RAF network to help train UK and US pilots

A new trial network to help UK and US combat fighter pilots train together, even when they are based thousands of miles apart has been set up at RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire.

The Mission Training through Distributed Simulation - Capability Concept Demonstrator (MTDS - CCD) will allow front line aircrew to build up tactical skills rather than learn to fly.

Pilots will use the experimental 7.8m system to see if such a facility could be used for training, research, or equipment demonstration. The network was set up by QinetiQ and Boeing. Unlike normal simulators, these experimental ones are cheaper as they have no hydraulic arms that give pilots a more realistic simulation.

The project will also link in pilots from the US as well. Up until now, the only time when US pilots fly with UK ones are during combat mission. All systems are linked together over a secure Wan. The link to the US network is via an undersea cable with an average latency of around 0.2 seconds.

These can be connected into similar network at the US Air Force Research Laboratory at Mesa, Arizona and other sites. These networks typically include F-16 and A10 (Tankbusters) simulators and AWACS aircraft running on them.

"In just 10 months an empty hangar has been transformed into a sophisticated, networked, state of the art demonstration of future aircrew training, exercise management and control," explained Neville Salkeld, managing director of QinetiQ's MoD Support business.

The simulators are operated by forward air controllers. The network can also add computer-controlled aircrafts and ground vehicles and computer generated forces at both locations for extra realism.

"Initial trials with front line RAF and US aircrew have gone extremely well and we are demonstrating the benefits of developing and using the facility to deliver training to a wider audience than we originally expected," said Kevin Williams, Programme Manager MTDS CCD.

Wing Commander Mike Dobson of RAF Air Command told New Scientist magazine that the network was working "within the realms of what we consider acceptable."

"If we did this from the other side of the world, though, we'd need new communications technology," he added.

Rene Millman

Rene Millman is a freelance writer and broadcaster who covers cybersecurity, AI, IoT, and the cloud. He also works as a contributing analyst at GigaOm and has previously worked as an analyst for Gartner covering the infrastructure market. He has made numerous television appearances to give his views and expertise on technology trends and companies that affect and shape our lives. You can follow Rene Millman on Twitter.