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USAF Buys Pods for Air Combat Training

Feb. 14, 2012 - 10:50AM   |  
By KRISTIN QUINN   |   Comments
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The U.S. Air Force has awarded Cubic Defense Applications, a business of Cubic Corp., a $30 million contract to provide air combat maneuvering instrumentation for Red Flag exercises at The Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex and Nellis Air Force Base, Nev.

The Air Force originally awarded Cubic a 10-year contract for its P5 Combat Training System (P5CTS) in 2003, which to date has tallied more than $300 million in orders. However, the production options on the contract were only valid for seven years, according to Philip Fisch, air combat training spokesman for Cubic.

While the Air Force may continue purchasing spare parts and engineering services off of the original contract, this new, three-year contract will allow the service to place new orders for Cubic’s P5CTS airborne instrumentation pods, Fisch said. The U.S. Marine Corps and Navy, who have also purchased pods off of the original contract, call the same system by a different name, the Tactical Combat Training System (TCTS).

The P5 CTS is used throughout the U.S. services and in a growing number of foreign countries to provide feedback to fighter pilots undergoing training exercises. The sensor is temporarily installed on an aircraft under the wings in the same location as a weapon or missile, according to Fisch. Inside, it contains a built-in GPS and inertial unit, and is also connected to the aircraft to monitor when a pilot fires a simulated missile.

P5 records all of the data from the flight, and transmits it to a ground subsystem infrastructure where it can be monitored by a range training officer for safety.

“You get to see it all when it’s happening on the ground, and then at the end of the flight, everybody comes back and we provide a PC-based computer simulation of the flight,” Fisch said. “They can see exactly where they flew and how.”

Fisch said the pods are most commonly used for mock dog fighting exercises such as Red Flag where as many as more than 100 pilots gather in blue and red air forces to fly against each other. Currently, Red Flag is operating using an older air combat maneuvering instrumentation system, delivered by Cubic about 15 years ago, according to Fisch.

Cubic will deliver the majority of the new pods, as well as an updated ground subsystem infrastructure to the Joint Alaska Pacific Range Complex, and the remaining pods will go to Nellis, Fisch said. The deliveries are expected to be complete in the first half of 2013.

Fisch said the Air Force is beginning to transition from the older equipment to the P5CTS, and will be able to use a mix of the older and the newer pods and ground stations throughout the process.

“My guess is over the next several years depending on funding, they will ultimately replace all Red Flag pods,” he said.

Cubic is also a subcontractor to Lockheed Martin, providing the P5CTS for all three variants of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. This version of the system will be built into the airplane, rather than attached as a pod, Fisch said.

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