Operation Impact: Aurora crews benefit from SIM training
Jan. 12, 2015, Ottawa - With only weeks to prepare for their missions in the skies of Iraq as part of Operation Impact, Royal Canadian Air Force CP-140M Aurora crews were well-served by a new training program that takes place in the virtual realm.
Through a comprehensive upgrade program known as the Aurora Extension Proposal, which comprises the ongoing “Block III” of the Aurora incremental modernization project and the aircraft structural life extension program, the venerable Aurora airframe has seen some remarkable changes – both inside and out.
These include new wings, mission computers and sensors to complement improved avionics and communications that came out with the Block II improvements. Along with these enhancements, the Aurora squadrons have also seen some big changes in how crews train to operate with this “like-new” aircraft.
For much of their pre-deployment training to exercise proven tactics, techniques and procedures, air combat systems officers (ACSOs) and airborne electronic sensor operators (AESOPs) used procedural crew trainers (PCTs) that replicate the tactical compartment of the modernized Aurora. The training staff at the Maritime Proving and Evaluation Unit and 404 Maritime Patrol and Training Squadron, which are both located at 14 Wing Greenwood, Nova Scotia, ran scenarios and provided feedback with 3-D animation replays during post-exercise debriefings.
“A great advantage of the procedural crew trainer for the Block III is that it allows us to simulate using the [Aurora’s] electro-optical/infrared camera,” said an ACSO with Air Task Force-Iraq. “We now have the ability to generate in a synthetic environment, 3-D objects like personnel and vehicles on the ground, for the crews to identify and track. Before this, we had to conduct training during actual flights.”
The training eliminated the variables of poor weather and aircraft ability as well as the need to coordinate with supporting ground units. This meant that the training was more efficient and crews were better prepared for the missions conducted in the actual aircraft.
The crews began training for Operation Impact by practicing missions based on similar missions conducted over Libya during Operation Mobile. The Block III Aurora’s improved sensor suite meant, however, that a simulation program was necessary to hone the crews’ abilities to use their enhanced capabilities in an overland intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance gathering role.
“With Operation Mobile three years into the history books, many crew members on Operation Impact do not have the experience of participating in those missions over Libya,” said one ACSO, a veteran of Operation Mobile. “Fortunately, our ‘lessons learned’ program has captured the salient points from that operation and we have been able to develop our skills – such as passing information to other aircraft and ground forces and coordinating strike activities within an operations area – using the simulator.”
The incoming Block III operational mission simulator, slated to arrive in 2015, will soon let the crew members in the cockpit take part in the same exercise environment as those in the tactical compartment, which will enabling better crew cooperation. In the meantime, however, the Aurora pilots and flight engineers who deployed to Operation Impact used other flight simulator technologies.
“We practiced emergency procedures and approaches into various aerodromes within our operations area using a full motion simulator,” said a pilot from 405 Long Range Patrol Squadron, which is located at 14 Wing. Using this system, pilots and flight engineers were able to “fly” through common Middle East region environmental conditions including extreme heat, dust and sandstorms.
“The accurate visual representation of the airfields and the ability to experience aircraft performance under varied environmental circumstances helps to ensure the safety, comfort, and confidence of the crews,” said the pilot
As part of the lessons learned process, deployed crews will be able to contribute to virtual training that will prepare future crews for missions.
“After being in theatre for several weeks, the crews have realized that the virtual training environment had accounted for the most complex and challenging missions that we could expect,” said an ACSO from 14 Wing Greenwood.
“This means that we showed up more than prepared for our current missions and confident [that we could] adjust to any changes that may arise.”