Military News

Monday, December 21, 2015

Offutt flight simulators to receive major upgrades

by Delanie Stafford
55th Wing Public Affairs


12/21/2015 - OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. -- Pilots who fly the RC-135 aircraft assigned to the 55th Wing here will soon be able to train more effectively thanks to major upgrades being made to Offutt's flight training simulators.

The upgrades will improve the simulator's communication equipment along with the system's computer generated sounds that pilots hear while flying the simulator. All of this is to ensure the simulators function, react and sound like the real thing.

"Simulators are a great tool," said Capt. Bill, a student from the 338th Combat Training Squadron, who is working on his initial qualification for the RC-135 airframe. "They save time in the jet; and us being new students, we can learn the position of where everything is at in the aircraft."

Pilots like Bill who are new to the base often make their first stop at the 338th Combat Training Squadron where they receive classroom instruction and practice time in the simulators before they ever step onto an RC-135 aircraft. The simulators help prepare them to react to a variety of situations.

"We can actually have failures in the simulator where we're in a safe environment - we can run through checklists, handle the situation appropriately in a practice setting, and then be able to apply it to the real thing."

Offutt pilots have been using the RC-135 simulators since 2003. Officials who manage the program say the upgrades are part of keeping up with ever-changing technology.

"We try to make sure the simulators are concurrent with the RC-135s for the best training possible," said Bob Ireland, an RC-135 project manager with the 29th Training Systems Squadron, who helps oversee Offutt's simulator program. "The RC-135s have had [Fiber Optic Ring Communication Equipment] technology for a while, so we are glad it's getting installed."

The FORCE upgrade Ireland is referring to will replace an analog interphone system with an all-digital system that uses fiber-optic technology. This system provides improved capabilities and is currently installed on Offutt's RC-135 aircraft.

The second upgrade will improve the simulator's Aural Cue System. This computer system generates all of the environmental sounds pilots hear while flying. This can include sounds such as the engines throttling up, the landing gear making contact with the ground, hail hitting the aircraft during a thunderstorm, and even the accent of an air traffic controller's voice from a different part of the world.

Engineers who designed the upgrades took special consideration to incorporate as many real aircraft parts as possible into the new upgrade to provide a more realistic environment.

"Some of the complaints we had with the older system is that there was a ringing tone that the crews experienced when they spoke, or a delay that isn't like the aircraft," Ireland said. "We had some deficiencies that the new system is going to fix."

Bill, who flew C-21s for four years prior to his assignment to Offutt, said he is excited for the upgrades.

"Jets all have different equipment on them," Bill said. "The closer we can get the simulators to what we are actually seeing, the better the training will be."

A team of engineers, mechanics and electricians from the Mission Integration division of L-3 Communications, based out of Greenville, Texas, began upgrades to OFT3 on Dec. 5. The upgrades are scheduled for completion Dec. 20, and Offutt's second trainer, OFT2, is expected to receive the same upgrades early next year.

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