Twitter Facebook Google RSS

Army to Outsource Rotary-Wing Pilot Training 

11  2,002 

by Frank Colucci 

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 contract award.

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” aircraft.

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 field unit.”

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.

Training Tracks
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 hour.

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 by DynCorp.

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] hours.”

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 said.

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 Fort Rucker.

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 proposals.

Collective Benefit
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.”

  Bookmark and Share