The targets are computer-generated trackfiles, uploaded through a data link from a ground-based system or called up by the instructor pilot in the aircraft. And although the student pilot is in the air, the wingman is in a high-fidelity simulator. Yet the look and feel is indistinguishable from a mission with two real aircraft.
“It was so realistic, it felt like I was back in an F-16,” said Brick Izzi, a 25-year-veteran fighter pilot and chief engineer for business development at Raytheon’s Space and Airborne Systems business. Izzi tested the system in a real aircraft against a constructed airborne fighter target.
“I was looking outside the cockpit for a real MiG-29,” he said.
The integrated live and virtual training is part of Raytheon’s T-100 system, which prepares combat aviators for flying fourth- and fifth-generation fighters through an experience that is practically indistinguishable from reality. Raytheon and its partner companies, Leonardo-Finmeccanica and CAE, have deep expertise in the field, training a wide range of professionals, from fighter pilots to automotive technicians, in more than 100 countries and in dozens of languages.
Behind the training are sophisticated Raytheon technologies, including a company-modernized system that helps to build realistic urban combat scenarios at the U.S. Army Joint Readiness Training Center in Louisiana. The company even has its own motion-capture studio in Texas, which creates virtual characters to train operators of the Patriot Air and Missile Defense System.
It’s the next step in evolution for air combat training, moving away from the traditional model of having actual pilots in flight playing the roles of adversaries in training scenarios.
“It’s going to be a virtual constructive threat arena and we will add live training into it,” said retired U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh at the 2015 Air Force Association Air War Symposium.
The training system limits the need for more jets in the air during exercises and saves time and money, according to Dan Darnell, vice president of strategic initiatives at Raytheon.
“It increases the ability of each student to rehearse events on the ground and ensure airborne flight hours are much more effectively utilized,” he said.
The system also exposes student pilots to the advanced airmanship skills and effective cockpit resource management that fourth- and fifth-generation fighter jets demand.
“The system provides a much more complete sensory perception of what flying is going to be like in today’s fighters,” Darnell said. “Students learning how to fly and employ the aircraft must be exposed to the environmental challenges of being airborne, while simultaneously dealing with the complexities of pilot-to-machine interfacing.”
The training system lets pilots rehearse these visually-based scenarios again and again, allowing students to practice quickly for real-time conditions anywhere in the world.
“This is the most realistic and challenging simulator-based training a student can undertake.” Darnell said. “Bottom line: The T-100’s training construct means a student should not deal with a challenge in the air they have not already seen through simulation.”
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