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F-16 simulator goes high energy

KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. (AFPN) -- F-16 Fighting Falcon pilots here are honing their laser firing skills against airborne targets while flying their aircraft -- without ever leaving the ground.

Pilots are using the high energy laser fighter simulator, an F-16 simulator modified to integrate a high energy laser weapon model into an F-16's program.

The simulator evaluates design parameters for an actual high-energy laser weapon system and helps an operator get familiar with a directed energy weapon system, according to Rudy Martinez, Air Force Research Laboratory directed energy directorate strategic planner. The system can also be used to develop tactics and a concept of operations.

"It's imperative to have a better understanding of what lasers can do for our fighter pilots," said Col. Mark Stephen, directed energy directorate deputy director. "By providing the warfighter with the best technology, we ensure the protection of the flyer and better defense for our national interests."

Air Force research laboratory officials are funding and developing the high energy laser fighter simulator in conjunction with Theater Aerospace Command and Control Simulation Facility experts. Lockheed Martin, working with the other agencies is currently investigating the use of the high energy laser on the Joint Strike Fighter, according to Martinez.

Currently, pilots from the New Mexico Air National Guard's 150th Fighter Wing provide feedback to the simulator's developers.

"Their comments and suggestions on a variety of issues facing this new weapon system are integrated into the development," Martinez said.

One simulator model is capable of air-to-air engagements while the other simulates air-to-ground engagements, he said.

"The realistic models include atmospheric transmission losses, target lethality engagement parameters and laser system limits and ranges."

According to Martinez, the ultimate goal is to have the simulator participate in war games to determine the utility of using a high energy laser against conventional warfare weapons. The simulator is scheduled to be ready for system evaluation this year. (Courtesy of Air Force Material Command News Service)

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