Mobile relay system takes air combat training to sea

New mobile technology for the Navy and Marine Corps makes the TCTS air combat training system "rangeless," allowing for advanced training over water.

Air combat -- dogfighting -- can take place over land or sea. But until recently, training had to be done over land because of the limits of land-based ranges.

New mobile technology developed by Cubic Corp. and DRS Technologies for the Navy and Marine Corps, “has added a tremendous amount of flexibility,” Maj. Paul Mackenzie, director of safety and standardization for Marine All Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 121, said in a release.

“There were some limitations with the old system just based on range with the ground relay system,” added Capt. Jonathan Ashmore, another member of the squadron. “This one has a much better capability further out over the water, and that enhances our training as far as allowing us to train in different areas, not just one range specifically. I think it would really enhance training when we are forward deployed or in other areas.”

Related story:

Air Force to get high-def flight simulators

With portable airborne and ground subsystems, the P5 Combat Training System/Tactical Combat Training System, known as TCTS by the pilots, becomes “rangeless,” according to Cubic. The mobile airborne and ground subsystems allow advanced flight maneuver training, which that might be difficult or impossible over land, to take place further out over water.

The first use of this new capability occurred off the coast of San Diego, Calif. in January in a joint training exercise with Air Force, Navy and Marine units.

“We were able to all fly together, then do mass debriefs where we could replay the entire exercise using the TCTS system,” said Ashmore.

Debriefing capabilities are mobile in the new system, which allows aircrews to view their performance in debriefing theaters or on laptops in two-dimensional, three-dimensional and multiscreen views. Pilots can also zoom in and out on the images and combine them with high-resolution maps using Cubic’s Individual Combat Aircrew Display System, the debriefing technology for TCTS.

As a result of TCTS’ rangeless capabilities, the Navy can now conduct at-sea instrumented training from aircraft carriers for the first time, reported Defense News on Sept. 20.

Six F/A-18 Hornet squadrons based at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., are using the technology, which is due to become operational later this year at the Navy Fighter Weapons School, better known as TOPGUN, at Naval Air Station Fallon, Nev. Under a 10-year contract, Cubic and DRS will provide the rangeless air-to-air and air-to-ground combat training system to about 30 Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps and Air National Guard training ranges in the United States, Europe and the Pacific region, Defense News reported.

The first instrumented air combat training system, also used at TOPGUN, was developed by Cubic more than 35 years ago. By tracking and recording as well as scoring pilot performance electronically trainers were able to determine who won simulated fights without guessing.

Philip Fisch, Cubic's senior director of business development, said the live training capabilities of the system could also be used for the U.S. Air Force's T-X project, a plan to upgrade the agency’s primary jet training program currently in an early stage of development, according to Defense News.

NEXT STORY: EHR War: Open vs. Proprietary