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B-52 simulator plays big role in exercise

by Stephanie Bemrose
2nd Bomb Wing Public Affairs

11/16/2005 - BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. (AFPN) -- A B-52 Stratofortress simulator is allowing 11th Bomb Squadron students to train with Soldiers and Airmen near Fort Polk, La., taking part in the live fire portion of exercise Air Warrior II.

The simulator provides Airmen here a unique training opportunity -- and an alternative to participating in the live exercise, which began Nov. 8

According to Maj. Robert Fisher, the squadron’s weapons and tactics flight commander, the simulator is an outstanding training tool for students and offers advantages over using aircraft.

“Students are allowed to experience complex situations you wouldn’t want to put aircrews in while flying an actual aircraft,” Major Fisher said. “Also, while students are flying in a simulator, we can introduce different malfunctions and emergencies for them to understand in a low-threat environment -- rather than in an aircraft that needs attention all the time.”

Lt. Col. Dan Kosin, the squadron director of operations, said his squadron is connected with the live exercise through the simulator virtual B-52 operations.

“The conversations are transmitted over a network where the ground and air units receive it just like it would be if we were in a plane above the exercise,” the colonel said. “It’s not just our five crewmembers involved in a training environment, because now we can virtually talk to other aircraft and ground parties just as if we were flying.”

Major Fisher said students and staff have the opportunity to actually stop and analyze the decisions the crewmembers make at the very moment the decisions are made.

“In an aircraft that is always flying, crewmembers are always involved in something and a debrief is done after everything has happened,” the major said.

The major said this time lapse takes away the immediacy of the event, which takes away some of the ability for the crews to analyze their decisions and the reasons for them.

Maj. Joel Hampton, 548th Combat Training Squadron director of operations, said the Army is more concerned with the availability of weapons to drop than whether they come from a live aircraft or a virtual simulator.

“When we hit a set of live coordinates there is an explosion, and that’s all the Army is worried about,” the major said. He said live aircraft are only able to do short spurts of the exercise and the simulator can help fill gaps between those flights to fill eight to nine hours with continuous activity.

Using the simulator also saves time and money.

Maj. Jeff Stogsdill, the combat training squadron’s assistant director of operations, estimates $50,000 per sortie is saved by using the simulator.

Colonel Kosin compared the cost savings for using the simulator as huge and the loss of training capabilities as negligible because the simulation is so much like a real flight.

“The virtual B-52 operation simulation is so realistic it is as close to actually flying an aircraft as we can get,” he said. “By simulating a B-52 flight, we are saving the Air Force manpower by not having Airmen generate an aircraft. And we’re not putting hours on an aircraft.

The colonel said, “Our Airmen also save the time of not having to prepare the jet, do a preflight inspection, taxi, takeoff and then travel to the location.”

In the simulator, he said, “They just mission plan and then position the aircraft over the situation and then they are ready to drop the weapons. After the exercise is over, instructors and students have time left in the day to mission plan for another sortie, saving more time.”

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