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VIRTUAL APACHE The Longbow Crew Trainer

Posted 9 years 141 days ago ago by Admin


As an AH-64 Apache orbits overhead, the radio crackles to life as someone shouts, "Incoming!" A half second later, a rocket-propelled grenade impacts within yards of a military convoy. Fortunately, personnel on the ground have just enough time to dive for cover. The majority of shrapnel hits sand, with the rest spraying into rocks scattered along the far side of the road.

"Found ‘em," announces the Apache front-seater. The Target Acquisition Designation Sight crosshairs target a prone insurgent, the launcher still resting on his right shoulder. He is partially concealed by a number of large boulders, and among those rocks are more insurgents with weapons.

Adrenalin courses through the veins of everyone in the cockpit. A well-trained aviator doesn't panic in the heat of battle; his focus hones and his mind sharpens. Suddenly, the controls lock up and the monitor freezes. The instructor-operator (IO) just paused the scenario. We’ve been flying in a virtual Afghanistan; in reality we are sitting in a high-tech training device in West Jordan, Utah.

The AH-64 Apache helicopter is undoubtedly one of the most advanced helicopters in the world. Crews must maintain their proficiency not just in civil aviation skills and knowledge, but also in the military aspects of flight. Day and night defensive and offensive complex tactics must be honed using forward-looking infrared imaging and night vision goggles in some of the most challenging terrain in the world. Factor into all this the necessity to completely master the Apache weapon systems, because at the end of the day these systems are what make the Apache the premier attack helicopter.

In order to give crews realistic, cost-effective training, in 2001 the Army introduced the Apache Longbow Crew Trainer (LCT). The LCT is a portable, trailer-based simulator system that includes a complete cockpit replica of the front and back seat of the aircraft. All buttons, levers, and switches are real and the video graphics are impressive. Usually five displays are employed to provide a full field of view for the two pilots. Additionally, the system creates motion via differential pressure incorporated into the seats, so that pilots “feel” the aircraft respond as they maneuver.

Units like the 1-211th Attack Reconnaissance Battalion of West Jordan, Utah, (aka the “Air Pirates”) emphasize training their aviators to be proficient at flying “high, hot, and heavy.” Whether flying “high” over the infamous Hindu Kush mountain range (with peaks much higher than anything found stateside) or “hot” in the extreme temperatures of the desert regions of Afghanistan (where temperatures can exceed 130 degrees Fahrenheit), the LCT can be programmed to match environments in exacting detail. As for “heavy,” on a typical Afghanistan combat mission, the Apache weighs nearly 18,000 lbs., approximately nine tons of machinery, avionics, and ammunition. To bring that weight to bear, the helicopter has to be carefully – some might even say “surgically” – flown. A thorough understanding of power management and mountainous flying is required.

Just as the Apache continues to evolve through continuous improvements and modifications, so does the LCT. The device has come a long way since its inception. The newest versions are fully compatible with the new AH-64E Guardian, the latest Apache. In some cases, even real-world missions can be programmed into the simulator.

Some LCTs, including the one in Utah, now have the ability to integrate virtual UAVs into scenarios, including video feed of what the UAV “sees.” This gives the ability to train for the future of Army Attack Aviation, which are joint missions between the Apache and newer UAVs like the Grey Eagle.

The LCT also has other training benefits that cannot normally be replicated in an actual aircraft. For example, it is a great platform for training crews to respond quickly and correctly to emergencies (engine failures, fires, drive system malfunctions, etc.) and adverse environments (dust, sand, snow, icing, strong winds, etc.).

Perhaps the best benefit of the LCT is that it allows for the development of new and challenging scenarios that prepare aviators for the inevitable next fight. The system provides IOs the ability to run a variety of threats anywhere in the virtual world. Crews then “fly” tactics and techniques to meet these challenges.

Enemies adapt and evolve. The LCT helps the Army do likewise.

LCT: Just the Facts
  • Nearly every active duty and National Guard Apache unit now has a LCT on-site.  
  • The entire system is portable and can be set up or torn down in as little as three days.
  • The LCT can be deployed worldwide and was formerly utilized in Afghanistan and Iraq.  
  • It may also be networked with additional trainers for collective training capability.
  • Training Systems and Services (a division of BDS Global Services & Support) manufactures the LCT in conjunction with Boeing Integrated Defense Systems.

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