Since projecting combat airpower is expensive, Tyndall Air Force Base (AFB) 337th Air Control Squadron (ACS) invested in smarter operations for lower training costs to launch a jet, fly an unlimited amount of hours and fight thousands of enemies.
All from a single room.
This can all be done through four F-15C Eagle training simulators that provide flexible, cost effective operations through the 337th ACS explained Senior Airman Dustin Mullen, 325th Fighter Wing Public Affairs in his article F-15C simulators provide low-cost, critical training.
“The F-15C simulators, officially called Full Mission Trainers, belong to the Air Education and Training Command, and primarily support Undergraduate Air Battle Management training conducted by the 337th,” pointed out Martin Schans, 337th ACS civilian supervisor.
Noteworthy the simulators provide training not only for the 337th ACS, but also for the 95th and 43rd Fighter Squadrons, the 53rd Weapons Evaluation Group and various units from around the world, including foreign national partners.
One huge benefit of these simulators is the drastic price cut when compared to a real F-15C flight, less than 1 percent of the normal cost.
“There are numerous ways to determine cost per flying hour, but the widely accepted methods put the cost for the Eagle at $17,000 per flying hour,” Schans said. “The simulators costs $1.2 million to operate each year. In 2016, that made the cost $230 per hour.
“The previous visual system was over 20 years old,” added Schans. “Component failure rates were increasing, and replacement parts were getting very expensive.”
Hence why equipping the simulators with modern visual system, was an essential investment to create more realistic environment for the pilots.
“The new flat-panel television screens provide more than 50 percent of the previous visual coverage and 90 percent of the important areas, in very high resolution,” Schans said. “This upgrade reduces upkeep/repair costs by $400,000 each year.”
Furthermore the simulators can provide flexible training environments.
“When units use our FMTs, they can control the weather and time of day which can impact tactical decisions,” Schans said, “They choose whether to have all the aircraft systems working, or to have some of the systems inoperative. In the FMT we can provide countless adversary aircraft and surface to air missile threats, and in the FMT, you never have to quit because you are out of fuel.”
The virtual world these Eagles fly in can also host other simulators based around the world, including Tyndall’s own F-22 Raptor simulators, allowing units from anywhere to fly together and never leave home.
“The way we connect our FMTs to the F-22 simulators is through the Distributed Training Operations Center located in Des Moines, Iowa, and run by the Iowa Air National Guard,” Schans said. “The DTOC allows multiple units to participate in the same simulation environment to practice integration of forces.”
This simulators provide mission training to the Air Force Air Battle Management students that come through the 337th ACS on a daily basis.
“In the controlled environment of simulated missions, we can control the pace at which tactical problems are introduced to the student ABMs,” told Schans. “The scenarios are built with command and control as the only focus. When you compare this to a live fighter aircraft training mission, the scenario is centered on the pilots’ training requirements, and the ABM gets whatever training he or she can along the way.”
The simulators allow to personalize each mission to provide the best training for the ABM at the helm, Schans said.
“There are no substitutes available for the 17 simulated missions each student accomplishes with the FMT,” Schans said. “[Without it], the ABM students would be far less capable when they graduate. This would increase the training burden on their follow-on units.”
Given that today modern aerial warfare requires extensive airspace and training, a large number of operational elements would be involved. For this reason it’s not cost effective conducting such training on a day-to-day basis. BY complementing real flight training, Full Mission Trainers (FMTs) enable the U.S. Air Force (USAF) to achieve its training objectives in a mission-oriented and cost-effective manner.
Moreover FMTs are effective training tools for junior pilots to acquire flying skills as well as for experienced pilots to familiarise themselves with new operating procedures and characteristics of the newly assigned aircraft.
Photo credit: Staff Sgt. Joe W. McFadden / U.S. Air Force and Boeing
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