Support: Simulating Success

Archives

November 28, 2009: The U.S. Navy is running a test to see if the Sim Industries P-8A full-flight simulator can accurately replace flight training in an actual aircraft. For the last few decades, simulators have been increasingly replacing training in the air. To see if this trend should accelerate even more, the navy will take ten pilots and give them emergency (situation) training using a business jet outfitted to reflect the flight characteristics of various aircraft (in this case the P-8A), while ten pilots will get all this training using a full flight simulator (one that uses a cockpit moved by hydraulics to simulate the actual movement of an aircraft which, however, does not simulate the G (gravity) force effect. After the training, all twenty pilots will be checked out on these procedures in a P-8A. The navy expects the simulator to prove equal to the use of an aircraft. This has been the trend over the last few decades.

But there's a dark side to this use of cheaper, and safer, simulators for training. The biggest threat to American air superiority is not Russia selling high performance combat aircraft to countries like China, but the development of really inexpensive flight simulators. Over the last decade, computers have become a lot cheaper, and the graphics capability of these machines has skyrocketed. That's important in bringing the cost of realistic flight simulators down to a level that any country can afford.

Until a decade ago, a realistic combat flight simulator cost about as much as the aircraft it was simulating. While that did reduce the cost (per "flying" hour) of pilots practicing, it was not enough of a savings to make it practical for less wealthy countries to get these simulators and use them heavily. Thus we had a continuation of the situation where countries could scrape together enough money to buy high performance aircraft, but not enough to pay for all that flight time needed to make their pilots good enough to face the Americans.

The new generation of simulators cost up to a tenth of the price of the aircraft they simulate. Suddenly, countries like China can buy dozens of simulators, and give their pilots enough realistic training to make them a threat in the air (at least to Western pilots). Each of these simulators can be run about 6,000 hours a year. While a hundred hours a year in a simulator isn't a complete replacement for a hundred hours of actual air time, it's close enough if the training scenarios are well thought out. And another 40-50 hours of actual air time a year gives you a competent pilot. Add another few hundred hours using commercial (game store bought) flight simulators (especially when played in groups via a LAN), and you have some deadly pilots. The Chinese have, since the 1990s, stressed the use of PCs as a foundation for cheaper and more powerful simulators. Now they have an opportunity to really cash in on this insight.

 

 


Article Archive

Support: Current 2018 2017 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002 2001 2000 1999 


X

ad
0
20

Help Keep Us Soaring

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling. We need your help in reversing that trend. We would like to add 20 new subscribers this month.

Each month we count on your subscriptions or contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage. A contribution is not a donation that you can deduct at tax time, but a form of crowdfunding. We store none of your information when you contribute..
Subscribe   Contribute   Close