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SPECIAL REPORT: Training and Simulation

Simulating Flight
Flight School XXI provides helicopter flight training simulators and related aviation support activities that helps the Army maximize its use of computer-resident training while lowering the training's costs.  


An Army helicopter pilot makes a sharp maneuver to avoid enemy fire at night, in the pouring rain. Suddenly, he gets hit and smoke fills the cockpit. What does he do? How does he learn what to do in a split second, ingrained actions to take to save his crew?

 

*Simulating Reality
*Simulating Flight
*Gaming Warfighters

*Defense SimulationTraining [PDF] The answer: Graduate from the Army’s Flight School XXI, where a suite of flight simulators prepare a new generation of aviators for combat.  Just outside the Army Aviation Center at Fort Rucker, AL is the location of the Army’s Flight School XXI managed by Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC). The contract allows the service to meet its long-term training objective of several months of 60 percent simulation and 40 percent live training according to the CSC website.

 

As part of the contract CSC provides helicopter flight training simulators and related aviation support activities and helps the Army maximize its use of computer-resident training while lowering the training's costs.

 

Real Life Replication

At FSXXI, simulators offer all the flight dynamics of a real helicopter with six degrees of freedom motion and a cockpit that precisely replicates that of the real aircraft. Simulation also includes environmental conditions, such as weather, time of day, lights and lighting reflections and emergency conditions like smoke in the cockpit that could be encountered in the real world according to CSC. “The Flight School XXI contract really came out of this concept where soldiers graduate from initial rotary wing flight training and then they would go to the transition course in their advanced aircraft and then they would report out to their units,” said P.J. Penny, CSC director of Flight School XXI.

 

But because of the pace in which advanced weapons systems were being deployed in the field, it became much too expensive to train the soldiers in the aircraft that they were going to fly. CSC was hired to do analysis on how do you train initial entry rotary wing students because as Penny said, “it was a function of the fact that we have people that flew every type of modern aircraft in the Army and been in every fire fight since all the way back to Viet Nam.”  “With people that have actually flown and fought with the Army in Afghanistan and Iraq, we had the experience to sit down and literally looked at every task that needed to be accomplished, working backwards from what soldiers needed to do when they got to the field and had to fly their advanced aircraft.”

 

New Flight School

Penny said when planning the new Flight School at Fort Rucker, the idea was to get people up and capable of hovering and doing the basic things that you need to do to fly a helicopter as soon as possible, “but what they needed to do was to get them flying their advanced aircraft so that when they graduated they were proficient in an Apache or a UH60 Blackhawk.” As a result the government came back and asked CSC to expand it to all of the flight training that was going on at Fort Rucker. “So in conjunction with our military cohorts, eventually we laid out for the commanding general all of the flight training at Fort Rucker and what needed to be done to train soldiers to do the sorts of things that they needed to do,” explained Penny.

 

Simulators offer all the flight dynamics of a real helicopter with six degrees of freedom motion and a cockpit that precisely replicates that of the real aircraft.


 

The cost of modernizing Fort Rucker was expensive. The solution was to use a private initiative where a company would build, maintain, upgrade and own the facility in exchange for a long term contract which was awarded to CSC in 2003. The contract stated that CSC would provide the Army with a family of simulators that would enable them to do all of the individual crew and collective training that happens at Fort Rucker. “We provided simulators in three configurations,” explained Penny. “One is what we call an operational flight trainer with 360 degrees of freedom. We provided instrument flight trainers. And then we expanded upon the collective simulator concept that the Army has and we proposed to provide them reconfigurable simulators for what they call leadership training for the young lieutenants, captains, and non-commissioned officers who are coming back here for the basic and advanced courses.”

 

Warrior Hall

The hub of CSC activities is “Warrior Hall” near Ft. Rucker. At this huge simulation facility CSC provides support to all the flight training at Fort Rucker. Additionally, CSC keeps the simulators current with the simulators that are in the field. “That’s turned out to be a very challenging task because there are aircraft spread all over the world in different configurations, but we do that,” Penny noted.  The good news from all this is the Army is saving $30 million annually. The better news according to Penny is “the reports coming from the field are that the new aviators, when they get to the divisions and the brigades out there, are so much better prepared than they were in the past. So much so that in a matter of several weeks most of them are ready to support their mission training with the things that they are going to do for the unit. And that’s a major step forward.”

 

Penny said he “did the numbers” on how much money they would save in the field and instructor pilot time and whatever and guesstimated that just because the aviators are so much more proficient that there may be as may be as much as 20,000 hours of instructor pilot time that’s released out there so that they can do their mission training. “From my perspective I would tell you that the training that we do for these units is the most exciting and probably the best training that we support here at Fort Rucker,” Penny said. “And by far it’s the best training that any unit gets anywhere in the world from a simulation perspective.”