CAE OPENS NEW DOORS FOR MILITARY HELICOPTER (MSHATF) SYNTHETIC TRAINING
By Howard Wheeldon, FRAeS, Wheeldon Strategic Advisory Ltd.
22 Sep 14. In a world far more critical of resource waste and one in which affordability must be a key element in any procurement process far too little attention is paid to stories of success. Nowhere is this perhaps more true than in the large number of successful Private Finance Initiatives (PFI’s) embraced by Government since the process was first introduced in 1992. One example is the Medium Support Helicopter Aircrew Training Facility (MSHATF) at RAF Benson and that is run by CAE.
The UK military may be struggling in various aspects of equipment capability and capacity availability but by outsourcing and working in partnership with industry huge strides have been made in mission readiness capability. PFI’s have played a large role in the process of overall change adopted by the MOD in the procurement process in recent years and not only have the most successful created considerable cost savings they have also improved the efficiency of military operation. Up-front investment in the PFI process also means that the UK now has some of the most modern and efficient defence assets and support capability in the world. Not only has valuable taxpayer money been saved but extensively adopting the PFI process across defence has also ensured that the UK has been able to retain mission leadership capability amongst its European NATO allies.
One excellent example of an activity area predominantly based on the PFI process and in which the UK is now considered world leader in knowledge and capability is military based synthetic training. Using the PFI process in the synthetic training model has already brought extensive benefits not just to the MOD in terms of cost and extension of what can now be offered and achieved in terms of the training but it is one that is now also benefitting our NATO allies and defence export customers. Perhaps the most important point to make in relation to the PFI element is that what has now been successfully achieved in military based synthetic training environment could not have been done without industry, the MOD and the end user working together in partnership.
Regular readers of my defence commentaries will know that having put considerable effort into using and understand the benefits of military based synthetic training and the benefits that it can provide pilots and crews, particular in respect of helicopter and fast jet training, that I am a huge supporter of the concept. Synthetic training has increasingly augmented actual flying training but is already at a standard where it can replace live training in a range of scenarios, evidenced by the decision that Typhoon and JSF Lightening ll will not have twin seat aircraft for initial training; a future fast jet pilot will be solo on his first sortie on type, having undertaken conversion training in a simulator.
While overall use of synthetic training is still some way short of the stated aspiration for greater than 50%, the trend is increasing the live/synthetic balance with some helicopter training already above 50% of conversion training. While cost has in part driven the process of synthetic training forward it is primarily the much broader spectrum of complete mission training that the synthetic based solution offers that is the most important element of this technology.
Having recently once again visited the superb CAE military helicopter synthetic training facility at RAF Benson (this is known as MSHATF – Medium Support Helicopter Aircrew Training Facility) it is this vitally important element of synthetic based training activity that I will concentrate on here. Designed to provide a full helicopter training service, including all the simulator instruction, for Chinook Mk 2/2A, Merlin Mk 111 and Puma Mk 1 aircraft with training to include initial conversion to type, continuation, pre-dep