The US Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) aircrews have started training on full-motion simulators for the MC-130J version of the Lockheed Martin Hercules tactical transport aircraft at Kirtland AFB, New Mexico.
The USAF recently started receiving the new MC-130Js for which the USAF must start training new crews. Lockheed delivered the courseware and curriculum for the new aircraft to Air Education and Training Command (AETC) in February, says Vic Torla, the company's director for the aircrew training and rehearsal support (ATARS) programme.
At the same time, Lockheed delivered the first MC-130J weapons system trainer (WST), which is analogous to a US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Level-D full-motion simulator, to the desert base. But unlike a civilian simulator, the military device can replicate sensors systems, electronic warfare systems, weapons, and night vision goggle environments. It also replicates enemy threats which the aircraft might face in combat. The simulators can also be networked with multiple aircrews and simulated aircraft flying in the same virtual environment across multiple bases.
USAF combat system operators (CSO) started their transition course to the MC-130J in March. Meanwhile, Air Combat Command's CSOs, who will fly the HC-130J variant, started to train in April. Pilots and loadmasters started their training syllabus on 1 May. The two aircraft, which are very similar, use the same simulators.
The training course is split with 80% of the course completed in classrooms or a simulator. The remaining 20% is flown in a real aircraft. Because the fidelity of the new devices is so high, in the future, simulator training could be expanded to encompass more of the syllabus, Torla says.
Regular C-130J crews complete the overwhelming majority of their training syllabus on a simulator with the exception of their "check ride", which is flown on a real aircraft. "AFSOC is not jumping right to that level of simulator dependency, and certainly in the mission level training requirement there is a greater demand to fly in the actual aircraft. But we certainly feel confident that the ability to expand upon what is traditionally accomplished in the aircraft versus the simulator," Torla says. "That will be expanded for the J environment."
Because operating a simulator is much more cost effective than flying a real aircraft, operational units will eventually offload as much of their training as possible onto simulators, Torla says. More and more training will migrate onto simulators as the USAF becomes more confident in using the machines.
Already, AFSOC was the first USAF command to receive lower-fidelity reconfigurable procedural trainers called the multi-function training aid (MFTA). The devices enable crews to complete more of their routine training without resorting to more costly methods.
Lockheed is on contract to deliver 20 new WST simulators to four additional AFSOC and ACC sites including Hurlburt Field AFB, Florida, Cannon AFB, New Mexico, Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona, and Moody AFB in Georgia.
In future the full-motion simulator could be used to train aircrews for the new AC-130J programme which the USAF and Lockheed are working on, Torla says.