System lets pilots train together together

System lets pilots train together

BY MARK A. KELLNER | SPECIAL TO GCN

KIRTLAND AFB, N.M.'Pilots preparing for battle can network their simulators with nine other Air Force bases and Defense Department units around the country, officials at the service's Theater Aerospace Command and Control Simulation Facility said.

'We're trying to prepare warfighters to deal with the complexity of a real battle,' said Maj. Frank Young, TACCSF director of engineering. 'There's a lot more things on the ground and complexity in the environment and [in the] information that has to be managed.'

TACCSF, which opened in 1979 as a joint test simulation facility for the Air Force, has evolved to include joint combat, search and rescue, and theatre ballistic missile defense tests, Young said.

'We're now moving from simulations for tests and evaluation to simulation for training and mission rehearsal,' he said.

Those training simulations require more hardware and computer power than before, Young said.


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size="2" color="#FF0000">Maj. Mark Ponti engages in a mock dogfight in an F-15C Eagle simulator at the TACCSF facility at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M.

'We are connecting different generations of technology together, we are connecting 15-year-old computers to the latest and greatest of today. That's quite an engineering feat,' he said.

The network includes 75 PCs from SGI, 45 from Concurrent Computer Corp. of Duluth, Ga., 25 Compaq Alpha servers, 20 LANs and 15 WANs, all working together to model 19 weapons and command and control systems, Young said.

New building

TACCSF took the wraps off of its new $27.5 million building last fall, along with its newest simulators, which mimic the Air Force's Virtual Surveillance, Targeting and Attack Radar System, or VSTARS.

The 14 new simulators are built on 600-MHz Compaq Alpha computers running VAX/VMS with flat-panel displays.

The simulator is 'a 14-position model of the radar stations inside an E-8C JSTARS [aircraft],' Young said. 'It's a radar plane that looks down at the ground and can see vehicles and ships in the combat zone and identify which ones are moving and track their movements.'

The systems have seen heavy use since their installation. Young said, 'Since July, we've had two or three major exercises where all 14 VSTARS positions have been used.'

The networking capabilities between Kirtland and other bases have also come into play.

'We have to be on the same page [as the other units]; we must be connected to a common scenario or at least compatible scenarios. Scenarios run on environment generators'the software applications and hardware that runs the scenario,' Young said.

The base is connected via T1 and other leased lines to a myriad of other Air Force and DOD units, including the Joint National Test Facility at Schriever Air Force Base, Colo.; Offutt Air Force Base, Neb.; Hurlbert Air Force Base, Fla.; Kelly Air Force Base, Texas; the Army's Fort Hood, Texas; the Air Force Research Lab in Mesa, Ariz.; Luke Air Force Base, Ariz.; Nellis Air Force Base, Nev.; and Los Angeles Air Force Base, Calif.

'We anticipate being on the Defense Research Engineering Network at 45 Mbps in May, but I don't know when the T1s will go away,' he said. 'We're eventually migrating on to circuits that are dual OC-3 running at 310 Mbps. I do not anticipate using all of that bandwidth, but it gives us strong growth potential.'

Real-world messages

Along with the high-tech communications, Young said, some older communications methods are thrown into the mix, because pilots and other warfighters would face those in combat.

'We also use phone lines to connect lower data-rate simulation; they're encrypted and pass tactical data link information. In this case, it's the real-world format,' he said. 'All data link messages transmitted by our simulations are real-world messages, which can simulate real-world shooter and sensor hardware platforms.'

User reaction has been generally favorable, Young said.

The interaction between different personnel'many of whom would not otherwise meet except as part of a combat mission'is invaluable, he said.

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