Korean
databases are under negotiation.
The out-the-window and through-the-sensor image system will create
visual and instrument meteorological conditions and nuclear biological,
and chemical conditions by day and night. Longbow crews will be
immersed in voice and digital communications representative of a
busy battlefield, and they can fly mission plans downloaded from
the Army’s aviation mission planning system.
Crews in the LCT will also face smarter simulated enemies. The
AH-64A CMS provided 10 interactive threats in its scenarios, five
of them able to move along regimented pathways. Computer advances
give the LCT up to 100 interactive threats, which can change their
behavior each time a scenario is played.
The integrated tactical environment management system uses a Silicon
Graphics Onyx computer to provide the surroundings, such as semi-automated
forces. Most LCT scenarios include up to 65 tactical vehicles, all
with full mobility over the entire terrain and able to assume defense
postures under helicopter attack. Tanks, for example, can traverse
steep hills and assume battle formations based on the mission objectives
and programmed behaviors. An armored column can take days to cross
the 103-miles by 50-miles Fort Rucker database.
The AH-64D LCT does not have the highly detailed mission rehearsal
capability of special operations forces’ aircraft simulators.
The extremely high-resolution systems used for special operations
can model doors and windows in specific target buildings within
a 2-km to 4-km area. The LCT with custom databases can nevertheless
enable attack helicopter crews to fight a geo-specific battle using
an accurate simulation of the real aircraft.
The coupled pilot and co-pilot/gunner cockpits of the LCT are accurate
representations of a production lot IV AH-64D. “Everything
you see in our trainer cockpit is exactly the same in the real aircraft,”
explains Al Bacon, Boeing project manager. “All the displays,
buttons and controls are dimensionally and functionally honest.”
Boeing is under contract to maintain concurrency between the training
devices and the evolving AH-64D, up through Lot IX.
The new threat-warning and jamming functions of the suite of integrated
infrared countermeasures (SIIRCM), for example, will be incorporated
into trainers built under the second multi-year contract.
A half-million lines of software code model the AH-64D based on
the helicopter’s operational flight program and make the trainer
fly and fight like the real thing. Instead of the complex CMS hydraulic
motion bases with their six degrees of freedom, dynamic crewseats
give the LCT three degrees of limited motion and four degrees of
To provide the sensations of an aircraft in flight, the crew seats
shuffle fore and aft, left and right, and up and down. In addition,
the seat pans and backs move to tension and relax the crew harnesses.
Fokker-supplied control loaders provide feedback forces through
the pilots’ cyclic and collective, and an aural cueing system
creates the vibration of the real helicopter and its weapons.
The LCT device trailer also includes the instructor/operator station.
The control station shows the view seen out the windows and through
the crew displays. The instructor can play wingman for the Longbow
Apache crew in training, or perform the duties of a single AH-64D
While the LCT enables the Longbow Apache pilots and co-pilot gunner
to train as a crew, the bigger—but still mobile—Longbow
Collective Training System (LCTS) enables attack helicopter crews
to train as a tactical team. Company-sized actions with six aircraft
can be critiqued to refine tactics.
“It takes aviators who are already trained to fly and teaches
them to fight,” explains Jim Reynolds. The six-trailer LCTS
has 12 networked crew stations—six mechanically coupled pilot-co-pilot/gunner
pairs—with three-screen visual systems providing reduced out-the-window
scenery. The cockpits provide high-fidelity representations of the
AH-64D tactical systems but minimize ancillary cockpit controls
and displays. The first LCTS was delivered to the 21st Cavalry at
Fort Hood, home of the Apache single-station unit fielding and training
LCT and LCTS specifications call for the simulators to be compatible
with both the Distributed Interactive Simulation (DIS) protocol
and Higher Level Architectures (HLA). Networked simulations have
been demonstrated with the CMS and other aviation simulators. Boeing
and the Army have yet to conduct any networking experiments with
the new training devices, but the potential is there for Longbow
Apache crews to train in concert with other aviation and ground
elements on the Army’s new generation of deployable simulators.
AVCATT-A, the Aviation Combined Arms Tactical Trainer, will use
reconfigurable cockpits to simulate several different aircraft,
and may tie utility or cargo helicopter crews into simulations with
Separate from the device trailer, the LCT crew trainer contains
a 153 kW generator, environmental control unit, and storage space.
Together, the LCT trailers weigh around 80,000 pounds—hardly
portable, but nevertheless mobile, and compatible with austere operating
sites. The LCTs at Fort Hood are housed in hangars. Those at Fort
Campbell will stand on a concrete base, while plans for Korea include
roofs built over the trailers.
While the U.S. Army sought an affordable LCT to outfit every Longbow
battalion, the United Kingdom has invested in a Longbow Apache full-mission
simulator (FMS) and two field deployable simulators (FDS). The big
FMS puts each crewstation in a 17-foot projection dome and uses
an electromechanical database to provide six degrees of freedom.
The containerized FDS puts dynamic motion seats in 8-foot projection
domes. Both devices use the advanced Evans & Sutherland Harmony
image generator with head trackers to detail areas of interest.
Boeing and GKN Westland formed a joint venture called Aviation Training
International Ltd. to operate the trainers under a 30-year contract
from the U.K. Ministry of Defence.
Of the international AH-64A operators, Egypt is the only one to
operate a CMS. However, the more affordable and more supportable
LCT opens new training opportunities for AH-64D customers. The Netherlands
has a fixed-base LCT to support 301 and 301 Squadrons at Gilze-Rijen
Air Force Base. Israel and other Longbow Apache users have shown
interest in an advanced crew-training device to support a new weapons