Immersive flight training

Dec. 5, 2012
Virtual reality, simulation, and training software and hardware ready aerospace and defense personnel for increasingly challenging missions.

Virtual reality, simulation, and training software and hardware ready aerospace and defense personnel for increasingly challenging missions.

Aerospace and defense organizations worldwide currently seek student-focused, relevant, and flexible tools and methods with which to ensure the preparedness and effectiveness of personnel. Industry technology firms are responding with digital innovations that are well attuned to the modern student. Today's hardware and software simulation and training systems are injecting students into the learning process; rather than sitting back and watching a seminar, soldiers are now active participants in immersive mission-rehearsal environments.

Last month, Lockheed Martin engineers completed the first F-35 Lightning II Full Mission Simulator at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., home to the first operational Marine Corps F-35 squadron worldwide.

"Technology for the simulation industry is changing rapidly," explains a representative of Christie Digital Systems USA, maker of the Matrix StIM solid-state simulation projector. "Visual display systems featuring powerful, new capabilities make training as close to the real-world experience as one can get."

Simulation and training is becoming more critical in today's ever complex world, recognizes Pratish Shah, vice president of marketing and sales at Quantum3D in San Jose, Calif. "The battlefield space is ever changing, our enemies are changing, and the front line environments are not as clear. This puts added responsibility on all members of the military, including pilots, ground soldiers, and tank commanders.

"Training equipment must adapt to this changing world," Shah continues, "and the military must have the ability to quickly rehearse for missions using virtual environments, terrain, and models that accurately depict the live environment."

Tools to create the synthetic environments common in flight, ground, and infantry simulation today continue to evolve, increasing the ease and speed by which synthetic environments can be developed, Shah affirms. "Faster tools and processes to rapidly develop database prototypes are needed for mission rehearsal."

Lockheed Martin Aeronautics engineers selected Quantum3D's Mantis Real-Time Scene Management software to equip the company's Simulation Systems Integration Labs (SimSILs) in Fort Worth, Texas; Marietta, Ga.; and Palmdale, Calif. Quantum3D's Mantis software supports fixed- and rotary-wing flight, ground vehicle, tank, mission rehearsal, and sensor simulation. It renders realistic, three-dimensional, out-the-window and sensor environments for training, mission rehearsal, and engineering simulation.

SimSIL facilities support Lockheed Martin's F22, F35, F16, C130, and C5 platforms, as well as provide engineering simulation services for the development of control laws and avionics, verification testing of operational flight programs, and analysis of lethality and survivability.

The VirtuSphere, from VirtuSphere Inc. in Sammamish, Wash., is a versatile platform providing immersive military training and mission rehearsal.

First for the F-35

Lockheed Martin installed the first F-35 Lightning II Full Mission Simulator (FMS) last month at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Yuma, Ariz., which will be home to the first operational Marine Corps F-35 squadron worldwide. Two of six planned Joint Strike Fighter FMS systems have been installed on site, explains Mary Ann Horter, vice president for F-35 sustainment at Lockheed Martin Global Training and Logistics. The FMS installation and software completion will allow pilot familiarization and transition scenarios to begin later this year.

"The FMS includes a high-fidelity, 360-degree visual display system and is the highest-fidelity trainer in the F-35 pilot-training-device suite, accurately replicating all F-35 sensors and weapons deployment," Horter says.

"Due to the fidelity of the simulators, approximately 50 percent of the core syllabus flights for the F-35 program are accomplished in the simulator," says Lt. Col. Dwight DeJong, director of the Joint Strike Fighter Site Activation Team for MCAS Yuma. "This becomes extremely cost effective with realistic training that is independent of the weather, maintenance, and range availability that can challenge daily operations."

MCAS Yuma will host five F-35 squadrons and one operational test and evaluation squadron. Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 will be the first operational F-35 squadron on station.

The Air Force's variant of the Joint Strike Fighter is undergoing training evaluation by military personnel at the Testing and Operations Center at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. "Data from all aspects of training-including maintenance, classroom, simulators, and live flight-is being collected during stringent testing," Horter says. "At the successful conclusion of the evaluation, we will receive the Air Education and Training Command's approval to begin full training."

The Air Force's 33rd Fighter Wing has accomplished more than 200 F-35 exercises with A and B variants to help improve pilot and maintainer familiarity with the aircraft and exercise the logistics infrastructure.

Tactical environment

Thales engineers in France delivered to the French Ministry of Defense-Defense Procurement Agency (DGA) the upgrade for the first two of four Rafale simulator cabins at the Rafale Transformation Squadron simulation center in Saint-Dizier. Thales technology will update the Rafale simulator cabins to the F3.2 standard.

The Rafale Transformation Squadron trains French Air Force and Navy pilots on the Dassault Rafale, a twin-engine, delta-wing multirole combat aircraft designed and built by Dassault Aviation in Paris.

The Thales upgrade improves the instruction and training provided to prepare for Rafale F3 missions, such as air-to-sea attack with the AM39 anti-ship missile, reconnaissance with the Reco-NG pod, air support with the Damocles laser targeting pod, and nuclear deterrence with the ASMP/A enhanced medium-range, air-to-ground missile.

Global readiness

CAE in Montreal won a contract from the U.S. Navy to develop a KC-130J full-mission simulator for the Kuwait Air Force under a foreign military sale. Engineers at CAE USA will design and manufacture a KC-130J full-mission simulator featuring the CAE True electric motion system, CAE Medallion-6000 image generator, and common database (CDB) architecture, which enables real-time mission training and rehearsal capabilities.

"This KC-130J full-mission simulator will support initial, recurrent, and mission training in-country for Kuwaiti KC-130J aircrews, and enable the Kuwait Air Force to focus their fleet of KC-130J aircraft on operational requirements," explains John Lenyo, president and general manager at CAE USA. "Because of the enhanced fidelity and capability of simulation-based training, militaries are increasing the amount of synthetic training as part of the overall training curriculum."

The KC-130J full-mission simulator will be certified by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) to Level D, the highest qualification for flight simulators, and be delivered to Al Mubarak Air Base near Kuwait International Airport in 2015.

"Global militaries continue to believe in the fundamental value of simulation-based training," says Gene Colabatistto, group president, Military Products, Training and Services, CAE. "The Middle East and Asia are markets that are increasingly offering a solid pipeline of opportunities, and we are seeing some good potential for upgrade business as defense forces look to leverage simulation-based training for more of their training requirements."

Testing before training

U.S. Army, Joint Services, and international military personnel took part in Bold Quest 2012 at the Maneuver Center of Excellence in Fort Benning, Ga. The coalition air-combat assessment exercise tests digital technologies intended to reduce friendly fire incidents and improve combat effectiveness and situational awareness. Coalition forces from the U.S. Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps, as well as Australia, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Great Britain, Germany, Italy, Norway, and Sweden took part in the exercise. Cubic Defense Applications' Mission Rehearsal Planning System (MRPS) and Joint Fires Integrated Training Environment (JFITE) were employed during the exercise.

"We received numerous positive comments on the capabilities of MRPS and expect that the Army's recommendation will be to consider MRPS for use at the Brigade and Battalion levels," says John Lewis, director of live, virtual, and constructive (LVC) training for Cubic Defense Applications in Orlando. "The Low Overhead Constructive Simulation (LOCS) at the core of MRPS [has] great potential for many applications, including Joint Fires Integration, De-conflicting Airspace and Air Corridor Planning, and Emergency Crisis Response. It can also be used to train Tactical Operations Center and Forward Tactical Operations Center personnel."

Cubic's MRPS deployable planning and rehearsal training tool is designed to enable defense units, leaders, and teams to operate and train for virtually any real-world mission while immersed in an integrated LVC operational environment. The system's hardware and software can be delivered to run in a specific facility or ruggedized for forward deployment in any operational environment.

Constructive simulation enables interactive mission planning and rehearsal, wargaming, and decision analysis; with non-scripted constructive simulation, the outcome changes each time the simulation is played. "The execution of the mission can be stopped, assessed, and quickly changed to adapt to the tactical situations and operational conditions being replicated, says a spokesperson. MRPS supports tailored scenarios that "emulate the tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) of specific threats, cultural environments, and conditions on the ground, where the mission will be executed." MRPS displays incorporate high-resolution, 3D terrain from existing government Digital Terrain Elevation Data (DTED)/Digital Flight Info Data (DFID) terrain data sources to create virtually any real-world Area of Operation (AO).

The JFITE, also demonstrated at Bold Quest, is the most recent configuration of Cubic's immersive dome training environment technology. The 360-degree immersive dome includes an inflatable or hard shell home, projectors, automatic camera-based calibration, an image generator, and PC-based simulation solutions from SDS International and Nova Technologies. It is designed to be scalable, modular, and readily configurable for end user's needs, and it is optimized for Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC) training.

"The Army is intent on formally training its own conventional JTACs," says Bert Ges, director of the War- fighter Effectiveness Group at Cubic Defense Applications in Arlington, Va. "JTITE is also expeditious; units can take the system with them for deployments while maintaining their proficiency."

An astronaut undergoes weightless environment training underwater in a spacesuit. The exercise simulates real-world, zero-gravity space conditions underwater.

Live, virtual, and constructive

LVC integration is an extremely important training trend, Lewis says, noting that LVC can provide valuable and effective training at a low cost. "Through LVC, it will be possible to provide denser threat and friendly participant environments to train to the capabilities of new aircraft, vehicles, and defense and weapon systems in an increasingly complex battle space," he says. "Virtual and constructive entities can be created using today's technology and can be integrated into exercises with live participants, providing cost-effective substitutes for live surface-to-air threats, airborne threats, and friendly participants."

Integrating the live, virtual, and constructive environments is becoming increasingly important to prepare warfighters, notes Jim Weitzel, vice president for training solutions for Lockheed Martin Global Training and Logistics. Lockheed Martin engineers are developing technologies to advance the LVC environment.

"As the operational landscape has grown in complexity, so has the need to present complex training scenarios for military training," Weitzel says. LVC meets that challenge, and does so across domains and services, by presenting computer-generated (CG) threats during live and distributed mission rehearsals.

"For aviation, this means a path forward for live fly aircraft to use virtual and constructive data to accomplish training objectives. For example, F-22 pilots need to complete a combination of air-to-air and air-to-ground training tasks to prepare for their missions," Weitzel adds. "LVC can facilitate their training while reducing costs and minimizing reliance on airspace, adversary aircraft, and ground threats."

With LVC, CG threats show up on the aircraft or simulator sensors as would real adversaries in theater. Virtual enemies in the air and on the ground, increase the complexity of training missions, helping ensure that pilots are ready to engage when and if needed in real-world scenarios.

Curbing costs

"In today's economic environment, the military needs more sustainable training solutions that deliver maximum impact and decreased costs," Weitzel says. Lockheed Martin is investing in game-based and mobile learning and plug-and-play architectures to drive affordability.

"Learning never stops, and it needs to be available at the time of need," LTG Walker said at AUSA. "Even in this new fiscal reality, we can't ever become complacent."

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