Designers must face the ever-growing challenge of balancing the need for concurrent systems with advances in training technology

Training is no longer an afterthought in the design of combat aircraft. Integrated product development disciplines ensure that training systems are designed concurrently with the aircraft, but pose problems in planning for technology advances over a programme's life cycle.

Training system developers are uniquely confronted by the relentless march of technology. The systems they develop must remain effective over the operational lifetime of an aircraft, and with trainees ranging from pilots experienced on previous-generation products to students who are yet to be born.

Increasingly, the military is entrusting the management of training-system procurement to industry - and in the case of new combat aircraft to the air-vehicle prime contractor. This is intended to ensure concurrency of the weapon system and its associated training system in terms of both availability and capability.

Lockheed Martin has entrusted development of the pilot and maintainer training systems for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) to its own training organisation. Led by the US company's Information Systems sector, Lockheed Martin Training will manage a team including the aircraft developer, its partners BAE Systems and Northrop Grumman, and yet to be selected US and international suppliers.

The contract to design, develop and deliver an integrated pilot and maintenance training system is worth up to $750 million over 10 years. Via its acquisition of former General Electric, Goodyear and Loral simulation businesses, Lockheed Martin Training brings a broad range of capabilities to JSF, and keeping management of the programme in-house will help ensure the system contributes to the goal of minimising F-35 life-cycle cost.

The system will have to meet the same affordability targets as the overall JSF programme, and the pilot training suite will be modular to support training at schoolhouses, operational squadrons and deployed sites. While device manufacture is likely to be subcontracted by Lockheed Martin, the company's Naval Electronics &Surveillance Systems unit will be responsible for the correlated visual and sensor database central to the pilot training suite.

Close involvement of the weapon system developer in training-system design is already a feature of the Lockheed Martin/Boeing F-22 Raptor programme. Boeing, as avionics lead, is working with L-3 Communications' Link Simulation &Training division to develop the pilot and maintenance training systems.

Using commercial technology and drawing on experience from its airliner business, Boeing is designing the systems to accommodate the evolution of aircraft mission capabilities and training equipment technology.

The F-22 pilot training suite is built around three simulators to be produced by Link. The full-mission trainer (FMT) is a fixed-base simulator with high-fidelity cockpit and partial geodesic dome visual system. FMTs will be networked in groups of four at each training site and will be supported by intermediate-level weapons tactics trainer and lower-level egress procedures trainers.

A similar suite of devices is likely to be developed for the F-35, to meet the needs of schoolhouse, squadron-level and deployed training. A similar approach is being taken with Eurofighter Typhoon aircrew training, which is to be be performed on sophisticated full-mission simulators supported by intermediate-level interactive pilot stations and lower-level cockpit trainers.

Balancing the traditional European requirement for multi-national industrial worksharing with the need for weapon system and training system concurrency has been met in the Typhoon's case by the formation of Eurofighter Simulation Systems (ESS), a joint-venture bringing together training equipment suppliers CAE and STN Atlas in Germany, Indra of Spain, Meteor of Italy and Thales Training &Simulation in the UK.

The $715 million aircrew synthetic training aids (ASTA) contract was awarded to Eurofighter in April, after which Eurofighter signed a contract with ESS to develop and supply the devices. ESS has subsequently awarded a number of subcontracts to its partner companies to supply elements of the ASTA suite. ESS now faces the daunting task of delivering the first full-mission simulators - the most sophisticated of the ASTA devices - by 2004.

While high-profile programmes like Eurofighter, F-22 and F-35 are set to drive technology development in the combat aircraft simulation industry for years to come, the latest update of Flight International's Military Simulator Census on the pages that follow shows there is substantial business in updating the training systems for in-service aircraft to incorporate similar technology and maintain their effectiveness.

Source: Flight International