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AMC simulator linking initiative making pilot training better

by Laura McAndrews
Air Mobility Command Public Affairs

10/5/2009 - SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. (AFNS) -- Air Mobility Command is not only training its pilots, it's doing it better. The command is linking its aircraft training simulators through numerous bases to make a good flight crew an even better flight crew.

This simulator linking initiative is part of an Air Force Smart Operations for the 21st Century initiative by AMC. The effort is showing a multitude of possibilities for improving efficiency and saving time and money.

"The networking capabilities we will be employing with our high-fidelity simulators are similar to those used by many video game players who link with other participants across the world," said Mr. Sean Carey, AMC Distributed Mission Operations Branch chief. "Crews can fly in formation and talk over the radios as though they were live-flying with one another."

Currently, AMC officials have C-17 Globemaster III simulators linked together through the Distributed Mission Operations Center, or DMOC, located at Kirtland AFB, N.M. The C-17 simulators and aircrews are based out of Charleston AFB, S.C., McChord AFB, Wash., Elmendorf AFB, Alaska, and Hickam AFB, Hawaii.

In August, AMC contracted to set up its own distributed training center, or DTC, to be housed in the 126th Air Refueling Wing's simulator facility building at Scott AFB. AMC is also looking to connect its simulators throughout mobility air force locations.

Officials said this linking initiative will greatly increase the amount of training in air refueling and formation that can be accomplished in simulators. The goal is to have all 10 of the C-17 simulator locations connected through the command's distributed training center by 2012. By 2017, the goal is for all AMC major aircraft weapon systems to be connected to the DTC.

AMC is linking the C-17 simulators first, and then plans on connecting the air refueling platforms, including the KC-10 Extender and KC-135 Stratotanker and their boom trainers, along with the C-5 Galaxy. This increment will be followed by the connection of AMC's tactical airlift fleet, the C-130 Hercules aircraft.

This capability also allows the command to complete readiness training in a low-risk environment a more cost effective manner than conducting the training in aircraft. Air refueling training in the simulators, for example, can save up to $5,430 an hour in the KC-10 airframe.

The use of simulators frees up aircraft for real-world missions and deployments, Mr. Carey said. Also, through linked simulators, AMC aircrews across the globe can practice flying together in a snowstorm in Alaska or in the deserts of the Middle East without having to gather everyone to a specific location. They can even safely practice emergency scenarios in the simulators so in case the real life situation ever takes place they'll be better prepared.

Even current C-17 pilots are seeing the benefits of the simulator linking.

"It's a great thing to have people from different backgrounds providing different perspectives on similar tasks," said Capt. Sean Burke, a C-17 pilot from the 15th Airlift Squadron at Charleston AFB. "That is the foundation of what makes us the most effective Air Force on Earth."

Col. Mark McLean, chief of AMC's AFSO 21 Office, said simulator linking is a good initiative in terms of productivity, cost and training. "Imagine the day when we can start doing mission rehearsals. Before we fly a real-world combat mission, we could actually do it in the simulators. We want to make training better and our aircrews better prepared. That's smart operations."

And the future brings a plethora of possibilities. Plans include fielding a tanker over the network that connects the pilot and boom operator simulators so they can go fly a mission together. Eventually, they hope the technology will expand to allow AMC to link with other major commands and train with aircraft such as the fighters and the Airborne Warning and Control System aircraft. AMC's distributed training center will be a portal of connectivity for the mobility air force and with other Air Force and joint agencies.

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