WASHINGTON — U.S. Air Force F-35 pilots at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, will now be able to step into a simulator and train alongside virtual F-16s, F-15s and other aircraft, a Lockheed Martin executive said Wednesday.
Air Combat Command formally accepted Lockheed’s Distributed Mission Training system on June 22 after a final test on June 18. During that test, four F-35 simulators at Nellis carried out a virtual mission with pilots in F-22, F-16 and E-3 AWACs simulators at other bases, said Chauncey McIntosh, Lockheed’s vice president for F-35 training and logistics.
“We did originally intend to deliver this in the April time frame, but Nellis Air Force Base did shut down some operations due to the COVID crisis,” he told reporters in a July 1 briefing. “We worked very hard with both the [F-35 Joint Program Office] and the United States Air Force to ensure as soon as the facilities were re-stood up and open, that we were there to deliver this capability.”
Although F-35 pilots in a simulator could previously train with up to three other F-35 sims at the same site, the DTS system allows for those pilots to fly digitally with a large number of varying types of aircraft, as long as the simulators can operate on the same network.
Lockheed previously connected F-35 simulators to other aircraft sims in its test lab, but the June 18 test was the first time F-35 simulators linked to a mass of other simulators for a virtual mission in a highly contested environment, Lockheed said in a news release. F-15s will also be able to connect into the DMT system.
The next step, McIntosh said, will be installing the DMT capability at Naval Air Station Lemoore this fall and to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in spring 2021. Both bases are in California.
However, some limitations will still exist, even as new DMT locations are spun up. The capability is “very scalable to other platforms,” McIntosh said, but currently only F-35, F-22, F-16, F-15 and E-3 simulators are supported by DMT.
McIntosh also previously told Defense News that the U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps as well as the United Kingdom, which also plans to acquire the DMT system, won’t be able to train together because they use different networks.
Valerie Insinna is Defense News' air warfare reporter. She previously worked the Navy/congressional beats for Defense Daily, which followed almost three years as a staff writer for National Defense Magazine. Prior to that, she worked as an editorial assistant for the Tokyo Shimbun’s Washington bureau.