Wouldn't a MVIS product make this even more realistic? Note: the reference to Armstrong Labratory both here and in the recent press release on an Air Force development/research contract. We're talking big time potential for MVIS technology.|
970498. Superlab tames menagerie of flight simulators at symposium
By Tech. Sgt. Pat McKenna
Air Force News Service
LAS VEGAS -- An Air Force superlab demonstrated the future of aircrew
simulator training here during Air Force FIFTY, a symposium and celebration
of the service's 50th anniversary.
An exhibit by Armstrong Laboratory's aircrew training research division,
based at the former Williams Air Force Base in Phoenix, linked flight
simulators of four F-16 Falcons, two A-10 Warthogs, and a C-130 Hercules to
accomplish a "virtual" airdrop mission over hostile territory.
"It's the first-time the Air Force has deployed a composite wing's worth of
training capability," said Col. Bob Mattingly, the division's director of
Reserve programs. "Right now, it's a testbed, but this multi-aircraft
simulation environment might become part of aircrew training in the near
Although the simulators are driven by three different image generators made
by Evans and Sutherland, Lockheed Martin and Silicon Graphics, all use the
same visual database, which allows an amalgam of aircraft to fly coordinated
During the digital display at the Air Force Association convention Wednesday
and Thursday, a four-ship of F-16s flew ahead of the A-10 two-ship escorting
the C-130. The fighters suppressed enemy air defenses and engaged enemy
aircraft while the A-10s fired their 30mm guns and rockets to destroy tanks
and hostile ground forces. The fighters allowed the C-130 to airdrop
supplies to friendly infantrymen. The 3-D scenario replicates the terrain
surrounding Elmendorf AFB and Anchorage, Alaska.
At the exhibit, the eight simulators were crammed into the same room;
however, by using existing telephone lines and defense computer networks,
the computerized cockpits could be spread out across the world. The concept
is called distributed mission training, which permits multiple aircrews at
different locations to immerse themselves in a virtual environment and "fly"
with and against each other.
"We could hook up a four-ship of F-15s at Elmendorf with a four-ship of
F-16s at Shaw [AFB, S.C.] with a four-ship of A-10s at Davis-Monthan [AFB,
Ariz.]," said Maj. Reid Reasor, an Armstrong research-and-development
program manager, "or link any other combination or assortment of aircraft
you can think of. We've also done joint simulation training with the Army
at Fort Knox [Ky.] and they're 1,300 miles away. They used their tank
simulators in our digital battlespace and vice versa."
Currently, distributive mission training is under development and in a
research phase; but Armstrong Lab believes that if the technology is
fielded, it would greatly enhance training.
"There are a lot of things you can do training in a simulator that you can't
train to do in a real jet," Reasor said. "In the simulator, you can get
shot at, you can shoot at enemy aircraft and see the missiles explode. But
the technology is still a couple of years away from where we want it. We
want it to smell, act and respond like a real jet. If it doesn't, then
pilots won't accept it as a valid tool, and it'll become just a video game.
We're real close, though."
The F-16 simulators, employing powerful Lockheed Martin graphic computers,
are self-contained in large white pods called mini-DARTs, short for Display
for Advanced Research and Technology. The simulators have a 360-degree
field of view and a cockpit that duplicates the real thing within a quarter
of an inch. The current F-16 simulator used by the Air Force costs about
$32 million each, and its computer equipment occupies an entire room. A
four-ship of mini-DARTs cost about half as much, $15.5 million, as the old
system and its powerful computer sits underneath the cockpit.
"This would be great for a training unit like ours," said Maj. Kelley Tabor,
an F-16 pilot assigned to the 309th Fighter Squadron at Luke. "It's hard to
coordinate big packages of aircraft and set up a rendezvous with an AWACs.
It also gives guys exposure to a lot of different scenarios they'd never see
on a real training mission. But you still need that flying time. That's
where you learn airmanship. Simulators will never replace that."