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Thales High-G training fit for modern aircraft pilots

Thales in the UK has been training Royal Air Force (RAF) aircrews for over 87 years. Since the beginning of this steadfast relationship, Thales has developed and delivered over 300 complex simulators for 60 different platforms. Thales’ new High G-force training facility for fast-jet pilots at RAF Cranwell is proof of its dedication and contribution to the RAF’s ever-expanding capabilities. The facility’s inauguration helps the RAF remain at the heart of the government’s approach to conflict and crisis management as it provides continuous development and enhancement for the RAF’s training and simulation services.

Keeping pace with modern aircraft

Modern aircraft, such as the Lightning, Typhoon and Hawk have significantly superior air combat performance and are now able to perform super manoeuvres with rapid, multi-axis motions. A great advancement for technology, but the downside is that pilots are exposed to new combinations of translational accelerations and rotational movements that lead to increased physical loads.

As a result, fast jet pilots endure tremendous amounts of g-forces during manoeuvring that can induce loss of consciousness and, in the worst cases, cause fatalities. Yet pilots are still required to undertake complex system management tasks and make quick decisions under this intense physical stress. Thankfully, pilots can be trained to combat G induced loss of consciousness (GLOC).

Training limitations

Up until recently, the only training facility available for fast jet pilots has been with the human centrifuge at Farnborough, a 62-year-old device that does not match the performance of modern fighter aircraft having a G onset rate of only 1G per second. The ground simulators used for pre-flight training provide cognitive skill training but do not replicate the physiological environment. The maximum acceleration onset rate of the device does not provide realistic training for pilots of aircraft that have acceleration onset rates of more than 10 G.s-1. This major training shortcoming is most dangerous in preparing pilots for air combat where the aircraft will be aggressively manoeuvred, imposing significant strains on both the pilot and aircraft.

The new High-G training facility

To help pilots meet training standards, Thales partnered with AMST, world-leading centrifuge specialists from Austria, to build a 39-tonne centrifuge for the new High-G training facility at RAF Cranwell. The High-G Training centrifuge accelerates from 1G to 9 G in just one second and helps pilots experience realistic flight simulation with high-resolution, out-of-the-window displays – provided by 4K projectors – to fill the forward field of view. Further training tasks are provided by the centrifuge Visual Training Cue system which includes flight through a series of gates in the sky and a missile threat/radar warning receiver. With these capabilities, pilots can better understand how to deal with the accelerations, while flying a combat aircraft and managing the mission systems.

Fast jet pilots progressing through the UK Military Flying Training System and into their careers will refresh their training at least every five years. This is carried out to keep them safe and up-to-date with current techniques to handle High-G forces and experience training under much more realistic conditions. It will, ultimately, save the lives of more fast-jet pilots.

So far, feedback from this state-of-the-art facility has been exceptional, says David Bolsover, Training Service Manager for HiG:

The pilots we’ve had in here think it's brilliant. You are sat in a real cockpit, with real controls – it gives you a real sense of immersion.

As the RAF looks to the future, Thales will continue its commitment to providing its high-technology solutions for the coming century.