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Longbow Apache Trainer: First Deployable Simulator for Army.

Deployable training devices promise new flexibility for the U.S. Army, which wants to become a more mobile fighting force. They are especially important to attack-helicopter battalions, with their expensive aircraft and weapons.

The AH-64D Longbow Apache attack helicopter currently costs about $3,400 an hour to fly and a full load of 16 Hellfire missiles is priced at about $2 million. With the introduction of a new Longbow trainer, crews will be able to fly basic and tactical maneuvers, and engage targets with all onboard weapons--for a few hundred dollars per flight hour.

Economics aside, Apache units in Europe and elsewhere simply don't have live-fire ranges big enough for safe laser-designated missile engagements. The troubled Apache deployment to Albania in 1999 also showed that training flights over difficult, unfamiliar terrain--at night or in adverse weather-can cost lives.

Crews flying the Longbow Apache will be able to train for combat on the first production simulators able to deploy with their aviation battalions. The first trainer should be ready in 2002.

According to the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command (AMCOM), the Boeing Co. Aerospace Support Group has demonstrated that the Longbow Crew Trainer (LCT) can be prepared for shipment by C-5 jet transport in less than five days and ready for training in another five days.

Boeing says that tear-down and setup could be done much faster in a crisis, with contractor crews working around the clock.

The high-fidelity LCT can be used at home bases or deployed in a single C-5 sortie to theaters of operations. Its purpose is to sharpen mission-critical skills of AH-64D pilots and co-pilot/gunners. Longbow Apache crews will be able to fly in accurately-represented AH64D cockpits--in a detailed visual environment filled with interactive threats.

In addition to the LCTs, a deployable Longbow Collective Training System (LCTS) will enable six AH-64D crews to train as a fighting company. Ultimately, Longbow crew trainers and the collective trainers will be networked with other forces over the Defense Simulation Internet. "We've never had a training capability like that in the Army," explains Jim Reynolds, Boeing program manager for Apache aircrew training devices.

Helicopter Modernization

So far, the U.S. Army has funded the modernization of 227 AH-64A Apaches to Longbow AH-64Ds. The service expects to buy 501 Longbow Apaches, and the most recent aviadon force-structure plan--which is reportedly being postponed--puts 10 modernized attack helicopters and one LCT in each multi-function aviation battalion. The D-model Apache requires a new simulator, because it comes with new components, such as a glass cockpit, mast-mounted fire control radar, second-generation thermal imager and digital interconnectivity.

Starting in 1986, Link Simulation & Training, now part of L3 Communications, delivered 10 AH-64A combat-mission simulators (CMS) to U.S. Army installations in the United States, Germany and South Korea. One CMS was delivered to Egypt under a foreign military sale contract. The sheer size of the CMS and the elaborate support requirements tie them to multi-story buildings. Moving one would take months and demand dedicated facilities constructed at the new site.

Though the Army considered deploying a CMS to Southwest Asia during Operation Desert Shield in 1990, shipping the big simulator to the theater was deemed impractical. Desert databases hurriedly developed for stateside simulators still left pilots in Saudi Arabia to train for war only on their actual aircraft. Deployable simulators promise realistic practice before the fight begins.

AH-64D units will use their high-fidelity simulators to both introduce crews to Longbow Apache systems and sustain crew qualification. The AH-64A trainer achieves mission-critical skills with various part-task and emergency procedures trainers, in addition to the big CMS.

To make the deployable LCT affordable, Boeing used commercial off-the-shelf technology to shrink the motion and visual systems. AMCOM estimates the AH-64D LCT will cost about one-third the price of the Apache CMS. Power PC-based host computers provide far more capability than the 1980s vintage processors used in the CMS. Later-generation computer technology and a simplified motion system also promise to slash operating and support costs.

The first Army crews to transition from A-to D-model Apaches trained on the Boeing engineering development simulator at Mesa, Ariz.

Boeing received its AH-64D LCT production contract from the Army's aviation program executive officer in October 1998 and is now building trainers under a second multi-year contract. The company has overall responsibility for Longbow flight and maintenance trainers, and initial support while the systems are being fielded. Current contracts cover 23 LCTs in both deployable and fixed-facility configurations, with identical capabilities.

The contractor so far has delivered three Longbow Crew Trainers to the Army Aviation Center at Fort Rucker, Ala., one to the 21st Cavalry Brigade at Fort Hood, Texas, one to the 101st Aviation Regiment at Fort Campbell, Ky., and one to the Royal Netherlands Air Force. The Army Aviation Center at Fort Rucker ultimately will operate four devices. LCTs at Fort Hood and Fort Campbell are deployable versions, like those planned for operational Longbow Apache battalions. Fort Hood also received the first Longbow collective training system in December 2000.

See the Fight

Compared with the big Apache CMS, the deployable Longbow crew trainer exploits a later generation of computer technology to pack even more capability into two trailers. The LCT device trailer--with crew and operator stations--is 53 feet long by 13.5 feet high and expands from 8.5 feet to 16 feet wide, to erect the visual system.

The Boeing (formerly McDonnell Douglas) visual system provides each crewstation a field of view 180 degrees wide by 60 degrees high--on five projection screens. Visual resolution of the LCT projection system is 5.7 arc minutes, significantly better than the 6.9 arc minutes of the CMS.

Evans & Sutherland ESIG image generators provide the in-flight scene from a suite of databases. Two databases create the visual scene out-the-window and the infrared picture of the infrared pilot night-vision sensor and target acquisition and designation sight. A third database and image generator simulate the Longbow fire control radar.

So far, Evans & Sutherland supplied databases representing the terrain around the Aviation Center at Fort Rucker, the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif., and Fort Hunter Liggett, Calif.--with over-water training areas. European and Korean databases are under negotiation.

The out-the-window and through-the-sensor image system will create visual and instrument meteorological conditions and nuclear biological, and chemical conditions by day and night. Longbow crews will be immersed in voice and digital communications representative of a busy battlefield, and they can fly mission plans downloaded from the Army's aviation mission planning system.

Crews in the LCT will also face smarter simulated enemies. The AH-64A CMS provided 10 interactive threats in its scenarios, five of them able to move along regimented pathways. Computer advances give the LCT up to 100 interactive threats, which can change their behavior each time a scenario is played.

The integrated tactical environment management system uses a Silicon Graphics Onyx computer to provide the surroundings, such as semi-automated forces. Most LCT scenarios include up to 65 tactical vehicles, all with full mobility over the entire terrain and able to assume defense postures under helicopter attack. Tanks, for example, can traverse steep hills and assume battle formations based on the mission objectives and programmed behaviors. An armored column can take days to cross the 103-miles by 50-miles Fort Rucker database.

The AH-64D LCT does not have the highly detailed mission rehearsal capability of special operations forces' aircraft simulators. The extremely high-resolution systems used for special operations can model doors and windows in specific target buildings within a 2-km to 4-km area. The LCT with custom databases can nevertheless enable attack helicopter crews to fight a geo-specific battle using an accurate simulation of the real aircraft.

Cockpit Representation

The coupled pilot and co-pilot/gunner cockpits of the LCT are accurate representations of a production lot IV AH-64D. "Everything you see in our trainer cockpit is exactly the same in the real aircraft," explains Al Bacon, Boeing project manager. "All the displays, buttons and controls are dimensionally and functionally honest." Boeing is under contract to maintain concurrency between the training devices and the evolving AH-64D, up through Lot IX.

The new threat-warning and jamming functions of the suite of integrated infrared countermeasures (SIIRCM), for example, will be incorporated into trainers built under the second multi-year contract.

A half-million lines of software code model the AH-64D based on the helicopter's operational flight program and make the trainer fly and fight like the real thing. Instead of the complex CMS hydraulic motion bases with their six degrees of freedom, dynamic crewseats give the LCT three degrees of limited motion and four degrees of motion cueing.

To provide the sensations of an aircraft in flight, the crew seats shuffle fore and aft, left and right, and up and down. In addition, the seat pans and backs move to tension and relax the crew harnesses. Fokker-supplied control loaders provide feedback forces through the pilots' cyclic and collective, and an aural cueing system creates the vibration of the real helicopter and its weapons.

The LCT device trailer also includes the instructor/operator station. The control station shows the view seen out the windows and through the crew displays. The instructor can play wingman for the Longbow Apache crew in training, or perform the duties of a single AH-64D crewmember.

While the LCT enables the Longbow Apache pilots and co-pilot gunner to train as a crew, the bigger--but still mobile--Longbow Collective Training System (LCTS) enables attack helicopter crews to train as a tactical team. Company-sized actions with six aircraft can be critiqued to refine tactics.

"It takes aviators who are already trained to fly and teaches them to fight," explains Jim Reynolds. The six-trailer LCTS has 12 networked crew stations--six mechanically coupled pilot-co-pilot/gunner pairs--with three-screen visual systems providing reduced out-the-window scenery. The cockpits provide high-fidelity representations of the AH-64D tactical systems but minimize ancillary cockpit controls and displays. The first LCTS was delivered to the 21st Cavalry at Fort Hood, home of the Apache single-station unit fielding and training program.

LCT and LCTS specifications call for the simulators to be compatible with both the Distributed Interactive Simulation (DIS) protocol and Higher Level Architectures (HLA). Networked simulations have been demonstrated with the CMS and other aviation simulators. Boeing and the Army have yet to conduct any networking experiments with the new training devices, but the potential is there for Longbow Apache crews to train in concert with other aviation and ground elements on the Army's new generation of deployable simulators.

AVCATT-A, the Aviation Combined Arms Tactical Trainer, will use reconfigurable cockpits to simulate several different aircraft, and may tie utility or cargo helicopter crews into simulations with high-fidelity LCTs.

Separate from the device trailer, the LCT crew trainer contains a 153 kW generator, environmental control unit, and storage space. Together, the LCT trailers weigh around 80,000 pounds--hardly portable, but nevertheless mobile, and compatible with austere operating sites. The LCTs at Fort Hood are housed in hangars. Those at Fort Campbell will stand on a concrete base, while plans for Korea include roofs built over the trailers.

While the U.S. Army sought an affordable LCT to outfit every Longbow battalion, the United Kingdom has invested in a Longbow Apache full-mission simulator (FMS) and two field deployable simulators (FDS). The big FMS puts each crewstation in a 17-foot projection dome and uses an electromechanical database to provide six degrees of freedom. The containerized FDS puts dynamic motion sears in 8-foot projection domes. Both devices use the advanced Evans & Sutherland Harmony image generator with head trackers to detail areas of interest. Boeing and GKN Westland formed a joint venture called Aviation Training International Ltd. to operate the trainers under a 30-year contract from the U.K. Ministry of Defence.

Of the international AH-64A operators, Egypt is the only one to operate a CMS. However, the more affordable and more supportable LCT opens new training opportunities for AH-64D customers. The Netherlands has a fixed-base LCT to support 301 and 301 Squadrons at Gilze-Rijen Air Force Base. Israel and other Longbow Apache users have shown interest in an advanced crew-training device to support a new weapons system.
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Article Details
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Author:Colucci, Frank
Publication:National Defense
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 2001
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