On Nov. 25, 2014, three F/A-18s lifted off the runway at Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division (NAWCWD) and located eight, Russian SU-27 planes via radar in China Lake's airspace.
The F/A-18 radars and radar warning receivers picked up the movements and speeds of the approaching aircraft - successfully completing the live, virtual and constructive (LVC) test.
Although no actual adversary planes ever entered China Lake airspace, the F/A-18 aircrew would never know the difference. According to F/A-18 Training Systems Technical Program Office Lead Dale Colangelo, presenting this information was no easy feat.
Colangelo and a group of NAWCWD engineers worked with the F/A-18E/F & EA-18G Advanced Weapons Laboratory and Boeing to develop the capability that inserts constructive entities into the F/A-18's crew station. The result was the transmission of constructive targets over Link-16.
Link-16 allows data to be packaged and sent into flying F/A-18s through a data link network. It provides real-time information and can be used to transmit simulated attacks generated by a ground station. This capability enables an instructor to pose a customizable variety of pre-programmed threats against the training aircrew.
"The progress is huge," said Colangelo. "We are starting on a potential path where our aircrew can train against enemy air threats for a fraction of the cost. This type of technology could eventually be used to train aircrew anywhere around the world."
Colangelo expressed the importance of incorporating entities into live runs. They save time, fuel and are a more effective training method since the constructive entity can take the form of any type of enemy air threat.
Link-16 currently supports up to eight virtual and constructive entities, which intuitively carry out flight routes and tactics through any type of geographic environment.
"Unit level LVC training is a small step toward a much larger Navy LVC training capability," said Colangelo. "The next step is to deliver this or some similar capability to the warfighter."
VX-31 and VX-9 squadrons currently use tactical operational flight trainers at NAWCWD to maintain flight qualifications, conduct mission rehearsals and familiarize themselves with the latest F/A-18 software in development. Lower-cost LVC flight hours could help maintain F/A-18 qualifications based on the Navy's test and readiness matrix.
Source: Naval Air Systems Command
Date: Apr 16, 2015