Magazine article National Defense

Commanders Fear 'Simulation Atrophy'

Magazine article National Defense

Commanders Fear 'Simulation Atrophy'

Article excerpt

Distributed Mission Training moving `technologically in right direction'

Air Force pilots are not receiving enough high-quality training, largely because some flight simulators lack the sophistication needed to practice realistic warfare missions, said the chief of the Air Combat Command.

Gen. Hal M. Hornburg, USAF, recently told National Defense that the service plans to conduct a "four-star-level simulation summit" to address shortfalls in simulation-based training. "We call it a summit, because four stars don't get together for things like this too often," he said. "It is important to address simulation wall-to-wall in the Air Force, to make sure that our simulation is as good as it can be, is as good as we can afford, and that it complements what we do and enhances our training."

During the past decade, said Hornburg, the Air Force has not focused enough attention on advancing simulation technologies. Before taking over as ACC chief, Hornburg was head of the Air Education and Training Command.

"I have to profess a mild degree of disappointment with the Air Force for where we have gone," he said. "I have seen a simulation atrophy." During the 2001 Interservice Industry Training Simulation and Education Conference, in Orlando, Fla., Hornburg said that his greatest concern is that the skills of the airmen currently fighting in Afghanistan are wearing out. "These kids here, who have to go and replace the ones overseas, need the simulators to train as new pilots," he said.

"We have to train for the toughest situation," Hornburg stressed. "We should never take training for granted-we forget that training is a privileged commodity and also expensive."

However, Hornburg cautioned that simulation should not be used to replace, but rather to enhance live flight training.

Among the most ambitious simulationbased training programs that the Air Force adopted is the so-called Distributed Mission Training (DMT). The project was the brainchild of Air Force Gen. Richard Hawley, former ACC commander. The DMT program has been in the works for five years. The goal is to allow pilots loca-ted at various locations to train collectively using different types of simulator platforms, so they can interoperate in a joint environment.

The first step of the DMT program has been to integrate the four F- 15 simulators at Langley Air Force Base, Va. and four at Eglin Air Force Base, in Fla. The F- I5s will interoperate with an AWACS simulator at Tinker Air Force Base, Okla. AWACS is the Air Force air-traffic control platform.

"Technically, DMT is a challenging integration job, which requires a combi-nation of a big picture architectural approach, as well as extraordinary attention to the finest details," said Mike Papay, DMT program manager at TRW Inc. The company is responsible for the program's system integration work.

"One of the challenges we are finding in DMT is squeezing in integration and test time with the operational training time at the DMT sites," he said. "The simulators are very impressive systems, and training time is highly sought after by the wing personnel. This makes system upgrades and enhancements difficult to schedule."

The technology in DMT will enable Air Force combat units to conduct large campaign exercises without leaving their home base, noted retired Navy Rear Adm. Fred Lewis, executive director of the National Training Systems Association. "One of the complaints of the pilots was that they were on the road all the time," Lewis said.

One element that has been lacking in Air Force training is combat search and rescue, said Air Force Lt. Gen. Donald Lamontagne, commander of the Air University at Maxwell Air Force Base. "We could not pull together a combat rescue, because the forces are always deployed and it is hard to pull the pieces together," he told the IITSEC conference. "DMT gives you the opportunity to pull all these together, and we need to be able to rehearse this kind of mission with every service. …

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