The U.S. Army Aviation Center at Fort Rucker, Ala., will revamp
the way its pilots are trained, under a new program called Flight
School XXI. Two large industry teams will be competing for a 2003
FSXXI is designed to improve the readiness of operational units,
officials said. The Aviation Center trains about 1,200 new rotary-wing
aviators per year. The busy schoolhouse teaches individual flying
skills on a mix of light training helicopters and “go-to-war”
Graduates are expected to arrive at operational units ready for
collective mission training on sophisticated Apaches, Black Hawks,
Chinooks and Kiowa Warriors. However, over the past decade, operational
commanders have had to spend extra flight hours preparing new pilots
for collective training.
Col. Robert Carter, director of training, doctrine and simulation
for the Aviation Center explains: “We believe FSXXI will give
operational commanders and field commanders more qualified aviators
better adapted to their training.”
The modernized schoolhouse will standardize its initial entry rotary
wing (IERW) helicopters, expand training in go-to-war aircraft and
exploit a new generation of flight simulators to save on costly
flight hours. Depending on their assigned aircraft, FSXXI students
will spend three to six weeks less at Fort Rucker than they do today.
The shortened training syllabus is just about cutting costs, said
Carter. “We think we’re improving readiness and cutting
down the amount of time [required for training] at a reasonable
cost. ... We are going to produce an aviator who’s more tactically
and technically proficient and safer when he or she goes to the
To support FSXXI, an industry team will be selected to provide
high-fidelity flight simulators for the TH-67 IERW helicopter, advanced
aviation institutional training simulators for combat aircraft and
a training staff. “We’re looking for one button to push,”
explains Col. Michael Zonfrelli, commander of the Aviation Training
Brigade at the Army Aviation Center.
A contract for Flight School XXI is scheduled to be awarded in
2003. Industry proposals were due in October 2002. STRICOM (Simulation,
Training, and Instrumentation Command) will manage the procurement
and the contracting process. The Source Selection Evaluation Boards
will include rep-resentatives of STRICOM and the Army Aviation Center.
The Boeing Co. and CAE announced in May that they would be teaming
to compete for the contract. The subcontractors include ManTech
Advanced Development Group Inc., Navigator Development Group Inc.,
Dynamics Research Corp. and Mevatec Corp.
Competing against Boeing-CAE will be a team led by Computer Sciences
Corp. Subcontractors include FlightSafety International, L-3 Communications
Link Simulation, NLX Corp., D&SCI and Isera Corp.
Today’s IERW helicopter fleet includes 154 Bell TH-67 Creeks—109
configured for basic “contact” training and 45 for instrument
training. The single-track training program also uses 144 Bell OH-58A/C
Kiowas and around 20 Bell UH-1H Hueys to teach basic combat skills.
About three-quarters of the student flight hours are flown now on
legacy aircraft no longer in active Army units.
While the Vietnam-era Kiowas and Hueys are relatively cheap to
operate, they are tough to keep flying and unrepresentative of modern
combat aircraft. Poor fleet availability has reduced flying hours
per student from 175 hours in 1990 to 150 hours today. It also perpetuates
a so-called training “bubble”—with around 100
students waiting to begin their flying. In addition, instructor
pilots rotated through Fort Rucker from operational units erode
their own skills by flying old aircraft. They need refresher training
when they return to the field.
The current single-track training syllabus follows 32 weeks of
IERW training with a six- to 14-week Aircraft Qualification Course
(AQC) on modern operational aircraft. Fort Rucker has 53 Boeing
AH-64A Apaches, 56 AH-64D Longbows, 69 Sikorsky UH-and EH-60A Black
Hawks, 32 Boeing CH-47D Chinooks, and 35 Bell OH-58D Kiowa Warriors
for AQCs and advanced training.
In the late 1980s, the Army instituted a successful multi-track
IERW scheme where students streamed from light training helicopters
to their go-to-war aircraft. About half the instrument flight-training
time and all the combat-skills training was flown in the advanced
aircraft. However, giving new aviators the necessary flying hours
on modern aircraft was prohibitively expensive. Operating and support
costs for the UH-60A Black Hawk, for example, are about $2,300 an
The Flight School XXI concept revives the multi-track IERW scheme.
The first phase is based on common core training on the TH-67. The
second phase involves advanced track training on combat aircraft.
Phase I provides 20 weeks on the TH-67 and its high-fidelity simulator.
Phase II runs from 13.4 weeks on the UH-60 to 22.8 weeks on the
AH-64D, longer than today’s aircraft qualification courses.
Helicopters and Simulators
The new training plan blends the aircraft qualification course into
IERW to shorten the overall program, but it gives students more
time in their operational aircraft. For example, a new Apache pilot
now follows 187 hours in light helicopters and primitive simulators
with 97 real and virtual hours in the AH-64A.
Flight School XXI would provide 130 hours on the TH-67 and its
high-fidelity Flight Simulator, then 136 real and virtual hours
in the attack helicopter.
Army aviators today are supposed to leave the schoolhouse at readiness
level 1. Flight School XXI students will spend less time at Fort
Rucker, but graduate as readiness level 2 (RL2) aviators, qualified
to fly with night vision goggles. “They’ll get to the
field earlier, and attain mission-ready status earlier,” says
Zonfrelli. “The time saved to get them to RL2 will get them
to get collective training faster.” The enriched training
program also includes survival, evasion, resistance and escape training,
plus Navy-style “dunker” emergency water egress training.
The plan under Flight School XXI is to have 31 more TH-67s, to
eliminate the old Kiowas and Hueys and support a new two-week navigation
course and night-vision goggle familiarization training. The TH-67
is a commercial model 206B Jet Ranger built by Bell Helicopter Textron,
equipped by Edwards Associates Inc. and maintained at Fort Rucker
The revamped flight school also will increase the number of modern,
operational helicopters in the training fleet, to give students
about 75 percent more flight hours in their go-to-war aircraft.
Zonfrelli explains, “We’re able to offset some of that
cost through simulation . . . if we’re not burning live [flight]
Flight School XXI plans are modeled on the requirement to train
1,200 IERW aviators a year through 2005. Like today’s training
program, primary and instrument phases of common core Phase 1 training
will still be taught by contract instructor pilots.
Two weeks of navigation training, two weeks of night-vision training
and the advanced aircraft portion of the syllabus will be taught
by active military and Department of the Army civilian instructor
pilots. The Flight School XXI training team will provide personnel
to manage, operate, maintain and upgrade the simulators.
Initial-entry rotary wing training alone now costs about $225,000
per student, before the aircraft qualification course—that
trains new pilots on operational aircraft. Key to making the new
training plan affordable will be new flight simulators, officials
Flight School XXI will require about 24 TH-67 high-fidelity simulators
and 20 to 24 advanced institutional training simulators. The new
simulators will replace the old Type 2B-24 Huey simulators now at
The advanced institutional training simulators will supplement
the type-specific Combat Mission Simulators already in the schoolhouse.
For example, the Aviation Center already has five Black Hawk combat
mission simulators built by Link Simulation and Training and will
need five new advanced institutional training simulators to support
the UH-60 student load planned for FSXXI. In addition to the new
IERW program, the advanced trainers will be used for the full range
of graduate-level aviators courses.
Just what kind of simulators will train FSXXI students is to be
determined. The high-fidelity Combat Mission Simulators have elaborate
motion bases to pitch, roll and yaw helicopter cockpits inside big
visual systems. Increased computer power now makes it possible to
do more with smaller, less costly fixed-base simulators. The Army
believes the new Longbow Crew Trainer provides a realistic flight
experience with seat shakers and a compact visual system. The high-fidelity
flight trainers and the advanced institutional training simulators
may use some other approach.
“We’ll wait and see what industry comes back with before
we make that decision,” says Carter. Decisions on classroom
and other computer based training devices will also await FSXXI
The FSXXI simulators are expected to operate as stand-alone systems—to
train individual aviators—or network with one another for
collective training. The notional advanced institutional training
simulators should be reconfigurable to represent the AH-64A Apache,
AH-64D Longbow, UH-60A/L Black Hawk, CH-47D Chinook and OH-58D Kiowa
Warrior aircraft initially, and later the RAH-66 Comanche.
However, unlike the Army’s convertible Aviation Combined
Arms Tactical Trainer-Aviation (AVCATT-A), the new simulators at
Fort Rucker will probably remain dedicated to specific aircraft.
“We’re not hanging our hat on reconfigurability,”
says Carter. “With the [aviator] load we have to produce,
there’s no real requirement for reconfiguring simulators.”
The Flight School XXI contractor will be required to maintain concurrency
between the advanced institutional training simulators and new aircraft,
such as the modernized CH-47F and UH-60M.
Link Simulation and Training will deliver the U.S. Army’s
first Aviation Combined Arms Tactical Trainer to Fort Rucker in
late 2002. The new simulators will enable aircrews to work as units
in complex missions. “We’re not planning on using AVCATT-A
in FSXXI,” explains Carter, “but we will utilize it
after FSXXI when officers and commissioned officers go through their
professional military education.”
Flight School XXI promises to produce graduates better prepared
for collective training, says Carter. “We think were going
to create aviators that are more versatile and responsive to the
needs of the future. ...They’ll be able to understand how
to maneuver and command and control.”