The U.S. Army is investing $300 million in a new aviation trainer
that will allow aircrews to practice missions collectively with
ground forces, in a digital environment. Army officials said this
flight simulator would fill a long-existing gap in the service’s
The contractor, Link Simulation & Training, in Austin, Texas,
is expected to deliver the first Army Aviation Combined Arms Tactical
Trainer—Aviation Reconfigurable Manned Simulator (AVCATT-A)
suite this April. South Carolina’s National Guard is expected
to receive a suite in August.
At least 18 suites will be deployed over six years, said the project
director, Jean Burmester. “Existing aviation simulation training
capability does not fully support the aviation combined arms training
strategy,” she said in an interview. Current trainers, Burmester
explained, do not provide enough realism to support mission rehearsals
in a joint-warfare environment.
Another consideration that prompted the development of AVCATT,
Burmester added, is that live field exercises are costly and are
constrained by environmental and safety restrictions.
AVCATT is a “collective trainer that does not currently exist
in the Army,” said Allen Borgardts, program manager for AVCATT
at the Army’s Simulation, Training and Instrumentation Command.
“It does not focus on crew procedures but on flying the aircraft
concentrating on a combined mission.”
In late December, the Army awarded Link Simulation and Training
a $19.7 million contract to build two helicopter-training suites,
to be delivered to the Army in the fourth quarter of 2002.
An AVCATT-A suite consists of six reconfigurable simulators, a
battle master control room and an after action review theater. The
two training suites initially will be delivered with four reconfigurable
simulator types, including the AH-64A Apache, OH-58D Kiowa Warrior,
UH-60 Black Hawk and CH-47D Chinook.
The AH-64D Longbow Apache module is slated to be added to the training
suites in May 2003 and the RAH-66 Comanche platform will be added
at a yet to be determined date.
The Army decided not to include helicopters that will soon be retired
from service, such as the UH-1 Huey.
Program officials said that the AVCATT-A program is an essential
element in the Army’s strategy to create a virtual war-gaming
environment that will enable aviators to train within networked
simulators that can be reconfigured to replicate attack, reconnaissance
or utility helicopters.
Using this technology, Army aviators will be able to practice a
full range of tactical scenarios over a common virtual battlefield
as a team. In addition, AVCATT-A trainers will be interoperable
with the service’s currently fielded simulators supporting
ground-based mechanized armor unit training.
This contract award follows separate contracts that Link received
in late 1999 and mid-2001 to build the first two suites for the
AVCATT-A program. Suites one and two will be delivered to the Army
during the second quarter of 2002, with installations taking place
at Fort Hood, Texas, and Fort Rucker, Ala.
“The combined arms tactical training capability offered by
AVCATT-A’s reconfigurable manned modules will enable commanders
to mix and match helicopter platforms and enable aircrews to work
as a cohesive unit while undertaking complex simulated training
missions,” said Jim Dunn, president of Link Simulation and
Training, in a recent statement.
Each of these deployable helicopter-training suites will be housed
in two 53-foot semi-trailers.
A realistic, virtual training environment will be supported by
intelligent semi-automated forces. These forces, both friendly and
opposing, will support the fighting environment. Under its initial
AVCATT-A contract, Link is providing three geo-specific terrain
data bases that simulate the Army’s National Training Center
in Fort Irwin, Calif., central Germany and Fort Hood.
AVCATT-A pilot trainers will be designed to integrate directly
into the Army’s command, control, communication, computers
and intelligence systems. Battalion or brigade staff personnel,
working at stations within their administrative and tactical operations
center, will control battlefield support elements and combat forces
participating in a simulated engagement.
The system simulates attack, reconnaissance, cargo and utility
aircraft platforms. The suite has semi-automated forces workstations,
an after-action review capability, a master-control console and
workstations for ground maneuver, fire support, close air support,
logistics, battle command and engineer role players.
The operative word in this program is “reconfigurable,”
said Borgardts. “In roughly 90 minutes, you can change the
configuration and move to other platforms, to exercise other platforms
Burmester explained that AVCATT would have platform-specific equipment,
such as consoles and displays, as well as common components, including
the seat, anti-torque pedal and visual projectors.
“We pull the panel off and select a new aircraft type, bring
it down, put it in place,” explained Gary F. Wehrfritz, principal
systems engineer at Link Simulation & Training. During a demonstration
of the AVCATT system, Wehrfritz explained that the changeover between
one type of helicopter to another is relatively easy. A virtual-reality
demonstrator was on display at last year’s Interservice Industry
Training, Simulation and Education Conference, in Orlando, Fla.
He noted that “every inch of the trailer” is used as
efficiently as possible, to make AVCATT easier to transport. “We
can go through this whole scenario in about 12 minutes to reconfigure
a single manned module,” Wehrfritz said.
A big Army concern is for the simulator to exactly match the specifications
of the real aircraft. “Concurrency with current fielded systems
and obtaining access to data in sufficient time to allow development
within the simulation is going to be a challenge for this program,”
“There are more requirements than you have budgets for,”
said Borgardts. The program will have to keep up with six different
AVCATT officials work closely with the aircraft program offices,
so they can estimate the costs of keeping the simulator concurrent,
AVCATT has a helmet-mounted high-resolution display capability.
Approximately, 12 helmets are required for the six different configurations.
The helmet, called the Sim Eye XL100A, is built by Kaiser Electronics
in Carlsbad, Calif. “With the helmet, the pilot will see all
the outer window and sensor videos,” said Wehrfritz. He said
the helmet also has a head-track system, so when the pilot is looking
down, he can see the instrument panel and the controls.
The Sim Eye XL100A uses solid-state image source technology to
provide full-color video imagery. One advantage of the solid-state
image sources is their low-power consumption, according to Kaiser
A sensor on top of the helmet allows the aviator to turn his head
when he is flying and look on the other side of the aircraft. A
so-called accelerometer “sees how fast the head is moving
and anticipate where you are going,” said Wehrfritz.
One of the drawbacks of the helmet, however, is that it is heavier
than the regular helmets pilots wear. “The training helmets
are much heavier because of all the features needed to provide a
realistic environment,” Burmester explained. She said that
there are studies underway to find ways to reduce the weight “We
are already possibly able to take it down by one pound, which is
significant for somebody who has to sit in for five hours of training,”
The AVCATT battle master-control station, or BMC, supports an interactive
training scenario, by changing the variables of the exercise. The
pilots will be able to fight and train under a series of simulated
conditions, such as battlefield smoke, weapons effects, blowing
snow, dust or sand, variances in wind, visibility and cloud ceiling.
This can be replicated under day, dusk and night environments, according
Semi-automated forces can simulate up to 1,000 units—friendly
and opposing, said Steve Brady, Link’s lead computer engineer.
The battle master-control station supports role-playing. “Their
job would be something like the fire support units, or the ground
units, or other type of units in the mission that aren’t manned,”
“We have only six manned modules,” Brady emphasized.
“Everything else is simulated.” The battle master controller
manages and coordinates everything that happens in the BMC. “He
is going to put malfunctions in the aircraft if he has to, he is
going to put weapons aboard the aircraft, he is going to put fuel
aboard the aircraft,” Brady said. “He is going to configure
the manned module the way he wants this mission to be run, so he
is the guy in charge of the actual training scenario.” The
BMC also has a manager of semi-automated forces and two other control
technicians who provide support for each unit.
The battle master controller has “a God’s eye-view
of what is going on in the battle, said Brady. “He can look
around at any point in the database.” The BMC also simulations
radio communications, so pilots can talk to ground units and the
role players can dial up the frequencies and talk to the helicopters.
“We have full radio simulation including UHF, VHF and all
secure voice lines,” said Brady.
AVCATT will “achieve a fair fight, realistic, high-intensity,
task-loaded combat environment,” said Burmester.
Like most simulator today, AVCATT comes with an after-action-review
capability. The AAR room is located in the second trailer—where
about 20 people can review and replay events during the exercise.
Three video channels will support AAR, said company officials. Borgardts
added that the AAR could run concurrently with other units training
in the AVCATT suite.
The trainer will be compliant with the Distributed Interactive
Simulation (DIS) standard, compatible and interoperable with other
combined arms tactical trainers (CATT). Among them is the Lockheed
Martin Close Combat Tactical Trainer, CCTT. Others include the Engineer
CATT, Air Defense CATT and Fire Support CATT.
Additionally, AVCATT will be compliant with the High Level Architecture
and the Joint Tactical Architecture, Burmester added.
Once the AVCATT suites are fielded, they will be able to connect
to each other and achieve a collective and combined aviation battle
exercise at the respective sites.
During deployments, she said, troops will be able to use AVCATT
to conduct mission rehearsals and refresh their skills.
AVCATT is deployable by C-5 or C-17 cargo aircraft, said Burmester.
A training suite will be deployed to Korea and another one in Germany.
A “fly-away” kit of generators and power supplies will
be included with the trainer suite. “It is already capable
to adjust to different power variances,” said Borgardts.
Burmester said the program office is still reviewing the distribution
plan to make sure that the right system is fielded according to
the technical configurations of specific sites.