A significant increase in the use of simulation is integral to ambitious plans to graduate the first pilots from the ADF’s new Joint Helicopter (JHS) in 2018.

If on schedule, this would be 11 years since Joint Project 9000 Phase 7 (Helicopter Aircrew Training System) gained first pass approval. The project’s title was changed from Air to Joint Project earlier this year to better reflect its role in delivering a capability to both Army and Navy.

In a wide-ranging update on progress on the program better known as HATS, Rear Admiral Tony Dalton, Head Helicopter Systems at the DMO, said negotiations had begun with preferred tender Boeing, teamed with Thales.

The negotiation process had gone reasonably well, but Raytheon was in the wings as alternative preferred tenderer if the negotiations proved unsuccessful, he said.

The tender had included very few essential requirements, the principal one being a twin-engine training aircraft.

“We didn’t specify a minimum or a maximum amount of simulation time, we didn’t specify a minimum or a maximum number of aircraft,” RADM Dalton said.

“What we gave industry was the competency outcomes that we required and the student throughput that they would need to cater for.

“We want industry to buy into the capability that they’re providing to us, to have skin in the game… if industry doesn’t meet the competencies then industry will have to bear the responsibility and fix it.”

Training future ADF helicopter crews
The Airbus Helicopter (nee Eurocopter) EC135s proposed in the training role by Boeing will replace the Army’s 206B-1 Kiowa and the Navy’s AS350BA Squirrels, together with the three Bell 429s currently under lease to Navy under its retention initiative. These provide additional training resources for new-qualified aircrew.

Although priority is being given to completing what is planned to be the inaugural six-month long pilots’ course by the end of 2018, the JHS will also train aviation warfare officers for Navy, air crewmen for Army and Navy, and also train Navy aircrewmen as sensor operators. The JHS will also provide post-graduate flying instructor training to selected Army and Navy aircrew.

Since Army flies two-pilot helicopters, Phase 7 will graduate Army pilots at a level of competency that will enable them to enter directly into operational flying training on the CH-47F Chinook, the MRH 90, and the Tiger armed reconnaissance helicopter. The same will be true for Navy pilots destined to fly the MRH 90, who do the same operational conversion as their Army counterparts at the School of Army Aviation at Oakey.

With the RAN’s MH-60R flying single pilot, Navy pilots destined for that type gain additional experience at the JHS before moving to their operational flying training. On graduating from this, MH-60R pilots will be the equivalent of Category C aircraft captains whereas pilots on graduation from other aircraft types will be the equivalent of Category D captains.

“The focus is on handling skills so the pilots are competent in their stream, and on their mental situational awareness skills,” RADM Dalton noted.

“All of our new aircraft are twin-engine, glass cockpit, multiple sensors, network-enabled platforms and the training system at the moment doesn’t really cover that. The new training system will make the transition to the operational type much more direct and straightforward that it currently is.”

Increased use of simulation
Currently no simulation is involved in pilot training for the Kiowa or Squirrel, although some is utilised in the aviation warfare officer pipeline at the School of Air Warfare at RAAF East Sale.

Boeing’s Phase 7 bid includes a number of full motion EC135 simulators. They will be supported by other synthetic training devices that are part of an integrated course, RADM Dalton said.

“So there’s an aircraft replica trainer that will be used particularly for the aircrewmen and the aviation warfare officers for cabin and winch familiarisation and all those things.

“There are a couple of virtual reality trainers that will be integrated into the course, particularly for the aircrewmen in doing winching operations and door gunnery.

“There are a number of desktop trainers that introduce all the streams into network-enabled systems and sensors, and we also have an EC135 trainer that goes into the current underwater escape trainer.”

Although Phase 7 contracts had yet to be signed, probably 40 to 50 per cent of the syllabus would be conducted in the synthetic training environment compared to zero per cent currently.

The ratio for aviation air warfare officers would be about two to one – two hours in a synthetic training device for every hour spent in the air.

“Synthetic training devices are getting more realistic, the fidelity is higher, the level of immersion is greater, and the degree of competencies you can obtain in them is higher,” RADM Dalton commented.

“That’s making the whole program much more affordable than what we were doing before and it’s enabling us to bring in a lot of competencies that we can only achieve now on the operational aircraft, back into the training environment.”

The HATS contract is in two parts, the first an acquisition agreement which will see the Commonwealth buy the aircraft, the training devices and the coursework from the contractor.

A parallel sustainment contract with the same acquisition contractor includes the execution and upgrade and maintenance of the aircraft, the training devices and the coursework.

The first sustainment contract will be for seven years from contract signature.

“It’ll be a performance-based contract and we will look to extend that based on the performance of the contractor on a rolling-wave type pattern,” RADM Dalton said.

“So if they’re performing well we’ll extend it, if not we have an option to take it back to the market after the first seven years. We will own all of the assets and the Intellectual Property (IP) that goes with them.”

The new regime will have less of an impact on training at HMAS Albatross than at the Army School of Aviation at Oakey. About the same number of sailors who are deploying Squirrels with 723 Squadron at Albatross will transfer to the MH-60R program, although a small contractor workforce will support the JHS aircraft.

About 25 per cent of Army aviation training at Oakey is on Kiowas, and that particular element will cease towards the end of 2018-19. MRH 90 and Tiger conversion training will continue there.

The renovation of facilities at Nowra means the JHS will be staffed in a trickle rather than a rush.

Separate government approval through the Public Works Committee will be sought at the end of this year to renovate the facilities now used by 723 Squadron and provide a dedicated simulator facility.

Operations at sea
All future Army and Navy helicopter aircrews will be required to operate at sea, either as part of an amphibious task group or as members of an embarked maritime support or combat helicopter flight.

The JHS will thus be required to ‘deck qualify’ its students using an aviation training vessel which was included within the approved scope of JP9000 Phase 7.

After discussions with industry in 2011 it was decided the most efficient and effective option would be to ‘piggy back’ this requirement on to the replacement for the RAN’s sea training vessel Seahorse Horizon, RADM Dalton disclosed.

What is now referred to as a Multi-purpose Aviation Training Vessel (MATV) will be delivered through navy’s Fleet Marine Services contract with Phase 7. Subject to second pass approval in the next few months, the MAATV is expected to be delivered before the end of 2016. This will enable it to commence sea training activities in 2017 and support deck landing qualifications in 2018.

Basing has yet to be determined, but the ship is likely to operate from Jervis Bay.

ADM has learnt separately that the MATV will be constructed at a Damen shipyard in Vietnam and will be based on a Damen design for a 2,500 tonne offshore patrol vessel.

Fixed wing pilots of sufficient competency to enter the JHS will be produced under Project Air 5428 (Joint Fixed Wing Pilot Training System).

“Phase 7 and Air 5428 are related and so is Air 5232, air combat officer training system. There was some debate about whether they needed to be in lockstep, but we’ve put in place flexibility in the syllabus to accept graduates from either course noting that there is a difference in entry standards between Army and Navy pilots,” RADM Dalton said.

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