Delivery Is Underway With Completion And Handover Planned For
The Air Force's first Mission Training Center simulator is being
set up at Nevada's Nellis AFB as part of a $109.1 million contract
with L-3 Link Simulation and Training. The F-16 MTC includes four
high-definition simulators, each enclosing an F-16 Fighting Falcon
fighter cockpit within a 360-degree display dome linked to
networked simulation computers. Each cockpit can fly solo or with
others on virtual missions, enabling a broad range of training,
tactics validation and mission rehearsal options.
The system also includes instructor review stations and
auditorium debriefing displays. It simulates all F-16 capabilities,
including any modification, weapon system, or mission profile that
the real fighter might have.
Lt. Col. Marty Garrett, the 57th Operations Support Squadron's
director of operations, said the system will be of enormous value
to the Air Force as a whole. "The avionics in this system are as
realistic as currently possible," Colonel Garrett said. "It will
let us do things that are either impossible or too expensive to do
in real life.
"Ordinarily, if you're flying a training mission, there are
limits," he said. "I can't put you up against 40 red (opposing)
aircraft. Nobody has those kinds of resources to fly on a training
mission. I can't put you up over an adversary's airspace, in bad
weather, to practice a strike over their country. There are also
certain munitions we can't drop just anywhere, or whose cost
requires serious justification to use for training, but pilots
still have to be qualified on them. You can do all of this in
simulators," he said.
Although the MTC cannot simulate the physical forces of flight,
the simulator offers a highly realistic virtual world with the same
instrument displays and data as in a real sortie. This provides the
opportunity to test or practice mission plans under any conditions
a pilot might encounter in a real aircraft.
Capt. Travis Clegg, the 57th OSS training flight commander,
emphasized that while simulators cannot yet replace actual flying,
they are very useful in making actual flights more effective. "Sims
are where the Air Force makes its money," Captain Clegg said. "We
knock out some of the mistakes early on that you would have seen in
the flight, only nobody dies, and we save expensive planes.
"I can pause a sim in the middle or run it over and over again,"
he said. "I can see how my pilots are going to react given a
certain set of training and expectations. I can sit down with my
guys and decide whether something's working or not, or plow through
it as many times as we need to until we work through the problem.
And we're not burning up expensive flying hours on the jet to do
Nellis Air Force Base's long-range plan includes adding
additional MTC simulators for other platforms, such as the F-15E
Strike Eagle and F-35 Lightning II, while linking the virtual joint
terminal attack controller trainer and other simulators already
present at Nellis AFB into the MTC's virtual battle space. This
would allow participants in one simulator to conduct missions
together with those in others, just as if performing their missions
together in real life. The concept - now emerging from development
- is called distributed mission operations.
Donna Concepcion, Nellis AFB's simulator project officer and
quality-assurance representative, offered an example of distributed
mission operations' potential. An attack controller "on the ground"
in the JTAC simulator, taking simulated weapons fire from a nearby
enemy in difficult terrain or weather, might call for close air
support from a fighter pilot flying the F-16 MTC. The pilot would
be able to strike the target without endangering lives in case of a
mistake, or even "rewind" the scenario to try different approaches
or tactics. In this way, the simulator could develop skills needed
in combat which would otherwise be risky to practice with live
A variation of distributed mission operations, now in its
infancy as a technology, is called live-virtual construct. It
overlays a live operation with a virtual one, using displays in a
real aircraft or air operations center to show the position of
simulated platforms, and vice versa.
Though there are no active plans for the MTC to be integrated
into a live-virtual construct at present, Colonel Garrett said such
systems, and the arrival of the F-16 MTC, offer remarkable promise.
"This is really one of the first stepping stones for simulation at
Nellis," he said. "Our long-range goal is to become a 'virtual air
center of excellence' that will benefit the entire combat air
forces. We already do testing, training and tactics development
here. We're doing the 'heavy lifting' to bring students in from all
the services during our flag exercises and weapons school. The
Nevada Test and Training Range makes this is the ideal place for
that kind of capability. Simulators will buttress all our efforts
for the future."
Additional MTCs are slated for future delivery at Air Force
installations including Shaw Air Force Base, SC; Hill AFB, UT; Luke
AFB, AZ; Kunsan Air Base, Korea; Aviano AB, Italy; Misawa AB,
Japan; and Spangdahlem AB, Germany.