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Mission preparation -- the ultimate in simulation? All training, in whatever form, is designed to prepare personnel and their commanders to fight efficiently. Nevertheless, the careers of many in the armed forces will be such that they will reach retirement age without ever being on the receiving end of shots fired in anger. This is as it should be, since war is only conducted when diplomacy has failed. (Simulation Approach).

The problem: At a time of `brush fire' conflicts and an open-ended war declared against terrorism, aircrews must be prepared to deploy to unfamiliar territory. But this is also an age when even media representatives of an enemy may be tolerated (and manipulated) by the object of military action. Consequently, the need to avoid collateral damage can come second only to a determination to avoid casualties among one's own forces. Oh, and not forgetting to hit the target of course! So if air power delivered with surgical accuracy is to be used to crush an enemy's will to resist, then mission rehearsal has become the true interface between `routine' training and preparation for actual combat.

As the bombing in Afghanistan has demonstrated, even if there are special forces on the ground to laser designate targets for smart bombs dropped from a B-52 high above surface-to-air missile range, that is no guarantee that collateral damage will be avoided. So careful mission preparation by means of simulation is becoming a `must have' item.

The solutions: For the new or next generation of fighters such as the Gripen, Eurofighter, F-22 and JSF, mission planning and rehearsal comes with the training package. Indeed, Distributed Mission Training (DMT) has enabled company development simulators to take part in exercises with squadrons operating different aircraft types in current service. In fact, each of these new aircraft will also feature an Embedded Training (ET) capability enabling crews to rehearse a mission whilst en route to the target.

When carrying out an attack on a ground target at any height lower than beyond surface-to-air missile range, most pilots will be aware of the dangers of making anything more than a single pass at the target. The second time around will place aircraft and pilot in extreme danger, so with such risks in mind, Lockheed Martin has worked with Fokker Space and the Dutch National Aerospace Laboratory to develop embedded training technology for the JSF.

Saab's JAS39 Gripen was, however, the first new-generation fighter to enter squadron service with such a capability to allow mission preparation. But as Lockheed Martin concluded, such a system must include a safety module that stands ready to terminate the simulation in the event of flight hazards or equipment failure. If ET is something for which squadron pilots must wait until the new generation of fighters enter service, what about DMT?

DMT enables groups of pilots to rehearse missions together, but although such a capability can be introduced as an upgrade to existing flight simulators, by all accounts a lack of funding has slowed the US Air Force's DMT programme. Evidently, even at a time when the importance of training has never been greater, budget constraints can delay the application of new technology. However, progress is being made and, having developed a full mission trainer for the F-15C, Boeing was awarded a contract to execute a DMT programme for this fighter.

Under this contract, each Mission Training Centre (MTC) is to be equipped with four F-15C simulators that can be linked locally, although in the fullness of time Boeing will deliver four-ship MTCs at fourteen interconnected locations. Meanwhile, Lockheed Martin has developed a similar solution for US Air Force F-16 MTCs and demonstrated a four-ship training system at the Interservice/Industry Training Simulation and Education Conference (I/ITSEC) last year. The F-16 MTCs will be the first to include an air-to-ground capability, but over the next decade the US Air Force plans to extend its DMT network to include the A-10, B-1, B-2, F-15E, F-22, F-117 and JSF, as well as cargo and tanker aircraft.

Not Forgetting Helos

Other forces clearly have need of DMT-capable training systems as accidents in some remote regions indicate a lack of combat readiness. US Army Apache Longbow training can now be provided by a containerised field deployable simulator being produced by Boeing. Meanwhile, the Aviation Combined Arms Tactical Trainer -- Aviation (Avcatt-A) reconfigurable simulator, developed by Raytheon and now produced by L-3, will enable Army aircrews to enhance their skills in simulated combat environments.

With the Mission Command Trainer (MCT) developed by Evans & Sutherland to provide mission planning and rehearsal, the company has demonstrated that this capability does not necessarily involve high cost. The MCT is reconfigurable and can be tailored to simulate different types of air and ground vehicles, but in its helicopter mode several crews can train together. This includes communicating with one another in real-world scenarios as nap-of-the-earth flying conditions permit, while dealing with targets that can shoot back.

Or Gunships

As the Afghanistan campaign has already demonstrated, Special Operations Forces can play a key role, but in maximising their effectiveness it has been shown that there is a direct relationship between mission preparation and mission performance. Consequently, Lockheed Martin Information Systems is providing Special Operations Forces bases with a training and rehearsal programme for use with MC-130P Combat Shadow aircraft simulators. The use of Quantum3D's AAlchemy PC-based image generators with these simulators marks the first time that they have been used to support precision gunnery requirements for mission rehearsal training.

`Soviet' Designs Not Forgotten

The importance of mission planning and rehearsal has not been overlooked by air forces equipped with fighters of Russian origin, VRM of Slovakia producing a MiG-29 full mission simulator for example. Elbit Systems' SimulTec division produces such a device for the MiG-21 `Lancer' upgrade, while Poland's ETC-PZL has helped to overcome the Su-22M4 training cost problem by the development of a simulator with a full 3D real terrain database covering some 40,000 square kilometres.

The Future is Here Today

With drones finally playing a major role in a `zero casualty' conflict, the US Air Force has contracted CAE to develop courseware and operator instruction that will lead to the Predator being added to its DMT network. But Simtech, Carmel Applied Technologies and the Silver Arrow subsidiary of Elbit have also developed simulators that will add to mission preparation capabilities.
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Author:Walters, Brian
Publication:Armada International
Date:Apr 1, 2002
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