U.S. Navy Expanding Simulator Use To Cut Costs

By John Croft
Source: Aviation Week & Space Technology

Along with flying in teams of two, Romeo pilots in Jacksonville and elsewhere will soon be able to train with a Fire Scout crew. Muehlbauer says the two MQ-8B simulators are being upgraded to emulate the MQ-8C and to gain Navy Continuous Training Environment compliance, which will allow him to connect the simulator to the network. Earning that gold seal is no simple matter, given the security concerns during a group or a cross-service simulation scenario that could include a B-2 bomber with nuclear weapons on board. “It's a very tough process to get through,” says Muehlbauer. “Not only do you have to prove on a regular basis that you can secure your own classified data, but that you're not getting everybody else's.”

While there are cost savings to be found by networking simulators together for battle scenarios, there is also value in maintaining a certain level of in-aircraft training, at least for manned aircraft. Mackenzie, an MH-60 Bravo instructor, says that although as much as 80% of training and readiness exercises for the Romeo can be theoretically be done in the simulator, “It is not our desire to complete 80% of our training in the simulator”.

“You can only feel what 'boost-off' feels like in an aircraft,” he says. “You can see the light show in the simulator but you don't know what it feels like to press on that pedal and get your leg to start shaking because you're using so much adrenaline to keep that aircraft flying. You can't fake that.”

Regarding how far the Navy can go beyond its 50% simulator training goal for the Romeo by 2020, Mackenzie was unsure. “I would hate to march toward that tipping point and go past it, and know that we've gone past it because we start killing people. That's tough. What we're doing is the right way—setting a goal and walking toward that goal cautiously and slowly.”

Muehlbauer is more pragmatic. “We're getting close to the maximum now—we have surround-sound Bose systems in the cockpit so you can get 'secondaries' now; we've got seat shakers. But obviously you're never going to get that guy to really get scared and suck it up and worry about dying in a simulator.”

For the Proud Warriors crew, with the job of identifying virtual ships in the simulated Persian Gulf on Oct. 17, the larger questions of tipping points were irrelevant—the bottom line was that the simulator was helping. “The first time Lt. Lawrence is flying over the Persian Gulf, trying to visually identify contacts, it won't feel like the first time he's using the systems,” says aircraft commander Boyce. “The button-pushing and the overall tactics won't change. Though he will have to adapt to the actual environment, and maybe a little bit more hectic traffic scenario.”

Tap on the icon in the digital edition of AW&ST for a look inside the MH-60R simulator with Navy pilots in training, or go to AviationWeek.com/video

Percentage of Synthetic Training for U.S. Navy Aircraft
Source: Government Accountability Office

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