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Proportion of synthetic flying in the future

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Proportion of synthetic flying in the future

Old 2nd Jun 2021, 11:51
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Question Proportion of synthetic flying in the future

The RAF has already announced its goal for 90% of flying to be synthetic by 2030. Cost and 'green' agenda are 2 cited justifications, but clearly there are other key considerations. Firstly, 'security', assuming that someone would always be watching, no air force would risk revealing tactics or operational capabilities where there was a credible alternative. Secondly, 'realism'. What benefit is derived if the training can't accurately recreate the range of adversaries and tactics our warfighters might face? My interest, as someone working in the support side of industry, is considering what new sustainment models would be required if assets are purchased but subsequently fly far fewer hours than current inventory?'

I'm obviously not asking anyone to discuss specifics and I fully appreciate from speaking to numerous pilots that a minimum amount of real flying will always be needed. But, given the huge range of knowledge and expertise on this forum, conceptually what is the end point with respect to a future manned combat system? 150 actual flying hours a year? 100? 50? None (with any necessary flight time obtained on other less capable platforms)? I would greatly appreciate your insights.
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Old 2nd Jun 2021, 12:20
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Hmm

Hello Mr/Mrs Scrimshankers. That’s a hell of a first post. Well written, erudite and grammatically correct.

What it doesn’t say is who are you and why do you care?

You’re asking a bunch of people you’ve never met who are naturally suspicious to give you quite a lot of detailed information.

Good luck with that.

BV
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Old 2nd Jun 2021, 12:50
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I think its a plot to retain aircrew. They will not get enough hours to get a licence.
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Old 2nd Jun 2021, 12:56
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Originally Posted by Bob Viking View Post
Hello Mr/Mrs Scrimshankers. That’s a hell of a first post. Well written, erudite and grammatically correct.

What it doesn’t say is who are you and why do you care?

You’re asking a bunch of people you’ve never met who are naturally suspicious to give you quite a lot of detailed information.

Good luck with that.

BV
Haha, welcome to the Internet.

I am currently IT manager in a large international company and my hobby is aviation including military aviation. I do not care but I am curious. Will that introduction work?
Oh, and I am neither Chinese nor Russian spy.


This
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Old 2nd Jun 2021, 12:58
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Well, if this doesn’t tread on aircrew sensibilities ...

... ATC training moved heavily into Simulator Training decades ago, including the Visual (VCR) simulator at Shawbury. Numerous reasons, but for training purposes one has a controlled (no pun intended) environment ... irrespective of real-world weather, traffic density etc. Whilst I completely accept it’s a different environment from flying, how many real-time flying sorties are aborted for weather, serviceability, lack of other participating assets? I know from personal experience how much ATC training/continuation time got wasted due to lack of, or too much, traffic for the trainee’s experience/skill levels.

Where the real/simulated dividing line lies is way beyond my pay-scale/experience.
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Old 2nd Jun 2021, 13:13
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I am one of this forum’s “grumpy old men” but before I became one I spent 4000+ hours in rear cockpits and then 15 years in the simulator business. I know little about the capabilities and tactics of future combat air systems but whatever they are I reckon an absolute minimum of one real sortie a week is required to keep in touch with the real world and to maintain the level of awareness of danger that no sim will ever replicate. During my time instructing in a very capable modern simulator I can honestly say that I never once saw a crew put in the same level of planning, concentration and commitment that goes into a live sortie.

Another point that rarely gets mentioned in this debate is that people do not join as aircrew, and put in all that toil and tears through training, to spend their life in a simulator. If that is how careers turns out they may well not join in the first place or stay in if they do.
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Old 2nd Jun 2021, 16:02
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Surely 'G' tolerance would be impossible to maintain in a sim?

Due to COVID restrictions, I've done little flying for months and it shows in my performance, requiring a lot of refresher training with an instructor, real world.
I know sims are now almost cosmic, however, does it really match the real world?

I don't know, hopefully some of you do.
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Old 2nd Jun 2021, 16:03
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Originally Posted by Bob Viking View Post
Hello Mr/Mrs Scrimshankers. That’s a hell of a first post. Well written, erudite and grammatically correct.

What it doesn’t say is who are you and why do you care?

You’re asking a bunch of people you’ve never met who are naturally suspicious to give you quite a lot of detailed information.

Good luck with that.

BV
Good afternoon BV. Thank you for your reply and feedback.
I appreciate the reticence regarding new posters. (I have replied to you already - but this has disappeared in the ether.)

However there was nothing in my post which isn't in the public domain and/or a hypothesis which many people in the sector couldn't make (without access to sensitive or proprietary information). I'd also highlight that I didn't seek any information regarding my 4 posited contributing factors and I fully recognise the sensitivity around security and training realism. If the headline themes are accepted as accurate then no further discussion is needed. It would be interesting however to know if there are other factors which compound the trend.

I alluded to the root of my interest but am happy to expand. I work for a large aerospace company (not the BIG one) and am a plane geek - so nothing would please me more than lots of military planes flying around the skies. However my current task is to look at sustainment of future programmes and identify possible changes to the current business model. Today, Industry develops an item, sells the asset and then enjoys 25+ years of aftermarket revenue as the assets are flown, consumed and upgraded. This revenue is significant, fairly predictable and supports the maintenance of the design capability until the next new programme.

So what happens if assets are flown at a fraction of the previous rate? How do you get in-service data to improve and refine your reliability forecasts/maintenance planning? What happens to industry's revenue stream? Who pays for the design capability to be maintained? How do you keep supply chains alive with lower demand? All these are significant challenges to industry, but also to the customer. Yet few people on either side want to have this conversation.

Hence my question isn't about the technical reasons behind the trend, certainly does not seek any 'inside' knowledge regarding the risks/benefits/cons of synthetic training and (assuming the premise is accepted) requires no further comment regarding the hypothesis that 'real flying' may neither be desirable nor valuable in many instances.

But the difference between a future where assets fly 10-30 hours a year (compared to 250+ currently ) has profound contractual, financial and industrial consequences. This is the reason for my interest.

I hope on the basis of this clarification many of the experts on this forum will feel able to provide their thoughts.
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Old 2nd Jun 2021, 16:20
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Bobward is quite right of course. There is now a simulator in a centrifuge at Cranwell but I do not know how often squadron aircrew go there. Not often I suspect. And not just g; wearing all the kit ( anyone ever done a sim in an immersion suit?) and sorties of representative durations are hardly ever practiced in fast jet sims . Conditioning for the physical demands of real flying should not be forgotten. Someone told me that the B2 world practice full length “global” missions in the sim but the delivery of pizzas half way through rather breaks the spell!

Last edited by Timelord; 2nd Jun 2021 at 16:54.
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Old 2nd Jun 2021, 17:33
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Scrim

Your inbox is full!

BV
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Old 2nd Jun 2021, 20:21
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Originally Posted by Sholayo View Post
I am neither Chinese nor Russian spy.
ironic but that exactly what a Russian spy would say ... and exactly HOW HE'D SAY IT

now if you'd written "I am not a Russian spy . . ."
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Old 2nd Jun 2021, 21:59
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The bit about exposure to 'g', disorientation, weather etc is easily addressed with a 'hack' aircraft, which in the big digital future could easily have displays and softkeys that precisely match those on an expensive, super-secret 'war going' platform that hardly ever flies. The bit about pilot retention is easily addressed with pay: a business case that offsets lavish pay packets for a fortunate few pilots against billions saved in through life support virtually writes itself.

The bit which is much more difficult, and why I think the RAF is just as afraid of pursuing its stated ambitions as industry is to engage with them, is the effect a drastic cut in routine flying hours would have on operational flying. Right now the RAF is able to deploy at little or no additional cost to HM Treasury simply by using its budgeted crew training hours to deliver operational flying. This keeps the RAF relevant in the public and political spheres, at home and on the international stage. If those budgeted crew training hours disappear, then not only does the logistic tail become less efficient due to the difficulty of forecasting support requirements, but HM Treasury will suddenly acquire an effective veto on deployment of RAF assets. Not a position I can imagine senior officers wanting to find themselves in, given the stubborn persistence of a "use it or lose it" culture in every area of MOD bar the deterrent, and the stubborn persistence of HM Treasury in driving down current account spending irrespective of the consequences (witness today's education catch-up funding fiasco). Does anyone think for a minute that we'd be burning Typhoon hours over the Middle East if the decision rested with the bean counters?

The same logic applies to uncrewed autonomous combat aircraft, IMHO: 'ethics' are a convenient smokescreen behind which to avoid a technological step that poses a threat to both customer and supplier. The ethics of whether or not to shoot a hostile track (sometimes declared, ironically, by onboard computer-driven sensor fusion) go out of the window on wave one of WW3...


Last edited by Easy Street; 2nd Jun 2021 at 22:26.
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Old 2nd Jun 2021, 22:49
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Originally Posted by Easy Street View Post
The bit about pilot retention is easily addressed with pay: a business case that offsets lavish pay packets for a fortunate few pilots against billions saved in through life support virtually writes itself.
3...
I like that idea, the less you fly the more you get paid. It could be called “ non flying pay”
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Old 2nd Jun 2021, 23:03
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Even as long ago as the F-4, simulators were great for various intercepts etc. training, because unlike in the actual aircraft, the radar didn't go U/S all the time. Even the ancient AI trainers at Conongsby were adequate for basic set handling and some intercept training etc. The sims were also used for intercept training and for aircraft emergency procedures etc. But for anything involving G, they were not so useful.

When HCAP visited Valley, the write-up commented on the use of the clever simulators for A-to-A work and the narrative drily mentioned that the young lady who was flying it was talking to them over her shoulder "Whilst pulling a simulated 5G....". Hmmmm....

Part-task-trainers (PTT), properly used for the intended purpose can often achieve more than a full flight simulator, paradoxically. Training new AAR crews for the VC10 in the 'Pennants' trainer was a useful exercise and they concentrated on the task in hand rather than expecting to be given some aircraft emergency in a Full Flight Simulator (FFS). The TriStar 'Corels' were equally good.

When we did the TNA for training air transport crews for the AAR role on a particular aircraft type, we looked at all levels of training media including Computer Based Traing, Computer Assisted Instruction, PTT, FFS and the aircraft itself. The cost of modifying the FFS was prohibitive, so the ultimate decision was for knowledge-based training to be delivered by self-paced CBT and for skill-based training to be delivered by PTT. The first 2 crews did a famil trip in the aircraft, but from then on there was very little 'on aircraft' training as the PTT was such an excellent solution.

So yes, you can do a vast amount of 'role training' in a PTT and/or FFS. But the bean counters need to be reined in from seeing 'synthetic' training as a total solution.
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Old 3rd Jun 2021, 11:16
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I have no expert knowledge of synthetic training, However it is in the public domain that a former RAF Typhoon Display pilot did his type conversion course entirely in the sim (to see if it could be done).
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Old 3rd Jun 2021, 11:21
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I vaguely remember seeing a programme about pilot trainees on a low-cost airline. I'm sure it said that the first time they flew an Airbus type jet for real was on their first pax carrying flight.
Surely that couldn't be right, could it?
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Old 3rd Jun 2021, 11:25
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Originally Posted by Treble one View Post
I have no expert knowledge of synthetic training, However it is in the public domain that a former RAF Typhoon Display pilot did his type conversion course entirely in the sim (to see if it could be done).
Were they a crossover from another FJ type or an ab-initial with only Tucano/Hawk hours?
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Old 3rd Jun 2021, 12:37
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Originally Posted by bobward View Post
I vaguely remember seeing a programme about pilot trainees on a low-cost airline. I'm sure it said that the first time they flew an Airbus type jet for real was on their first pax carrying flight.
Surely that couldn't be right, could it?
Indeed it could. Airlines have been doing Zero Flight Time conversions for some years now. The first trip however will have been done with a training captain and probably a “screen” FO.
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Old 3rd Jun 2021, 12:53
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The concept of Zero Flight Time training has been around much longer than most realise.
The first successful application utilising 100% synthetic training tools was over 50 years ago.
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Old 3rd Jun 2021, 18:41
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Zero flight time conversions are the normal now on modern airline types.
I often wonder when passing Brize why there always seem to be A400s and Voyagers bashing the circuit. I presume they came with Level D simulators, which negate the requirement in the civil world, for any Base training on a Conversion course.
The first time I flew a”real” B747-400 was as a Captain with a full load of pax to JNB. The Trainer in the RHS, was always the pilot who carried out your last sim before Route Training. The 2 FOs were normal line guys.(whoops, sorry, persons)
Obviously more hands on time is required for RAF military roles, but not on a conversion?
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