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New Simulator Software to Boost Cadet UAV Training Time

The Air Force Academy will start giving cadets more hands-on training into unmanned aerial missions with the help of new drone simulator software.

Bohemia Interactive Simulations (BISim), an Orlando, Florida-based game and software company that also provides military training and simulation, last week announced the Academy has selected its product simulators to teach cadets the latest in virtual remotely piloted aircraft training.

BISim, along with SimCentric Technologies, a research and development company, will be providing two new interfaces to the school's Military Strategic Studies curriculum, the company said in a release.   

VBS3 will give students more than 40 virtual unmanned systems and will provide "a generic UAV interface for operation system payload sensors and weapons," according to the release.

Within VBS3, SimCentric's VBS Fires FST, meanwhile, will train cadets on close air support activities, such as the ability to support a wide array of munitions and firing platforms, BISim officials said.

"What we are trying to do is expose cadets to how the U.S. Air Force employs air power at the operational level," said Lt. Col. Casey Tidgewell, head of the Academy's remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) education, training and operations.

"The course is designed to help cadets understand and develop airmanship skills as well as understand different career paths available to them in the Air Force," he said in the announcement.

Tidgewell estimates that 250 cadets a year could experience RPA and air power operations training through the course.

Prior to using VBS3, students primarily relied on live training using the RQ-11 Raven, Tidgewell said.

But there have been setbacks with the low-altitude, lightweight drone, said Michael "Ski" Golembesky, the ​instructor for the USAFA RPA program.

"Before we had any simulation, we had students go through pre-flight for the RQ-11 Raven and would teach basic flight and controls, but we discovered there was a deficiency," said Golembesky, who championed incorporating VBS3 into the curriculum.

"Weather in Colorado can change on a dime, which can interrupt live flight training," he said.

"By using simulation, cadets gain more experience in the communications and teamwork involved with air operations centers and remotely piloted aircraft. Simulation also allows us to show a more realistic approach to how RPAs are used on a tactical level," Golembesky said.

VBS3 also connects to the Academy's RPA simulator, he said.

Tidgewell added, "We needed a simulation that was easy to use and user-friendly for college students, and VBS3 provided that."

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