Simulation Technology Offers Aircrews Enhanced Training Opportunities

By Sarah Sicard

Simulators have long provided pilots with the basic training needed to learn the art of flying. Now, industry leaders are taking flight simulation to higher levels, creating entire new realities for pilots.

“It’s an area that has evolved tremendously over the last decade,” Phil Perey, CAE’s senior director of strategy and business development, told National Defense. CAE is a Quebec, Canada-based simulation and training company.

“The moment the aircrew lift their eyes up and look out the window, you have to create a pretty compelling appearance of that virtual world,” he added.

CAE’s Medallion-6000 is one such image generator that creates an ultra-high resolution picture for training with fast jet, tanker, transport and rotary wing aircraft. The program is used to train pilots to fly Lockheed Martin’s C-130J Super Hercules and MH-60R Seahawk aircraft in combat.

By using a common database, which holds a variety of simulated environments, CAE is able to produce a realistic picture, Perey said.

The Medallion-6000 is intended to significantly enhance interoperable training and mission rehearsal capabilities, while reducing imagery processing time.

In previous versions of the Medallion, there were only handfuls of set scenarios, Perey said.

Now the system allows greater interactive options for users.

The company is adding “standard capabilities in the image generator, such as dynamic shadows, such as advanced lighting. It gives the aircrew a sense of depth,” he said.

There are many basic components that go into putting the system together, but the most critical piece is the sophisticated engine that powers the simulation, Perey said.

CAE has been perfecting the simulation engine over the last 30 years, he added.

“The image generator itself is a piece that we’ve been involved with since about the mid-80s, going from big-arm machines to making the early transition on to using gaming and computer graphics,” he said. “That product now is following that technology curve, so as we keep investing in the software and using the latest graphics, we’re able to bring faster and faster capabilities to the team.”

CAE will be debuting the latest version of the Medallion-6000 at the 2014 Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation and Education Conference in Orlando, Florida this December.

Another recently debuted airplane simulator is Leidos’ DASH-8 Aircrew Readiness Trainer (DART). The system was unveiled at the Association for the United States Army annual meeting and exposition in October.

“The DASH-8 aircrew readiness trainer [is] designed to integrate the pilots and the aircrew members. It’s designed to increase situational awareness [and] increase and enhance safety of flight by utilizing a glass cockpit,” Elijah “Fred” Kelly, DART project officer, said during the conference.

DART offers the military a multipurpose training simulation device that can be used for de
Havilland Dash 8-300 series aircraft. It includes an advanced flight deck that can simulate an array of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance sensors, electronics and communication suites using a glass LCD screen.

One of the biggest draws of the simulator is that it offers team training, Kelly said. An entire crew, including pilots in the front end and mission specialists in the back end, can train together.

“[There] has to be a synergy between the two groups. In other words, pilots just can’t close the door and be pilots, and the mission guys can’t just be mission guys. That’s what this trainer is about — it’s about bringing the two groups together cohesively,” Kelly said.

The simulator is highly customizable in terms of sensors and packages, Kelly said. It is housed in the front of a stationary airplane that is cut off so one can see inside. It can accommodate two pilots and two crewmembers. Theoretically, however, offsite systems could be linked and an endless number of crewmembers could train together, he noted.

The current edition of the trainer does not shake or move to simulate turbulence, but Leidos is considering adding that for a future version, Kelly said.

Northrop Grumman offers a different kind of aircrew trainer.  The joint threat emitter (JTE) is a remotely controlled operational hub that emits signals that mimic threats to actual aircraft flown by soldiers in training, said Joe Downie, site director of Northrop’s Amherst Systems business unit in Buffalo, New York.

The simulator provides high-fidelity replication of surface-to-air missiles and anti-aircraft artillery threats, Downie said. “What that means is we have a system that offers realistic war fighter training and provides a modern reactive battle space environment.”

The system trains military personnel to counter any threat to the aircraft that they would face in real combat situations.

The JTE is highly adaptable, he noted. As a mobile unit with interchangeable threat kits, it allows for a wide variety of training opportunities.

“The person being trained is actually in their aircraft, so they’re flying what they would be flying in an actual engagement,” Downie said.

There are no set or predictable threat scenarios under the JTE. The threat simulation comes from the operator in the hub, and the trainee in the arena must react accordingly, Downie said.

It becomes like a competition between the operator and the warfighter-in-training, much like in a real-world scenario, he added.

Under a $219 million contract from the Air Force, Northrop delivered 18 JTEs in 2014. Northrop Grumman will be delivering two variations of the threat emitter unit as well as mobile and fixed command-and-control units. ND

– Additional reporting by Yasmin Tadjdeh

Topics: Simulation Modeling Wargaming and Training, Live Training

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