A member of TW-5 flies a new TH-57 Level 6 training simulator at NAS Whiting Field. (Lt.j.g. Kyle McCarthy/U.S. Navy)
The U.S. Navy's Training Air Wing Five has accepted the first new TH-57 flight simulator in nearly 40 years, the service announced yesterday. The new simulator – the first of 10 to be delivered over the next year – is now available for helicopter training operations.
“This simulator represents a significant technology advancement and upgrade to naval aviator training tools,” said Cmdr. Aaron Beattie, TW-5 rotary simulator integration lead officer, during a Feb. 28 ceremony at NAS Whiting Field. “It improves our ability to train student aviators in night vision environments and the simulator displays are a vast improvement over the 1980s technology our current simulators afford.”
Showcasing the advanced visual display of the new TH-57 simulator system. (Lt.j.g. Kyle McCarthy/U.S. Navy)
TW-5 has trained all U.S. Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard helicopter pilots at NAS Whiting Field for the past 30 years, using the instrument-rated TH-57 Sea Rangers since 1981. Those original simulators have been used to train pilots since that time, according to the Navy.
TW-5 will receive three Level 6 and seven Level 7 simulators. The former are stationary cockpits with a full visual screen that wraps around the cockpit; the latter are full-motion cockpits with a slightly larger field of view. The upgrade will also include a central control station with the capability to link all ten simulators in a single virtual environment, allowing trainees to fly aircraft in formation and communicate with one another.
“The student aviators will experience training features that will enhance their learning, including the central control station that will allow linked training. They will benefit from training in the safe environment,” said Beattie at the ceremony. “All of the team members from the three helicopter squadrons, FlightSafety Systems, Frasca, Aechelon and so many who contributed their efforts made this new advancement a reality.”
The first device received was a Level 6 trainer, with two additional simulators scheduled for delivery in March. The Level 7 devices will be delivered between May 2019 and February 2020, with the central control station scheduled for acceptance in July 2019.
As the service takes delivery these new simulators – “part of a larger goal of modernizing the entire helicopter ground training system,” the Navy says – it is simultaneously working to retire its TH-57 fleet by 2023, according to the final RFP for a replacement training helicopter released in January. Proposals are likely to come from three companies that are publicly competing for the work: Leonardo with its TH119 single-engine trainer, Airbus Helicopters with its H135 light twin and incumbent TH-57 Sea Ranger manufacturer Bell, which is offering the 407GXi.