OKLAHOMA CITY- Members of the Oklahoma Air National Guard's 146th Air Support Operations Squadron at Will Rogers Air National Guard Base here recently started training on the first simulator designed for their mission.
The Air National Guard Advanced Joint Terminal Attack Controller Training System is the only simulator to train Joint Terminal Attack Controllers.
The system simulates virtually any environment and most aircraft and weapons system utilized by the JTACs.
"Everything is very realistic," said Chris Johnson, logistical support for QuantaDyn, the Sterling, Virginia, based company that created AAJTS. "If a JTAC operates unsafely and pulls his aircraft in too close, they'll get shot down. It's better to do that in a simulator than in real life."
The ASOS mission is to provide ground commanders with proper coordination and control of close air support missions.
The AAJTS provide a way for Airmen to make mistakes when it's not so costly.
"Airplanes only have a certain amount of fuel, so you can't just stop a training if it's not going well," said Air Force Lt. Col. James Waltermire, of Stillwater, 146th ASOS commander. "With this system, we can reset and get it right before going to a live range."
The system is comprised of a large dome projection screen, a control station and an aircraft simulator station. The dome contains 14 high-end projectors that encapsulate the Airmen and place them in the action as realistically as possible. It is also capable of projecting infrared images for virtual nighttime operations.
"If you are under [Night Vision Goggles], the image looks as close as possible to actually being outside," Johnson said. "It's a huge leap for simulators in that capacity. This is the first simulator to offer NVG capability."
QuantaDyn Corporation developed AAJTS in 28 months and each system costs $2 million. But that cost is easily paid for by the reduced cost of real-life missions, according to Waltermire.
"This [simulator] allows us to go back to the basics and do it over and over until we don't make any mistakes," Waltermire said.
The simulator not only reduces costs, but also allows the Airmen to train in situations not possible in real life.
"It gives us the ability to train against moving targets that are out there in a simulated environment and gets my guys used to seeing things move that you can't see on a range when you're dropping live ordnance," said Waltermire.
The simulator is also capable of networking with other simulators across the world. This way, the JTACs can communicate and train with real-life pilots on their own aircraft simulators hundreds of miles away.
More AAJTS will be installed across the U.S. this year, including systems for active duty Air Force and the Marines.
Two simulators will be installed at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, the training location for JTACs.