Faced with declining budgets, the Pentagon is looking at expanding the use of flight simulators in order to save on airframe life and operating costs.
Simulators have their advantages in replicating large air campaigns with hundreds of aircraft–in the virtual arena, missile fly-out distances and probability of kill can be simulated with far greater fidelity than over, say, the Nellis ranges. Also, sims offer much more realistic threat presentations for both surface-to-air missiles and electronic attacks.
Sims are also very good for developing tactics and developing aircraft. Read the story here.
But on the down side, sims don’t really help to build airmanship–they’re not particularly useful for dealing with day-to-day inanities such as dealing with air traffic control, navigating in bad weather, deconflicting with traffic, or dealing with a broken/cranky jet with degraded systems. Basically, dealing with Murphy’s Law.
And, sims don’t help new pilots to operate a real aircraft with the real physiological effects of pulling Gs–particularly training for within visual range combat. “When I was an IP [instructor pilot] at [XXXXXXXXX] I consistently taught BFM [basic fighter maneuvers] simulators to students, and some did extremely well–a few even got the better of me,” one highly experienced USAF pilot says. “The next day, I took them out on their BFM flights and promptly kicked their asses. You fly differently than you sim… always.”
Read Flight’s military training feature here (Not the same story as link further up)
My colleague Zach Rosenberg also wrote a feature on UAV training. The US Army is becoming increasingly realistic in its UAV training as it gains experience, and, the service is increasingly looking towards common systems and training syllabi to maintain a cohesive force post-Afghanistan.