New UAS program at Randolph simulates air battle space

RANDOLPH AIR FORCE BASE, Texas (AFNS)  -- A first-of-its-kind combat familiarization…

airforce.gifRANDOLPH AIR FORCE BASE, Texas (AFNS)  — A first-of-its-kind combat familiarization program for pilots slated to fly unmanned aircraft systems soon will launch at the 563rd Flying Training Squadron here.

The four-week-long Unmanned Aircraft Systems Fundamentals Course will begin Nov. 21. It is designed to give 10 newly-winged graduates of undergraduate pilot training a feel for the air- and ground-based battle space environment through 100 hours of combined simulator and academic classes.

The UFC will provide pilots, the vast majority of whom have no operational experience, a computer-based simulation with high-end gaming technology as well as exposure to integrating all Air Force strike aircraft on a cyber-aerial battlefield against “threats.”

“It simulates the real-world ground combat and air combat environment for the UFC students,” said Lt. Col. Scott Cardozo, 563rd FTS director of operations.

Capt. Tom Moore, 563rd FTS UFC flight commander, plus civilian contract instructors and combat systems officer instructors with the squadron will teach, brief, observe, coach, test and critique pilots through simulated computer-based airstrikes in a real-time, extremely high-fidelity air combat picture, occasionally adding realistic, yet simulated, twists to test student responses.

UFC instructors project that 100 UFC graduates per year will learn to fly UASs at Creech Air Force Base, Nev., and eventually work with the UASs’ enlisted sensor operators on the job throughout the world.

As a result, qualified UAS pilots will garner flight experience in manned aircraft and possibly move between manned and unmanned vehicle piloting as their Air Force careers progress.

The UASs can provide “persistent air cover” and reconnaissance capability to ground combat commanders for a lot less money than it would take, for example, two pairs of F-15E Strike Eagles to fly combat air patrols above a friendly unit, link up with fuel tankers repeatedly and risk losing or damaging airframes, not to mention the risk of losing pilots, Captain Moore said.

Air Force leaders embrace the concept of developing a seasoned Air Force corps of UAS pilots. Eventually, a UAS career field with a knowledge base of its own will develop, Captain Moore said.

The UFC was approved about six weeks ago at the Headquarters Air Force level. It costs about $3 million to acquire civilian contract instructors, prepare a classroom and acquire computer equipment and simulation software. The concept for the course took two years to develop and materialize, Colonel Cardozo said.

Eventually, specialized UAS war fighting software will be developed that UAS pilots can put on their home computers to practice on, he added. 

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