F-15C simulators provide low-cost, critical training

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Dustin Mullen
  • 325th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Projecting unrivaled combat airpower is expensive, which is why one Tyndall Air Force Base unit invested in smarter operations for lower training costs. This unit can launch a jet, fly an unlimited amount of hours and fight thousands of enemies all from a single room.

This can all be done through four F-15C Eagle training simulators that provide flexible, cost-effective operations through the 337th Air Control Squadron.

“The F-15C simulators, officially called Full Mission Trainers, belong to the Air Education and Training Command, and primarily support Undergraduate Air Battle Management training conducted by the 337th (ACS),” said Martin Schans, the 337th ACS civilian supervisor.

Along with the 337th ACS, the simulators also provide training for the 95th and 43rd Fighter Squadrons, the 53rd Weapons Evaluation Group and various units from around the world, including foreign national partners.

Another benefit of the simulators is the drastic price cut when compared to a real F-15C flight, less than 1 percent of the normal cost.

“There are numerous ways to determine cost per flying hour, but the widely accepted methods put the cost for the Eagle at $17,000 per flying hour,” Schans said. “The simulators cost $1.2 million to operate each year. In 2016, that made the cost $230 per hour.

“The previous visual system was over 20 years old,” Schans continued. “Component failure rates were increasing, and replacement parts were getting very expensive.”

Being an asset that is critical to training, it was an essential investment to equip the simulators with a modern visual system, creating a more realistic environment for the pilots.

“The new flat-panel television screens provide more than 50 percent of the previous visual coverage and 90 percent of the important areas, in very high resolution,” Schans said. “This upgrade reduces upkeep/repair costs by $400,000 each year.”

The simulators are also able to provide flexible training environments.

“When units use our FMTs, they can control the weather and time of day which can impact tactical decisions,” Schans said, “They choose whether to have all the aircraft systems working, or to have some of the systems inoperative. In the FMT we can provide countless adversary aircraft and surface-to-air missile threats, and in the FMT, you never have to quit because you are out of fuel.”

The virtual world these Eagles fly in can also host other simulators based around the world, including Tyndall’s own F-22 Raptor simulators, allowing units from anywhere to fly together and never leave home.

“The way we connect our FMTs to the F-22 simulators is through the Distributed Training Operations Center located in Des Moines, Iowa, and run by the Iowa Air National Guard,” Schans said. “The DTOC allows multiple units to participate in the same simulation environment to practice integration of forces.”

On a day-to-day basis, the simulators provide mission training to the Air Force Air Battle Management students that come through the 337th ACS.

“In the controlled environment of simulated missions, we can control the pace at which tactical problems are introduced to the student ABMs,” Schans said. “The scenarios are built with command and control as the only focus. When you compare this to a live fighter aircraft training mission, the scenario is centered on the pilots’ training requirements, and the ABM gets whatever training he or she can along the way.”

With the simulators, each mission is personalized to provide the best training for the ABM at the helm, Schans said.

“There are no substitutes available for the 17 simulated missions each student accomplishes with the FMT,” Schans said. “[Without it], the ABM students would be far less capable when they graduate. This would increase the training burden on their follow-on units.”

The Air Force trains daily to ensure it is ready to fight any challenge, anywhere and at any time. These simulators provide that training.