Next time the unrelenting heat of Singapore starts to get you down, make a beeline for the Lockheed Martin Pavilion and blag yourself a ride on their F-16 simulator. It features a thrilling ride around the snow – covered mountains of Alaska and it soon cools you down... although the flight can be a tad stressful when the locally resident Sukhois start to threaten you.

Tim Albin, Lockheed Martin's pilot vehicle integration specialist and a man with thousands of F-16 hours in his log-book, explains that today's Block-60 F-16 Desert Falcon (now being built for the United Arab Emirates air force and scheduled for delivery in 2004) is vastly different to the day fighter F-16 of more than 25 years ago.

The simulator cockpit at Singapore features the latest core avionics suite, advanced glass cockpit and both radar and computing/processing power identical to the F-22 Raptor and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

The advanced autopilot and auto-throttle, along with three large picture-in-picture colour displays, colour moving map and more, make the embryonic fighter jock's life almost too easy.

State-of- the-art

But soon after takeoff, pushed by 32,000lb (142kN) of re-heated thrust from the F110-GE- 132 engine, the IFF indicates that a pair of Sukhois are lurking within range and need to be dealt with.

The clear HUD (head up display) shows airspeed, altitude and also gives a good indication of precisely where, and at what range, the menacing fighters are lurking.

By jamming their detection equipment and then in turn locking on to them, the end result is almost too simple and they soon disappear from the realistic screen, emitting a puff of smoke as they disintegrate.

"Remember," says Tim, who's standing comfortingly at my right shoulder, "the controls are a command system – you don't need to fly the aircraft. You simply tell it what to do using minuscule amounts of pressure on the sensitive side-stick controller, and the systems do the rest."

Left to its own devices, ‘my' F-16 would undoubtedly have landed far smoother than the arrival (obviously carrier-trained?) that I managed. But then they always did say that any landing you walk away from is a good landing...

Source: Flight Daily News