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C-5 airlift readies Soldiers for battle conditions

DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. (AFPN) -- Airmen load the Aviation Combined Arms Tactical Trainer onto a C-5 Galaxy with the help of Army contractors. The trainer is an Army helicopter training simulator. Airmen from the 436th Aerial Port Squadron built a ramp specially designed to load the trainer on the transport. Before the ramp's creation, the only way to move the trainer was by ship, which took six to eight weeks to get to Soldiers in the field. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. James Wilkinson)

DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. (AFPN) -- Airmen load the Aviation Combined Arms Tactical Trainer onto a C-5 Galaxy with the help of Army contractors. The trainer is an Army helicopter training simulator. Airmen from the 436th Aerial Port Squadron built a ramp specially designed to load the trainer on the transport. Before the ramp's creation, the only way to move the trainer was by ship, which took six to eight weeks to get to Soldiers in the field. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. James Wilkinson)

DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. (AFPN) -- The first-time loading of a new Army helicopter flight simulator into a C-5 Galaxy required Airmen to build new ramps.

Members of the 436th Aerial Port Squadron loaded the Aviation Combined Arms Tactical Trainer, a helicopter training simulator, onto the transport. But they had to build special ramps for the Army to load the equipment.

“The C-5 is the only aircraft capable of transporting the Army's AVCATT training system,” said Donald Philpitt, of the Army’s program executive office for simulation training and instrumentation. He is the trainer’s project director.

“We’re trying to prove that the trailers can actually be loaded on a C-5, which has never been attempted before,” Mr. Philpitt said during the test Dec. 7.

The trainer consists of a pair of large trailers like those hauled by a truck or tractor. It provides aviation training with a networked battlefield environment for Army active duty, National Guard and Reserve aviation units worldwide.

“When you’re flying live operations, there are a lot of things you can’t do that you can train for in the simulator,” Mr. Philpitt said. “(The AVCATT) provides the capability to do mission rehearsals prior to going out and doing the real thing.”

The Air Transportability Test Loading Agency at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, provided the specifications for the ramps after measuring the trailers and approving them for C-5 transport, he said.

An AVCATT unit has six simulated helicopter cockpits and other workstations encased inside. Each trailer weighs 49,000 pounds, is 53 feet long and costs $10.5 million.

“We were having trouble finding someone to build ramps and the estimates we received were extremely high,” Mr. Philpitt said. “When the 436th Aerial Port Squadron at Dover heard that we needed a ramp to load the equipment into the C-5, they agreed to provide the technical expertise and manpower needed to put it together.”

The squadron’s Staff Sgt. Timothy Hickey and George Molina received the specifications for the ramp and constructed it in four days.

“The ramp worked as planned, and in our opinion, was a success,” said Sergeant Hickey, the 436th’s NCO in charge of packing and crating. “There were some concerns about the width. The next one we construct will be (wider) to provide more room for correction while backing the vehicle onto the C-5.”

Mr. Philpitt gave the Dover contributors credit for a job well done.

“These are not just a couple of two-by-fours,” Mr. Philpitt said. “They saved the taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars.”

Before, the only other way to move the large trailers was via ship, which takes six to eight.

“We’re looking at being able to airlift these trailers in hours as opposed to months to save an incredible amount of time,” Mr. Philpitt said.

Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Richard A. Cody wanted to quickly transport the new equipment to combat areas, so the C-5 transport was placed in the Army operational requirements, Mr. Philpitt said. He is also the Dover’s point of contact for the ramp project. “Right now, shipping them by sea takes a lot of coordination because they have to wait for the tide to line the ship up with the dock. Being able to airlift the trailers saves (the Army) a logistical nightmare.”

The simulator system supports training for various helicopters, including the AH-64A Apache, AH-64D Apache Longbow, OH-58D Kiowa Warrior, CH-47D Chinook and UH-60 Blackhawk.

“You can link a series of these trailers together to have multiple units all flying together in the same virtual world,” Mr. Philpitt said.

Recent tests proved aircrews at Fort Hood, Texas, and Fort Campbell, Ky., could fly together in the same virtual reality world, though the units were miles apart.

The simulator holds a database of locations like Afghanistan and Iraq, and many others around the world for aircrews to use.

“By having a Baghdad database, pilots know what the city looks like and where the streets are before they go in, making training much more effective,” Mr. Philpitt said.

“For a mobile simulator like this, it is important to be able to easily transport it to the Soldier for mission rehearsal,” said Maj. Alan Lee, an Air Mobility Command aircraft test manager. “If we can get it to the theater quickly to the guys who need it and it helps save one helicopter, it’s worth it.” 

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