RAAF Base Richmond, Australia – Over the last year and a half, the Royal Australian Air Force has implemented wide-ranging changes to its Lockheed Martin C-130J Hercules aircrew and technical training regimes, aimed at maximizing operational output in resource-constrained environments.
In addition to innovative ideas such as "seat agility" where C-130J trainee co-pilots learn to operate the aircraft from either seat in a range of expanded roles, the C-130J Training Remediation Program has seen the acquisition of a number of synthetic training devices for pilots, loadmasters and technicians, with the aim of migrating as much training from the real aircraft as possible.
The responsibility for Australian C-130J training lies with No. 285 Squadron at Richmond Air Force Base, west of Sydney and also home to the RAAF's fleet of 12 C-130J-30 aircraft.
The commanding officer of No.285 Squadron, Wing Commander Jason Baldock, said at Richmond on Feb. 3 that, with the support of industry partners including CAE, Jacobs, Lockheed Martin and Virtual Simulation Systems (VSS), the increased use of synthetic training aids has seen the number of flying serials required on the real aircraft to be reduced to three.
Wing Commander Baldock said that more than 90 percent of flight training is now conducted on the CAE Level 5D Full Flight Mission Simulator (FFMS) at the base and, in addition, the use of other synthetic training devices has migrated 32 student 'events' from the simulator to the classroom.
"The new Computer Based Training (CBT) systems for both aircrew and technical training, for which CAE is the prime and sub-contractor respectively, will enable the C-130J training system to remain relevant through the life-of-type," the Wing Commander said.
"Additionally the new CBT includes CAE Simfinity Virtual Simulator (VSIM) and Virtual Maintenance Trainer (VMT) software, which enhances student learning by allowing them to visualize and operate aircraft systems in a computerized environment. The depth of content in the CBT, VSIM and VMT lessons is such that instructor workloads and training device usage is reduced when compared to the legacy training system, allowing more capacity to be directed towards high-end training and mission rehearsal activities."
In what the RAAF calls a "crawl, walk, run, fly" approach to pilot training, C-130J training begins with device-based learning on the VSIM/VMT system in the classroom, which each have a guided curriculum but are also able to be used in "freeplay" mode, enabling students to practice procedures and programming.
A Lockheed Martin Multi-function Training Aid (MFTA), which replicates the C-130J flight deck with less fidelity than the real aircraft or simulator is also used, allowing cockpit procedures to be rehearsed without taking an aircraft offline or wasting valuable simulator time.
Once the student progresses to the FFMS, CAE's Flightscape recording and debriefing tool allows missions to be replayed in the classroom and if necessary compared with a recording of what the RAAF calls a gold-standard mission to provide student guidance.
A Virtual Terrain Board (VTB) developed by NightReadiness is used to provide a hands-on immersive training environment for night-vision goggles work, using simulation to provide an NVG image which is displayed on a large screen in a darkened classroom and used to demonstrate different scenarios and lighting effects.
"The VTB is absolutely phenomenal," Baldock commented. "A student can absorb in a three-hour session [in] what normally takes six months of operational flying experience to achieve."
Operational experience in Iraq and Afghanistan has highlighted the role of the two C-130J loadmasters to advise the aircrew of timely evasive action when under attack from ground fire and a Tactical Airlift Crew Trainer (TACT) has been developed by VSS, which simulates the interior of the Hercules Cargo Bay and the ground outside the window and displayed in the loadmaster's NVGs.
The TACT can be linked with the FFMS to provide holistic crew training and mission rehearsal.
The CAE FFMS was installed at Richmond in 1998 and was the first "level D" simulator in the world. Since then CAE has performed a number of updates, including Medallion-6000 Visual System and Common Database architecture and an upgrade of the tactical environment software.
In August, the C-130J FFMS became the first high-fidelity Australian Defence Force simulator to link into the US-led Coalition Virtual Flag exercise (CVF2015).
"The outstanding effort of 285 Squadron members during the Training Remediation Program, in partnership with CAE and others, has improved aircrew and technical training standards and efficiency, ultimately increasing the capability of the C-130J, Air Mobility Group and Royal Australian Air Force," said Air Commodore Richard Lennon, commander of the RAAF's Air Mobility Group (AMG).
"Recent building modifications and simulator upgrades enabled the FFMS to be utilized in this classified exercise, providing C-130J crews the opportunity to fly simulated missions against other Live, Virtual and Constructed (LVC) players, across the globe. This opportunity has opened the door to future high-end training opportunities from home base, without Exercise and deployment overheads and risks.
"AMG has enjoyed a long partnership with CAE and is very happy with the CAE product; they provide state-of-the-art training outcomes. In particular, the company has been responsive to the demanding pace of development driven by the 285 Squadron Training Remediation Program. This enabled participation in CVF15 and the introduction of new Computer Based Training (CBT) systems in January 2016."
Nigel Pittaway is the Australia correspondent for Defense News.