The U.S. Air Force’s A-10 Warthog pilots are now using Digital Combat Simulator World (more commonly referred to simply as DCS) computer games for training.
The 355th Training Squadron at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona is using DCS together with commercially available virtual reality headsets and other gaming peripherals to provide a low-cost way of augmenting more traditional training regimens on the ground and in the air.
The 355th Training Squadron’s A-10 Simulator Laboratory has been using a staple of the flight simulator gaming world, including DCS, as well as Oculus Quest VR headsets, Thrustmaster HOTAS Warthog joysticks and throttles, and Thrustmaster TPR pendular rudder pedals.
The computer workstations in the lab, from Volair Sim, are specifically designed for use together with flight simulator games and their associated peripherals.
355th Training Squadron’s A-10 Simulator Laboratory
The 355th Training Squadron has used innovation funds to build a functional virtual reality simulator classroom to conduct training for A-10 Thunderbolt II student pilots as they earn their qualifications.
“We are using virtual reality simulation to provide an immersive trainer for students,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Drew Glowa, 355th TRS instructor pilot. “Training includes all aspects of operating the A-10 to include, but not limited to: ground operations, start-taxi-take offs, landings, formation flying, weapons employment, threat reactions, air-to-air refueling and other critical capabilities. We are leveraging stand-alone VR goggle systems that allow students to view 360-degree camera footage of flying actual missions from an instructor’s point of view. This gives them a real time chair flying experience to view the rate at which sight pictures and tasks happen.”
This new addition to the training arsenal has been approved at the Air Combat Command level and has been formally put into the syllabus and is being taught as part of classes. By having more realistic training for Airmen, the Air Force ensures that no matter the situation, when airpower is needed, we are ready.
“The 355 TRS is a key leader and trailblazer in this space and is leading the combat Air Force,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Tim Manning, 355th TRS commander. “There are two distinct lines of effort in our VR program. First is the lab where students can fly the A-10 and practice tasks and the second, is having actual flights filmed in 360-degree video, viewed on VR headsets. There are no two-seat trainer A-10’s, and we have established the first-ever capability for students to see what flying the A-10 is like before getting into the cockpit.”
Giving students this new tool allows them to train in a different environment where they can make mistakes and learn before actually getting in the cockpit in a real-world situation with bigger implications.
“This prepares them for flying events better than any other training tool we have at a higher availability,” Glowa said. “Now we can review specific tasks in a real world environment by supplementing our four traditional simulator bays and giving students 22 more cockpits to practice on their own or with an instructor. We can expedite ground training to prepare students for flights at a pace we have never seen. We are transforming the way we train pilots and will be able to actually increase quality faster and add remedial training at almost any time. This will expedite the time it takes to get students ready for their flights.”
By upgrading training capabilities and effectiveness, the 355th TRS is ensuring that the best, most qualified pilots are being sent out to execute the mission, ensuring readiness at all levels, and maximizing every single flight hour they can get.
“We have moved out on the Chief of Staff of the Air Forces’ message to ‘accelerate change or lose’,” Manning said. “We are not cutting flights or flying hours in the syllabus, but instead we are using this technology to produce more lethal, efficient and safer A-10 pilots. Better ground training methods will result in making the most of every flight hour. It also has the potential to be more cost efficient for the Air Force, and maybe even a faster way to accomplish training.”
The 355th TRS is executing the priorities of Department of Defense and Air Force senior leaders by establishing this new way to better the next generation of A-10 pilots through more advanced, in-depth, and easy-to-use training techniques.