The world's military pilot-training providers are showing interest in a "revolutionary" simulator visual system which is being designed as a development tool for the Saab JAS39 Gripen multi-role fighter, according to the system's software developer Equipe Electronics.

The visual system gives not just the full lateral "wrap-around" picture but, using a dome above the cockpit, presents the pilot with a complete external view, giving unparalleled opportunities for full mission visualisation and air-to-air combat reality.

At around $3 million, the cost is up to 50% below that of a conventional high-quality visual system, says Terry Burns, managing director of Worthing, UK-based Equipe Electronics, which worked with Saab to produce the software. Burns says: "Saab came to us because it wanted something which wasn't available - the only course open to Saab was to develop it."

Saab's director of simulation technology, Leif Thelander, says that the Saab product was not developed with training in mind, but he adds that the market might want a training version.

Burns says that companies from Europe, the Far East and the Americas have approached Equipe about potential tailored military training applications.

The low cost of the simulator derives from the fact that all the hardware, from image-generator to projectors, can be bought off-the-shelf, Burns says.

In the case of the Saab project, Equipe has produced the software, US-based Silicon Graphics (SG) makes the image-generators, and UK company SEOS Displays produces the integrated display using projectors by Belgium-based Barco-EIS.

This off-the-shelf approach, says Burns, is the future for simulator visuals, being cheaper and "future-proof" because it is easily upgraded.

Future-proofing is also assured, according to Burns, by the fact that the visualisation is produced using "real-time" software which does not need a time-consuming upload before each mission.

Burns says the software "manipulates the database at an incredible speed" using the SG image-generators to produce the visualisation in real-time, following the pilot's actions in the cockpit.

The Saab project has been 18 months in development, and will be completed by 31 October, by which time Equipe will have written software adding infra-red, radar and target-projection simulations to the visual display.

Source: Flight International