The UK has led many major developments in flight simulation technologies over the past 30 years, cementing its place as a key player within the world aerospace industry. For the RAF, the main benefits of flight simulation technologies have been seen with the consequential improvements to flight training and knowledge development within the Service.
Flight simulation technologies are not in themselves new, with early systems seen in operation from around 1910. With improvements in digital and mechanical technologies over the past century, modern full flight simulators are capable of replicating aircraft handling characteristics and flight experiences with a high level of fidelity.
In line with this, simulation has become critical to the operational efficiency and productivity of the modern RAF. Most armed forces utilise simulators for basic training, type conversion, and tactical training, covering both fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft.
For airborne training, each time a trainee wishes to go out flying, the RAF must put a considerable number of costly assets at risk, along with the actual life of the trainee. Training on flight simulators removes these risks, drastically reducing the cost of training, whilst also improving the trainee safety. They are a safe, cost-effective way of training pilots in specific scenarios that they are likely to experience on a live mission.
This experience is vital for training ahead of operational deployment, and in giving pilots an edge over their adversaries. Flight simulation systems produce relatable and affective experiences for users, developing base skills and knowledge that enable them to act appropriately and quickly to real-life flight scenarios.
One of the RAF’s key simulator systems is the Typhoon Simulators’ Emulated Deployable Cockpit Trainer (EDCT), stationed at RAF Coningsby and RAF Lossiemouth. Both have recently undergone key software updates in line with general advancements in simulator technologies. For the RAF, this is part of ongoing efforts to ensure that they stay at the forefront of sectoral developments, ensuring they are utilising the highest performing simulators available on the market.
These software upgrades provide experienced and trainee pilots with the opportunity to simulate detailed sorties over current operational zones. This allows pilots to become familiar with geographical areas, conditions, and layouts of mission flight zones, prior to their actual deployment in said spaces. Crews can ‘fly-over’ targeted territories, allowing them to develop experiential knowledge that will help them successfully react and adapt to mission variables on live operations.
In this context, simulators have a clear benefit owing to their ability to recreate detailed and realistic mission settings, without the need of physical presence. Modern full flight simulators can replicate aircraft handling characteristics with exceptional levels of fidelity. When also considering that severe weather conditions and system failures can be simulated as and when desired, many commentators claim that simulators are now more efficient and effective than airborne training.
A key challenging facing the RAF, relates to its senior position in relation to global defence and operation.
As a world-wide service, the RAF is now flying in a variety of different operational zones, each requiring area specific knowledge and insight for successful navigation. Changing weather patterns, land topographies, and types of enemy units, will all have affective influences on a flight experience. On top of this, the RAF’s aircraft fleet is also more diverse than ever before, requiring a wider range of specialist operational and technological skills to be available within the Service.
To keep up with this growth and diversification, the RAF is constantly looking to upgrade and increase its capacity of simulator training systems. This is to ensure that the service is giving its trainees the most affective and highest fidelity experiences of real-world scenarios as possible. The closer the RAF’s simulation technologies can get to a live-operation and its multiple variables, the better equipped and prepared a pilot will be.
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