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Australian Industry Success
(with the permission of Air Force Today, publishers of AIRPOWERint.com, 9 November 2000)

If you thought flying an F-111 would be a difficult task, then spare a thought for those behind the development of the F-111 Mission Simulator at RAAF Base Amberley.

The F-111 Mission Simulator project began way back in 1993 with the RAAF acquisition of a surplus USAF F-111F Mission Simulator. Once acquired, the main task was to re-configure and upgrade the simulator to the standard of an F-111C Avionics Update Program (AUP) Aircraft.

Brian Whelband, SVERDRUP simulator manager for the Commonwealth, explained the initial stages of the project.

"A contract was initially signed with Wormald Australia (later Thompson-CFS, then THALES Training and Simulation) in 1993 to upgrade the simulator. At that point many aspects of the simulator were quite limited and it was falling behind the aircraft in terms of its development," he said.

Brian said one of the starting points in updating the mission simulator was to provide a visual capability.

"We started with the scope of having full flight/visual capability and downgraded the scope due to cost," said Brian. "The simulator scope then focussed on a mission capability with no motion base. To provide realism a seat shaker system was provided as a level of feedback to counteract the lack of motion, but the real development was integrating the 150/45 degree wraparound visual screen with the vast range of training scenarios that utilise all of the aircraft systems.

"It’s similar to the IMAX experience in that you have a realistic presentation on the screen and the environment enables your mind to believe you are actually moving."
Because of the degree of reality , a break of 12 hours between using the simulator and flying aircraft is required.

"During official visits to the Simulator I’ve seen people leaning and banking as the simulator was put through its paces and sometimes people are even a bit weak at the knees when they leave," said Brian.

Because the simulator was an ex-USAF F-111F model, major changes had to be made to align the simulator with the F-111C aircraft in use by the RAAF

"This was a difficult task, because at that time the first aircraft undergoing the AUP was in the USA having work carried out. Wormald had to develop the simulator while the actual aircraft was still in the update phase, so there was a continual learning and development cycle in order to catch up with AUP," said Brian.

Maintenance manager with THALES Brad Chipper, said this process of continual development, coupled with the fact the simulator was needed in Amberley by early 1997 for use by personnel from 82 Wing, 1 Squadron and 6 Squadron placed an immense pressure on the development team to get the job done.

"It was a real struggle because the schedule had to be juggled to enable the Operators, Maintenance Teams and the Developers sufficient access to sustain their requirements."

"The developers would work shifts around the clock and we’ve had 24 hour development/working cycles from 1997 up to about mid 2000. It would be used for training during the day, then the maintenance team would move in for the next shift followed by the development team. It was a 24 hour 7 day a week affair for quite a while."

Changes and developments to the F-111 aircraft are incorporated into the simulator as well as a variety of geographical situations, ground and sea based entities and flying conditions.

"Take the engines for instance," said Brad. "The P-109 engine variant has to be incorporated into the simulator and that is difficult because the physical engine thrust data has to be converted into a software task or model.

"Apart from that there’s 35 different aircraft types for use in tactical scenarios as well as land or physical area. The simulator can be flown at low level over a land emulation of the Northern Territory, the Queensland/NSW Coastline or the area around Amberley for instance, as well as employing a variety of weather conditions and flying times," said Brad.

The added complexity for the Mission Simulator is that the visual presentation must match the digitally generated land radar image to within 200 feet for successful mission training.

 


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