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One hundred feet above desert sands, a Boeing F-15E Strike Eagle blisters the air. Traveling at the aircraft’s maximum allowable speed, the pilot scans the instruments and weapons systems from the cockpit while searching the horizon for a target. He maneuvers, engages the target and then heads home. Landing, the fighter plane taxis to a complete stop. As a bead of sweat runs down the pilot’s forehead, he opens the trailer door and walks out. He never left the ground.
Many pilots engaged in real-life combat missions today have seen it all before, thanks to the virtual environments that can be realistically created in today’s simulators and training systems.
“It’s all about realism,” said Sarah Hotaling, Boeing director of Army, Navy and Marine Corps programs for Boeing’s Training Systems and Services (TS&S). “The graphics, interfaces and scenarios we can manipulate inside today’s modern simulators and mission training systems enable pilots to execute their missions with more accuracy and then bring them safely home.”
As a leading provider of training systems and services to U.S. and international customers, TS&S delivers total-training capabilities for platforms like the CH-47 Chinook, F-15E Strike Eagle and F-15C, C-17 Globemaster III, F-22 Raptor, F/A-18 Super Hornet, AH-64 Apache, V-22 Osprey, P-8A Poseidon, C-130 Hercules and T-38 Talon.
His hand on the flight stick of an Apache Longbow Crew Trainer (LCT), U.S. Army Lt. Col. John Vannoy eased his simulated Apache attack helicopter into position. The muffled sound of rotor blades added to the realism of the experience. Vannoy, product manager for Apache sensors at Redstone Arsenal, Ala., was visiting TS&S facilities in St. Louis where the Apache LCTs are assembled.
Vannoy flew a mission in the sophisticated trainer, skimming over computer-generated sand dunes while monitoring the weapons and flight systems aboard the Apache. All around the world pilots and crews depend on these advanced simulators to plan and fly missions, as well practice safety procedures.
“This system is clearly, in my mind, the best-of-the-best training device in the field today,” Vannoy said. “Without a doubt, the Longbow Crew Trainers save lives.”
One of the benefits of the simulator to Apache air crews is it enables pilots to practice take-offs and landings in simulated sand storms and brown-out conditions.
Apache trainers deployed to war zones
Wherever U.S. troops fly the AH-64 Apache Longbow helicopter, they are also training in-field on the Boeing Apache LCT. The LCT is a full-mission, high-fidelity, accredited flight simulator that provides qualification and sustainment training for AH-64D pilots, crews and maintenance teams, including training on more than 200 emergency procedures.
The newest of the 29 LCTs delivered worldwide to date include next-generation simulation technologies which enhance the virtual experience. The Next Generation Flight Model software incorporates actual aircraft flight test data which improves the realism of the simulation, and the training system’s Common Simulation Framework combines tools for software development, testing and systems integration.
“By implementing these new technologies, we have raised the fidelity of the LCT to a highly sophisticated level, providing the most realistic training possible for Apache Longbow crews,” said TS&S Vice President Mark McGraw.
The LCT itself is housed in a portable trailer that uses a globally, environmentally compliant refrigerant so the Army can train in locations around the world and keep Apache crews and the LCT’s complex electronic systems cool under the harshest conditions. Boeing has delivered Apache LCTs to diverse Army locations across the globe from established bases like Fort Hood, Texas, and Illesheim, Germany, to in-country locations so every AH-64 Apache unit fielded to Iraq and Afghanistan has access to the LCT.
“The Boeing team develops solutions for the Apache attack helicopter that are so significant, so important,” said Randy Nielson, contractor for the Army’s Apache Project Management Office. “There’s a lot of satisfaction in watching a needed capability evolve into a functional, relevant product. It’s a privilege to work with the kind of people who make it happen.”
Crucial improvements were also made to the visual databases, adding virtual systems and enhanced terrain modeling for South Korea, Iraq, Kosovo and Afghanistan environment simulations. On schedule to deliver an additional four LCTs – three to the U.S. government and one to the Egyptian Air Force – the trainers provide a new level of proficiency for air crews.
“We’re able to keep up with a very dynamic configuration of helicopters in the trainers and stay as current as possible with those in the field,” said Kathy Bailey, Boeing project manager for the U.S. Apache Training Program.
Future of training
Boeing also has been delivering Distributed Mission Operations (DMO) expertise since 1997, and is a leader in developing this type of joint, coalition training solutions for military customers worldwide. In a DMO environment, platform and system operators in many different locations are able to engage in real-time training with a variety of participants within a connected network. TS&S has delivered and currently operates four F-16 Mission Training Centers and an F-22 platform on the DMO network.
“These enhanced capabilities give the aircrews the ability to train like they fight,” McGraw added. “By using validated, computer-generated forces and manned simulations integrated into the aircraft, true-to-life tactics can be practiced. We can even integrate computer-generated ground forces for a true sense of realism.”
In the future, McGraw said modern warfighters will be using other systems currently under development and in use by Boeing and its customers worldwide. For example, the training systems like the Distributed Synthetic Air Land Training currently provide the British Army and Royal Air Force with key elements of their battlespace training. Boeing is a member of the team led by the UK-based technology company QinetiQ.
These new simulated training capabilities give pilots and air crews an advantage to ensure mission success and improve survivability in any arena of conflict.