Sims aren't just for flying anymore
U.S. Air Force Academy Cadet Tyler Meirose works on the development of a computer-based simulator to help project short- and long-term effects of changes to manpower, equipment and more within the B-1 Lancer community at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, June 29, 2012. Through the U.S. Air Force Academy Cadet Summer Research Program, Meirose worked five weeks with the 337th TES to help develop the simulator. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Damon Kasberg)
by Tech. Sgt. Robert Wollenberg
7th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
7/10/2012 - DYESS AIR FORCE BASE, Texas (AFNS) -- Officials with the 337th Test and Evaluation Squadron here, through a cooperative program with the U.S. Air Force Academy, is developing a computer-based simulator program that will allow leaders to make more informed decisions regarding resource allocations.
The program allows a user to input changes in resources and manpower to project effects on the B-1 Lancer community, enabling better analysis for leaders.
"Our model allows us to adjust things and see how the B-1 community reacts to decisions, like the way we assign instructors to different squadrons or the amount of sorties we generate," said Maj. Jeffry Moffitt, the 337th TES assistant director of operations and project lead. "For example, you can vary the rate of aircraft available and run experiments to see how many people you need to put through the school now that you have fewer aircraft to fly."
Second and third order effects are also a piece of the puzzle, Moffitt said.
"If I put fewer people through the formal training unit now, how many instructors do I need in the schoolhouse and how many do I need in the bomb squadrons?" he said. "If I put more people through the FTU, I may need more instructors at the FTU."
As an example, he explained how the schoolhouse feeds into the 34th and 37th Bomb Squadrons at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., and the 9th Bomb Squadron here.
"If you turn up the resources you allocate to the schoolhouse, you'll get a big flow of people from the schoolhouse to the squadron," he explained. "But if you've taken resources away from the squadron, they may stagnate there a little."
The simulator allows different scenarios to be tested to see where the flows progress more smoothly. It lets you see the effects of today's decisions a year, two or even three years down the road.
The development of the simulator was made possible through the U.S. Air Force Academy Cadet Summer Research Program.
Cadets work as members of test teams and gain exposure to operational testing processes, products and experiences while accomplishing tasks as full-fledged members of operational test and evaluation teams. The cadets participate in the testing of major Air Force weapon systems and enhance test teams' test design, execution and analysis by conducting research to solve complex problems.
Lt. Col. George Holland, the 337th TES commander, was contacted last fall regarding an opportunity to bring in an Air Force cadet to do summer research, and the idea was to help the B-1 community to solve a problem.
"Since we're a test squadron that does flight tests on the B-1, I thought maybe we had something he could work on," the commander said. "And at the same time, the B-1 community was concerned about manning because we were working on the congressionally mandated drawdown of the B-1 fleet and how to flow the proper amount of aviators into the community and out of the community to meet our combat and training requirements."
Through the program, academy Cadet Tyler K. Meirose spent five weeks working side-by-side with Moffitt writing the code and developing the simulator.
"It was something I was really interested in," said Meirose. "I wasn't sure how we were going to attack modeling and solving it, but determining resource levels is something I've spent the last two years studying. And so when I heard about tracking people, sorties and instructor pilots through a complicated system, it was something I was really excited about getting down into the weeds and analyzing."
According to Meirose, the cadet's fields of study are generally directed more to the Air Force Materiel Command, working supply parts-type issues and moving materiel in the physical realm.
"But this was awesome because I got to work with guys who are more combat oriented and talking about people," he said.
According to Holland, the 337th TES was fortunate to have had Meirose working with them.
"The top guys in each of their academic majors are nominated to go out and solve real-world problems for the Air Force," Holland said. "Here, (the problem is) to solve B-1 manning problems that Dyess and Ellsworth deal with, having combat and operations units."
Moffitt is an academy graduate from the class of '99 and he's an operations research major.
"So having that background, I was able to have him sponsor Cadet Meirose to guide through his summer research to solve the problem," Holland said.
Moffitt said they're at the point where they're consulting with the Rand Corporation, who's expressed interested in developing the model.
"In the short term, the simulator could be used to evaluate the impact of temporarily removing B-1 aircraft from the fleet to modify them for integrated battle station," Moffitt said. "A long-term goal is to expand the simulator to where other airframes can tailor it to their situation and run scenarios. Hopefully we can get sponsorship for the project from the Air Force to develop the code and flush out the bugs."
The 337th TES is a tenant unit at Dyess Air Force Base and falls under the 53rd Test and Evaluation Group at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. The 53rd TEG reports to the 53rd Wing at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.
The 53rd Wing serves as the focal point for the Combat Air Forces in electronic warfare, armament and avionics, chemical defense, reconnaissance and aircrew training devices. The wing reports to the Air Warfare Center at Nellis AFB, a direct reporting unit to Headquarters Air Combat Command. The wing is also responsible for operational testing and evaluation of new equipment and systems proposed for use by these forces.