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The SEAHAWK Simulator and Warfare Centre (SSWC) training facility for the Royal Australian Navy’s (RAN’s) fleet of MH-60R helicopters will be enhanced with the delivery of a new Automatic Flight Control System Trainer (AFCST), Tim Fish reports from Nowra for MTSC.

Due to be handed over by CAE in April 2020, the AFCST will complete the SSWC at HMAS ALBATROSS in Nowra, NSW, used by 725 Squadron. CAE is contracted to support the RAN’s helicopter training and maintenance programme under a US foreign military sales (FMS) agreement.

In 2012, CAE USA was contracted to design and manufacture a suite of training devices and simulators for the RAN, after Australia purchased the MH-60R under its AIR9000 phase 8 programme for a naval combat helicopter a year earlier.

The AFCST will join two Tactical Operational Flight Trainers (TOFT), an Avionics Maintenance Weapons Load Trainer (AMWLT), Composite Maintenance Trainer (CMT), Rear Crew Trainer (RCT), an Operator Machine Interface Assistant/Airborne Low Frequency Sonar Trainer Simulator (OMIA/ATS) and an Enhanced Landing Safety Officer – Part Task Trainer (ELSOPTT).

The TOFT systems, which are Level D certified, providing the highest standards of fidelity, offer six-degrees freedom of motion with 210° field of view and full mission capability for trainee pilots and aviation warfare officers.

The RCT and ELSOPTT were designed and manufactured by Virtual Simulation Systems under contract to CAE USA. The RCT provides training for rear crews for search and rescue (SAR) missions and cargo hoist operations, while handling the GAU-21 .50-calibre or MAG 58 7.62mm machine guns is effected using virtual reality (VR) headsets. The ELSOPTT is an augmented reality (AR) and VR training device replicating an Australian frigate’s landing safety officer’s (LSO) station to achieve an immersive environment.

Daniel Stuhr, CAE’s site manager at HMAS ALBATROSS, told journalists on 21 February that the company expects a further five-year sustainment contract to be awarded for continuation of MH-60R training support. As well as the AFCST, CAE will provide a new Air Warfare Destroyer (AWD) simulation to the ELSOPTT so that LSOs can train for helicopter operations on the RAN’s new HOBART-class destroyers.

He added that the company will also offer a system configuration upgrade to the TOFTs that would include “significant visual upgrades and hardware upgrades, enhancing distributed networking ability to allow further networking capability outside just the two TOFT devices.”

Commander Stan Buckham, commanding officer of 725 Squadron, told journalists during a media briefing that much more could be done with simulation and that the next level is “getting into a task group,” as it would “bring significant benefits for the fleet.”

Tim Fish

One of two Tactical Operational Flight Trainers (TOFT) for the MH-60R fleet, operated by the Royal Australian Navy at Nowra, NSW. (Photo: CAE)

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