From a relatively insignificant place in the training world, to “first in the order of power”: simulators are an integral part of every squadron’s training routine. In an innovation saturated era, IAF personnel tell us about the operationally and economically efficient and evolving division and what its future holds
Today, the IAF is working on developing UAV simulators, with the goal being that 90% of UAV training missions will be conducted by simulators. “The world of simulators has been greatly expanding in the past few years, as technology can create training that is not only equal to real training in its value, but even exceeds it”, explained Lt. Col. Arnon, commander of the simulators squadron in Palmachim Airbase that include UAV and Helicopter Simulators. “We must constantly adapt ourselves to the demands and operational changes in the theatre”.
What was once a vague idea, became a clear plan and will begin to take place regularly. “When you’re in a simulator, you can create an operational environment which is sometimes even more challenging than a training flight in the air”, emphasized Lt. Col. Arnon. “I am not saying that simulators can replace the real environment, but we are advancing to a place where it can replace most of the experience”.
The First in the Order of Power
In the past, the simulators were only meant to be used to train for emergency scenarios in the cockpit. Today, every platform operated by the IAF can train for emergency scenarios and the platforms that do not have simulators train outside of Israel. These simulators allow training for emergency scenarios, skills, conversion and changing aspects of the plan’s operation.
“From the 70’s to the 90’s, pilots used simulators to train for events that cannot be trained for in air. Problems in the engine, sudden engine shut downs, spirals and anything you wouldn’t want to experience for the first time in air. That was the perception”, explained Lt. Col. G, Head of the Simulator Branch in the Material Directorate. “The current trend is beginning to change, accordingly with technology advancing and the addition of new operational and economic considerations. The thought process behind the change is: if I have a cockpit that resembles real flight conditions, why not use it to train for operational events such as operating weapons or tactical operation in enemy territory?”.
The ability to conduct training missions before they are conducted in air, meaning to train for missions in a simulator, is called “Mission Rehearsal” in professional terms. “Using a simulator is exceptionally less dangerous than aerial training and consumes much less time and fuel and reduces aircraft activity. We can conduct the training multiple times until we exhaust our capabilities”, explains Lt. Col. G. “The trend began with the integration of operational abilities into the simulators and reached a point in which we are now able to conduct any operational scenario with the relevant intelligence. We are going towards training centers designed to resemble the cockpit in flight as accurately as possible”.
Lt. Col. G added: “We are implementing the Chief of Air Staff’s goal, who said the simulator is the first in the order of power. Once it was last, but today it is a top priority to him, as we now understand that it saves training time, trains exceptionally well and reliably prepares the pilots and operators”.
Another significant change in the field of simulators is the concept of connected simulators, according to which the pilot in the simulator’s cockpit can talk to ATC and fly alongside or against other aircraft and ground forces. “The first milestone in the field was the Advanced Training Center in Hazor Airbase”, shared Lt. Col. Gil, Head of the Simulator Department in the Air Staff. “Today we have one of the best simulators in the world, which allows us to push our aircrews to the edge in the safest way possible. The exercise thoroughly simulates reality, the trainees feel like they are in a real flight”.
The Fighter Jet Division’s simulators are evolving and now the greatest challenge in this field is the establishment of the F-35I “Adir” simulator, the fifth gen fighter jet which is expected to land in Israel in the coming December. Stemming from the understanding that simulator sorties provide optimal, safe and efficient training, the Helicopter Division personnel fly to foreign countries every year in order to train.
“Our aspiration is to acquire a Combat Helicopter Simulator which will simulate emergency situations and to continue building a facility which will allow advanced training for the Division which combines transport and combat helicopters in different tactics and for the first time, create a connection with ground forces”, shared Lt. Col. Gil. “The dream is that a helicopter pilot in the simulator will be able to train alongside infantry battalions in the National Center for Ground Training in Ze’elim base, execute tactical training with simultaneous systems and have a helicopter simulation land near the force. The technology exists, we are studying it and progressing, but the way is not simple”.
Additionally, the “F-16” simulator from the simulator squadron in Hazor has been upgraded. The simulator’s avionic system has been upgraded, communication abilities between the simulators has been improved, image sharing between the training aircraft has become better and more heavily armed attacks can be simulated.
Not Only Pilots
Alongside the improvements, the innovations and establishment of additional simulators for aircrews, a special simulator for technicians is expected to enter service in the IAF and constitute of a fascinating breakthrough in the IAF.
The “control” in operational HQ also has an innovative simulator which only recently became operational and was used for the first time in the most recent force-wide exercise, which is in debriefing and conclusion drawing stages. The simulator is linked to other HQ’s in order to train the army for a war situation, which is operated by the IDF’s exercise directorate. It can simulate virtual war situations and show aerial force operation, with the goal of training all of the operational HQ personnel, up to the highest ranks.
The work program includes the establishment of a flight supervisor simulator center. The flight supervisors hold a great deal of responsibility: they must operate with professionalism and alertness while they guide the aircraft in take-off and receive in in landing. “We are in acquisition phases of a new flight supervisor simulator which will be established in Ouvda Airbase in the coming June”, reveals Lt. Col. Gil. “This product will bring with it a quantum leap in the world of simulators and allow every flight supervisor in the force to train for all of the towers and will simulate complex and interesting scenarios”.
The “Lavi” Simulator | Photography: Guy Ashash