Aurora aircraft crews use simulation to rehearse for future missions

News Article / May 7, 2014

By Major Sonia Dumouchel-Connock

Aurora long-range patrol aircraft crews from 14 Wing Greenwood, Nova Scotia, and 19 Wing Comox, British Columbia, recently completed a “mission-rehearsal-through-simulation” exercise to prepare for their participation in Exercise Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC). RIMPAC, the world’s largest international maritime exercise, is held every two years in and around the Hawaiian Islands.

The virtual exercise was another step forward in Royal Canadian Air Force’s initiatives to use advances in modelling and simulation technology to improve its training and readiness as well as increase its operational output.

 “This was the first large-scale simulation exercise aimed at preparing members of the maritime patrol and reconnaissance community for RIMPAC,” said Colonel Iain Huddleston, the commander of 14 Wing.

“Our crews continue to draw great benefits from simulation exercises such as this one. SIMEX 1401 – Virtual RIMPAC – provided our crews with opportunities to enhance their airborne leadership, team-building and communications skills, and prepare for the challenging [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance] and [anti-submarine warfare] missions they will encounter during RIMPAC 2014.”

The 12-day simulation exercise took place “virtually” in two of the RIMPAC strike group operational areas, located southwest of the Hawaiian Islands.

After they received their mission briefing, exercise participants from 407 Long Range Patrol Squadron, located at 19 Wing, and 404 Long Range Patrol and Training Squadron, 405 Long Range Patrol Squadron, and the Maritime Proving and Evaluation Unit, all located at 14 Wing, were challenged to complete realistic missions. They were working in a complex warfare environment that included ships, submarines and aircraft acting as friendly or opposing forces.

In the virtual training world, they joined a task group at sea and built and maintained the recognized maritime picture, using their surveillance equipment to detect, intercept, identify, record and analyze sources of electromagnetic energy for immediate threat recognition. Working with friendly submarines, they also conducted several combined anti-submarine exercises – known as CASEX – hunting submarines belonging to the opposing forces.

“This simulated exercise helped bring the fleet to a high level of readiness,” said Colonel Huddleston. “Crews practiced operating in direct support to a task group at sea and successfully achieved interoperability in an intensive joint communications environment.

“They improved their ability to search, locate, track and report subsurface contacts of interest and adapted rapidly to the different exercise injects introduced by the 404 Squadron exercise staff.”

The exercise participants conducted the mission rehearsal training using devices: the operational mission simulator (OMS) that was acquired with the Auroras in 1980, and the modernized procedures crew trainer (PCT) that was purchased in 2012.

The OMS, which was upgraded in 2008, replicates the tactical compartment of the CP-140 Aurora. Air crews use it to exercise proven tactics, techniques and procedures. Staff members can provide full scenario replays after each individual mission and selected 3-D animation replays during the debriefing at the end of the exercise.

The newer PCT is an advanced reconfigurable tactical crew trainer built under the Aurora Incremental Modernization Project (AIMP).

Fourteen of Canada’s 18 Auroras are being modernized and their life span extended under Block III of the AIMP and two other programs: the Aurora Structural Life Extension Project and the Aurora Extension Proposal. These enhancements and modifications will extend the operational effectiveness of the modernized Aurora to 2030 and make it one of the best intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft available. The next stage of upgraded and state-of-the-art avionics and missions systems will add three new capabilities to the aircraft: Link 16 Datalink, beyond line of sight (BLOS) satellite communications capability and an improved self-defence system.

“The Aurora community has a long history of supporting operational training through the use of advanced simulation. Since we acquired the OMS with our fleet of Auroras in 1980, this training device has delivered yeoman service,” said Captain Craig Jorgensen from the policy section of the Directorate of Air Simulation and Training in Ottawa.

“The introduction of the PCT provides a greatly enhanced ability to train the significantly wider spectrum of capabilities delivered in the AIMP-updated Aurora.  This training capability will be further improved with the delivery of a new OMS later this year, which will support with greatly enhanced fidelity and simulation capability the full-crew mission training for the updated Block III aircraft.”

The upcoming introduction of the Royal Canadian Air Force’s new simulation strategy will further refine the Air Force’s use of simulation. The strategy will coordinate the introduction of new training technology within the service, ensuring that new devices can be linked together to form a common virtual training environment.

“The RCAF will build a virtual world that allows training devices to connect with each other and with comparable constructs of our joint and coalition allies,” continued Captain Jorgensen. “Within this virtual world, the Aurora will be able to conduct training and mission rehearsal in conjunction with partners and allies exactly as they do in a real world exercises and operations.”

Some of the most critical training tasks for crews operating the Block III Aurora centre on interoperability and communications, he explained.

“To be effective during operations, Aurora crews must be able to effectively communicate and work with Canadian Armed Forces maritime helicopters, ships and submarines, as well as with the air, sea and land platforms used by our Allies.

“Ensuring that the Air Force’s training devices can be linked together and linked with the training devices used by our partners will help ensure that our crews continue to deliver robust air power.”

The successful completion of the first RIMPAC SIMEX at 14 Wing on May 5, 2014, demonstrated the importance of simulation training for modern and effective military forces.

As the Royal Canadian Air Force works to put in place a fully-integrated, optimized training system that mixes live, virtual and constructive training by 2025, “mission-rehearsal-through-simulation” exercises like this one underline how training devices linked together to form a common virtual training environment are critical to maintaining the RCAF’s high level of operational excellence.

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