Integrated, Cheaper, Better….
On the fringes of ITEC 2017 in Rotterdam this week, CAE hosted a media visit to the Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) Air Mobility Training Centre (AMTC) at Gilze-Rijen, near Breda. As well as viewing the newly relocated C-130H and KDC-10 full flight simulators installed there – developed and supplied by CAE in May 2010 – the RNLAF took the opportunity to outline its strategy and challenges in applying simulation technologies to its training requirements.
Col. Harold Boekholt, Head of Policy and Plans for the RNLAF, was clear and eloquent in his outline of the path being pursued. That the organisation is committed to greater use of simulation there can be no doubt. “Our target is that by 2024 we will execute 50% of all Air Force training in the synthetic environment,” Col. Boekholt told the audience at Gilze-Rijen, adding that, “modelling and simulation is an integral part of the 5th generation air force.”
There are considerable hurdles to be overcome, of course, ranging from the fundamental deision as to whether to pursue primarily an ownership model or seek to satisfy demand through a ‘simulation availability’ model – both of which have advantages and a downside. More fundamentally, perhaps, is the issue of ensuring coordinated activity and harmonisation of standards and solutions – where possible – with sister services. Boekholt suggests that in some respects the RNLAF lags behind the Army and Navy, both of which have had the benefits of centralisation in the application of their simulation strategies.
The future, though, is an exciting as well as a challenging prospect for the air force. On the future projects list are a refresh and relocation of the NH90 simulator by the middle of 2018, the acquisition of full flight simulators for new variants of CHINOOK and APACHE helicopters (currently envisioned for the 2023/2025 timeframe), the development of an F-35 simulation centre and the establishment of a multi-simulator multi-type training facility to provide integrated helicopter training. Not to mention the ambition of achieving completey paperless maintenance acrioss the force through the use of modelling and simulation.
Getting there will be a journey that will teach the air force much, in Boekholt’s view, but one that has multiple potential payoffs. The establishment of the AMTC in the Aeroparc at Gilze has already provided benefits for industry concentration and collaboration, with synergies accruing from the colocation of industrial and military assets. “But we’re not quite there yet: for example, I don’t think we are seeing a big enough technology push at the moment,” Boekholt observed, hinting that while budget constraints certainly have an effect, there are structural and organisational issues that impede progress too. The bottom line, however, is upbeat and positive. “Modelling and simulation will make us better and cheaper,” he concluded.