Tornado Situational Awareness Simulator

 

 

  
This is one of the newest projects on the Squadron, and it is based around the development of these two new simulators. The Squadron acquired a front and rear seat from an old RAF Tornado F3, and the simulators were developed from there.
Background
The phased retirement starting 2009 of the Tornado F3 Aircraft from RAF service, has meant that along with the aircraft some associated training equipment has now become surplus to the RAF’s requirements.
The Regional Commandant for London and SE Region Air Training Corps had been successful in securing one of two Tornado F3 fixed based procedure trainers for the Air Cadet organisation, and choose the premises of 2427 Sqn ATC at RAF Biggin Hill to be the new home for this equipment.
 
The equipment as supplied to Biggin Hill is non-functional and devoid of aircraft computers, systems and line-replaceable units (real aircraft parts), so it is highly improbable nor desirable that the equipment will ever be used again for which it was originally designed for. 
The challenge is therefore to utilise the supplied equipment as a framework to build upon so as to become an effective aviation training aid for Air Cadet organisation, with young adults being engage in this “build” process so the transformation of the equipment in itself becomes learning process for them.
The ultimate goal is to convert the equipment in to a dual use training device. One use will be as “glass cockpit” instrument familarisation trainer, the other will be as airbourne situational awareness simulator.
·         Glass cockpits refers to the use of LCD monitors to display to the pilots the relevant aircraft systems and navigation information, which are increasing replacing the complex arrangements of analogue aircraft instruments traditionally found in aircraft cockpits.
 
·         Situational Awareness or more commonly known amongst the fraternity “the big picture” is an individual skill that pilots and airwarfare commanders and air traffic controllers need to constantly practice to maintain their profiency. Developing the equipment to have a “situational awareness” simulation mode allows young people to experience first-hand the demands flying either from the pilot or controller perspectives.
  
Development Plan
The technical implementation plan is to have a phased approach to develop the framework, chiefly to incorporate the development into the training programme as a cadet project, and also to make phased purchases of COTS (commercial off-the-shelf) equipment as funds and budget become available. The phases or milestones are:
 
   1.        Framework evaluation and preparation
This phase requires details evaluation of the individual equipment components, establishing if they can utilised as is, adapted or other modified to become a functional unit.
During this phase cadets will be introduced to basic low voltage electrical wiring and circuits, with expectation that the will assist in the re-fabrication of the aircraft panels (NB – for safety reason the systems will be adapted to use 12volt switched mode protected power supplies, and disable or replace any original a/c voltage system. Modest funding will be required to provision for new/replacement switches, light bulbs and potentiometers and minor electrical components.
To interface the existing joystick, throttle and switch panel assemblies to computer equipment, more advanced embedded circuit components and software development design tools will be required, all though relatively inexpensive such items will need to be purchased, along with ancillary computer peripherals e.g. USB hubs. 
Evaluation to-date has identified that some metalwork fabrication will be required to facilitate mounting brackets etc. The scope of the fabrication will utilise the resources available locally in the Sqn’s engineering project, though modest funding will be required for raw materials.
Some tooling will also be required for low voltage electrical work not currently available at the Sqn e.g. wire cutters, soldering irons, screw drivers.
     
2.    Glass Cockpit Trainer
The next phase will be add to the framework glass cockpit instrumentation. Although not to the degree of sophistication as depicted below, the system will require the purchase of a number of open frame LCD panels and PC equipment to run the simulation software.  
The plan would to develop a tandem set of the glass cockpit trainers, each with 2 LCD screens and a high-performance computer each. In this way the Situational awareness simulator is becomes primarily a computer linkage between the glass cockpit trainers.
3.       Situational Awareness Simulator
By simple adaption’s of the computer display into head mounted goggles, the usability of the trainer is transformed into a virtual aviation world, giving the individual at the controls a fully immersive view to experience the rigours of a situation and constantly mentally mapping the big picture as the situation evolves. 

Constrained by the physical location of the simulator, and to minimise building structure re-work and associated costs, the plan is provide the visual perception required for situational awareness by using headset mounted display system. 
Connected to the individual Glass cockpit trainer PC, the head mounted displays give a real world perceptions as the inbuilt head movement tracking systems adjusts the view according the pilots head positions. 

The availability now of headset goggles in within a reasonable budget make this now a viable proposition. Being aware that other similar technologies are available at an apparent lower cost, they do not offer the tracking systems thereby give this particular solution the best price/performance.

 

 

 

 


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