Simulator prepares troops for Afghanistan operations

UK forces destined for Afghanistan are getting the opportunity to experience the complexities of coordinating aircraft and artillery operations in a fast moving environment with the help of a training facility developed by QinetiQ and Boeing.

The RAF and Army are using the Distributed Synthetic Air Land Training (DSALT) demonstration facility at RAF Waddington to deliver pre-deployment training through a series of training exercises known as Mountain Dragon. Army Forward Air Controllers and Tornado GR4 bomber crews are being put through their paces on simulators that allow them to work through the sort of scenarios they may face in combat.

DSALT is part of the Air Battlespace Training Centre, a partnership between the RAF and industry that was originally established to determine user requirements for a new aircrew mission-training programme involving a network of simulated aircraft. The facility has now been expanded to support the training of ground-based forces in the control and strategic use of aircraft and artillery.

The Centre, which can create computer-generated forces from almost any nation in the world to act as allies, neutrals or adversaries, contains simulators for the Eurofighter Typhoon, the Tornado GR4 bomber, AWACS early warning aircraft and the AH-64 Apache helicopter. Simulators can also represent the effects of Harrier GR9 aircraft, A-10 ‘Tankbusters’, F-16 fighters, C-130 Hercules transport aircraft, attack helicopters and support helicopters.

Ground forces can practice talking with aircrew, directing them onto specific targets within the defined rules of engagement and operational constraints. Secure long-haul networks allow the UK facility to link up with simulators operated by the Army Air Corps, Royal Navy and United States Air Force.

A key element of the training is the debrief, where the centre’s software allows users to view the exercise; in a two dimensional view from above the battle space; in a three dimensional representation of the complete battle space from any position in it (including from the cockpits); to a ‘through the eyes’ viewpoint of the soldier on the ground calling in artillery and air support.

“The soldiers experience first hand the challenges of communicating clearly and concisely with aircrew in a risk free environment,” explained Jon Saltmarsh, QinetiQ’s programme director for the project. “Often this is the first experience many have of talking to an American pilot under operational conditions. They get to experience the subtle differences of our two languages and operating procedures and the potential confusion this could cause.”

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