The CH-47 on the International Stage - Military Simulation & Training

The CH-47 on the International Stage

CH-47

Group Editor Marty Kauchak provides an update on the rapidly evolving training system for the international customers of Boeing’s CH-47 Chinook.

The Chinook is the main multi-mission, heavy-lift transport helicopter for U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan. While the Boeing-built helicopter primarily moves troops and materiel on the battlefield, it also supports medical evacuation, disaster relief and other missions.

The latest Chinook model – “F” – has a fully integrated, digital cockpit management system, common aviation architecture cockpit and advanced cargo-handling capabilities that are a leap ahead from the onboard technologies of the legacy D model, still in service around the globe.

While there have been quantum advancements in onboard hardware and software, the Chinook’s training system has similarly progressed.  One insight into the rapidly evolving CH-47 training system can be gleaned from developments for the rotary aircraft’s international operators.

There are more than 1,200 Chinooks (A-F models) in service around the world. Of that number a mix of 480 C, D and F models been delivered to international customers in 18 nations. Alison Sheridan, a Boeing program spokesperson, reported about 200 Chinooks on order for domestic and international customers, with that number expected to increase. Indeed, as this issue was being prepared for publication, Boeing announced its CH-47F won India’s heavy-lift helicopter competition.

Boeing leads one S&T community team to provide training at any point along the continuum of instruction for international Chinook customers’ aircrews and maintenance personnel.

Program decisions on training non-U.S. CH-47 personnel are decided early-on in the sometimes byzantine world of Foreign Military Sales (FMS). Bill Hackett, Boeing’s Senior Manager for Mobility Training, noted the training system is an individual topic during FMS deliberations, with the U.S. government having the option to provide training in the final contract or subcontracting the training to an industry partner. The prospective Chinook customer is provided information about flight and maintenance training devices, onboard flight training options and other topics during FMS discussions.

Hackett added if the Army is too busy to accommodate the increased training workload from the contract, his company might be able to provide the needed services. “On direct commercial sales, we also do quite a bit of training for both maintenance training and flight training.”

Boeing, in an effort to be more responsive to the training needs of its international customers, teamed with its Dutch partner the Rotary Wing Training Center (RWTC), to open a state-of-the-art CH-47 Chinook helicopter maintenance training facility near Royal Netherlands Air Force base Gilze-Rijen last April 25. The RWTC is a subsidiary of the Netherlands’ World Class Aviation Academy (WCAA).

The training at the Netherlands venue includes current technical information and courseware tailored for CH-47 mechanics, technicians, pilots and crew members. The full training program covers theory, troubleshooting and fault isolation, as well as maintenance and servicing. Students also receive practical training on a retired Chinook airframe, providing a more realistic learning experience.

Hackett places the fidelity and rigor of the Netherlands’ maintenance training center’s program at the same level found with the Boeing-built trainer at the Eastern Army National Guard Aviation Training Site at Fort Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania.

The full-size Chinook fuselage supports fault insertions and similar hands-on learning strategies. “This has rotor blades, a cockpit, engines (burned out cores) and other systems,” Hackett added. And while it is not a flyable aircraft, the learner can replicate and complete almost any task, in particular “heavy maintenance” – removing the transmission and other components – in the live training domain.

The inclusion of the very capable live training device at the Netherlands facility reflects the state-of-the-art as well as the culture of maintenance training – with some government military customers and industry subject matter experts in agreement that a certain amount of skinned knuckles and other tactile feedback from removing parts and completing other tasks, is still important in the learning process.

Those benefits aside, Hackett added the Boeing CH-47 training venue in the Netherlands will soon take delivery of virtual training devices – perhaps when this issue was being published. “These are much easier to control and much less expensive,” he emphasized.

A second, similar device is expected to be delivered to an international customer during this quarter.

Hackett pointed out the CH-47 virtual training device consists of a set of large displays that present a virtual cockpit, in addition to other aircraft systems, to complete engine run-ups and other tasks that would be more difficult to complete on a hardware device.

“We expect because of the relative cost – it’s much, much cheaper than hardware – we’ll have more of those for sale in the future for more customers,” Hackett said.

Boeing partners with other S&T companies to provide full flight simulators and other training devices to support international CH-47 aircrew training. In order to deliver the full continuum of Chinook training, Boeing also supplies onboard flight training and other services.

CAE also delivers CH-47 training for the international market.

At CAE’s Medium Support Helicopter Aircrew Training Facility (MSHATF), located at Royal Air Force Base Benson in the United Kingdom, the company supports comprehensive RAF Chinook training in addition to providing all the CH-47 simulator training for the Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF). Ian Bell, Managing Director and Regional Business Leader – Europe, CAE, reported at the MSHATF, there are a total of three CH-47 full-mission simulators as well as a comprehensive ground school including multi-media classroom training. “We have the ability to tailor CH-47 training solutions to the requirements of global operators. For example, we have developed one of our Chinook full-mission simulators to replicate the RNLAF CH-47D (Block 5) cockpit, and we have a long-term contract signed in 2001 to provide the RNLAF with CH-47 training through 2018.”

In addition to providing training for the RAF and RNLAF, CAE’s MSHATF has also been used by Australian and Canadian CH-47 aircrews who undertook pre-deployment mission training prior to deployments to Afghanistan. CAE’s MSHATF offers a wide range of conversion, recurrent and operational training courses for Chinook aircrews as well as tailored pre-deployment training encompassing NVG (night vision goggles) and DNVG (day/night vision goggles) when required.

CAE has also designed and manufactured the CH-47 full-mission simulator used by the Republic of Singapore Air Force to train its CH-47 aircrews. This simulator was delivered in 2004.

CAE has a long history of partnering and subcontracting specialist companies to assist in delivering the training system. For example, at the MSHATF, CAE subcontracts to companies such as Serco and Selex to support the delivery of CH-47 aircrew training to the RAF, RNLAF and other militaries.

Other Technology Issues

Boeing’s operational standards call for its foreign customers’ pilots who transition to the more complex F model to have 750 hours of rotary wing experience (actual flight hours and simulator time) prior to their first flight. “And then we think it takes about 40 hours for the transition. If the pilot is in the 500 hour range that would put them at 65 hours or so – and that is very dependent on each student as some can solo quicker than others,” Hackett remarked.

While Boeing considers simulator time the equivalent of actual flight hours in the majority of the transition process, the company further believes the state-of-the-art and fidelity of current Chinook flight simulator training devices provide somewhat less than a “zero flight time” to certification experience. So, unlike their many civilian pilot counterparts, in the Boeing 737 fleet for example, prospective Chinook pilots are unable to walk from a flight simulator facility directly into the cockpit qualified for their first flight. “We’re clearly not to the point of doing simulation only up to the first time being in the aircraft,” Hackett opined.

Boeing has also established an online catalogue of Chinook maintenance training courses. “You can go to the online catalogue and purchase a course in CH-47D/F hydraulics and we can have you in the classroom. While it would be unusual, we could literally do it in a week or two weeks,” Hackett said. He recalled that for one major CH-47D customer, his company recently was training the service’s maintenance personnel within 60 days of delivering the training concept. This process replaces a time-consuming and rather burdensome legacy procedure, which would typically take months to prepare estimates, a statement of work and other requirements of the contract process.

Indeed, the new process has matured to the point where it is possible for multiple customers to enroll in a course being taught at one venue.

CAE also emphasizes concurrency between training devices and delivered rotary aircraft in its devices’ life cycle management plan.

All three of the CH-47 Chinook full-mission simulators at CAE’s MSHATF have been upgraded over the past three years to reflect the cockpit changes relating to the RAF’s release to service of their Chinook Mk3 and Mk4 variants. CAE is also under contract to develop an upgrade for one of the simulators to represent the RNLAF CH-47F (Block 6) variant. All these CH-47 upgrades incorporate digital glass cockpit technologies that feature upgraded FLIR (forward looking infrared) and moving maps, as well as integrating sensors and upgraded Defensive Aids Suite. The Digital Auto-Pilot Flight Control System is also being upgraded.

Boeing's full-size Chinook fuselages supports fault insertions and similar hands-on learning strategies. Image Credit: Boeing.
Boeing’s full-size Chinook fuselages supports fault insertions and similar hands-on learning strategies. Image Credit: Boeing.

On the Training System’s Horizon

Boeing expects to establish additional CH-47 training facilities at commercial sites around the globe. Some would be opened to support the company’s partnerships with individual countries. “These would be in the Middle East and we’re also looking at some Pacific Rim customers as well,” Hackett said, and added, “They will have a training center and I am not sure what they are going to do relative to training others – but they will have a training center of their own that they could train their own pilots and maintainers.”

These ventures would offer partnering opportunities with simulation and training industry members. “We have a number of different partnerships as well as some as the prime and supplier – and some are done completely by the country themselves where we provide the part and they do the integration. And in other cases we do the integration for them,” Hackett pointed out.

Also in the Boeing team’s R&D pipeline for the CH-47 program is much more portable and paperless graphics and courseware for program instruction.

CAE is developing a comprehensive CH-47 training solution for Canada’s Department of National Defence. Under a program called the Operational Training Systems Provider (OTSP), the Government of Canada selected CAE as the prime contractor to provide comprehensive aircrew training services for Canada’s new CC-130J and CH-47 fleets. CAE’s Bell said his team is leading the design and development of CH-47F training media. “The CH-47F training media will include one weapon systems trainer (WST), one tactical flight training device (TFTD), one deployable TFTD, one integrated gunnery trainer, laptop and desktop-based CAE Simfinity virtual simulators (VSIM), and courseware,” he added. The CH-47 training media will be delivered in early 2014 to Canadian Forces Base Petawawa.

Following delivery of the CH-47F training media in early 2014, phase two of CAE’s contract will commence with CAE leading the in-service support of the CH-47F training program. During the 20-year in-service support phase, CAE will be responsible for providing a range of training support services, including simulator upgrades, training device maintenance as well as hardware and software engineering support. In addition, CAE staff onsite at Canadian Forces Base Petawawa will provide services such as courseware updates, scheduling, obsolescence management, and database modeling and generation for common databases.