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US Air Force receives new reconfigurable C-130J simulator

C-130J simulator
The C-130J Maintenance and Aircrew Training System is a simulator that replicates the cockpit of a C-130J at Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas. Photo: US Air Force

The US Air Force’s Simulators Division of the Agile Combat Support Directorate within AFLCMC has acquired a new C-130J simulator which will allow crews to use a single simulator to train on multiple aircraft models.

Called the Reconfigurable Device, the simulator, manufactured by Lockheed Martin Rotary and Mission Systems and CAE USA, is the first-of-its-kind for large aircraft simulators to reconfigure the cockpit area to represent two different aircraft – in this case, two different models of the C-130J.

“It only takes four hours to swap over from one model to the other,” said David Groendyk C-130J MATS program manager.

The first device was installed at Quonset Point Air National Guard Station, Rhode Island in late April 2021. It can represent the ‘slick’ model which is the base C-130J operated by Air Mobility Command and also the HC-130J model which is operated by Air Combat Command.

“The device at Quonset is really a collaboration with the Air National Guard which operates the HC aircraft and AMC which operates the C model aircraft,” Groendyk said. “These are different aircraft, different missions, different cockpits, but similar in many other ways.”

It is a full motion aircraft simulator meaning it is a platform the size of a small room mounted on hydraulic arms. On the inside, it looks like an aircraft cockpit. Projectors are used to drive ‘outside’ images projected on a reflective surface and seen through the windscreen. There are some significant components and software that are swapped out during the reconfiguration.

Previously, separate simulators would have been needed for each aircraft model. This device represents a significant cost savings with the ability to represent different models which is also called “horizontal reconfiguration.”

Another device at Little Rock AFB, Arkansas, is reconfigurable to represent the two different “vertical configurations” of the C-130J. Block updates within aircraft models are used to upgrade and add functionality to aircraft, and simulators must keep current with aircraft designs. The reconfigurable device at Little Rock can represent both the Block 6.0 and 8.1 versions of the C-130J – again allowing one simulator to do the work of two previously.

“It provides tremendous flexibility in training,” Groendyk said. “That we can support niche training is a significant improvement to the user community.”

As the aircraft continue to mature, these simulators will be upgraded to mirror changes in the fleet.