Asian Military Review was recently invited to examine the Royal Brunei Air Force’s S-70i simulator in Brunei Darussalam.
Brunei, the small sovereign state situated on the northern coast of the island of Borneo, is perhaps known more for its oil and gas wealth than anything else. It has a small tri-service defence force which has been going through various modernisation programmes including the relatively recently acquisition of 12 Sikorsky S-70i helicopters.
Replacing the Bell Helicopter 212 meant that the existing pilots needed conversion training and new pilots needed a higher level of ab initio training.
Colonel Johar Abdullah, Head of Aviation Standards and Evaluation, Brunei Royal Air Force (RBAirF), told AMR that, due to Brunei’s tropical equatorial climate with its heat and humidity, it had been challenging for both instructors and students to go through procedures and aircraft familiarisation in a real cockpit sitting on the apron at BRAF’s Rimba Air Base within the Brunei International Airport.
For the last 18 months however, the RBAirF has been using a CAE 3000 Series S-70i Black Hawk helicopter simulator located at CAE Brunei’s Multi-Purpose Training Centre (MPTC) to train its 24 Sikorsky S-70i Black Hawk pilots in everything from procedural techniques, through to recurrent training including night flying with night vision goggles (NVGs) for those who have experience, through to mission-specific scenarios.
Col Abdullah, a pilot with over 3,500 hours experience on the old Bell Helicopter 212s that the RBAirF retired in August 2014, said that he was delighted that his training team could get away from the hours of ground based instruction in the heat of the sun where concentration was often difficult. Now those hours in the air conditioned training facility mean that those being instructed are much more able to concentrate and absorb what they are being taught.
While RBAirF pilots still enjoy around 60 percent of their flying time in the real aircraft, the other 40 percent is spent honing skills inside the geographically accurate S-70i simulator.
CAE’s 3000 Series simulator presents a high quality image with national terrain database that allows pilots to be familiar with the terrain that they are flying over. “With this simulator’s graphics and responsiveness you can feel and react as you would in a real aircraft,” said Abdullah.
The CAE 3000 Series features a direct projection 12-foot dome display onto which images are projected from CAE’s high-fidelity Medallion-6000 image generator. Sitting in the cockpit, the pilot experiences a wide field of view with chin windows providing a realistic S-70i visual cue. While not a full motion simulation, the 3000 Series in this instance has a six degree-of-freedom (DOF) electric motion system with a 3-DOF vibration system to ensure that pilots experience realistic cues while training. According to CAE, the Brunei simulator is equivalent to US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Level D standard.
“Conversion to the S-70i takes between three to four months for existing pilots,” said Col. Abdullah. However ab initio pilots will take two years to gain enough experience to be given the right hard command seat he added.
Brunei Air Force pilots can expect around 200 hours of live flying per year, said Col. Abdullah. Recurrent training in the simulator is around one week every six months for line pilots. Missions include instrument flying, emergency drills and training as well as night vision flying.
According to Rozman Junaidi, general manager, the CAE Brunei MPTC “represents a joint commitment of $100 million by the Government of Brunei and CAE shared on a 40/60 percent basis”. This investment not only covers the S-70i simulator, but also another 3000 Series simulator that is used to train civilian Sikorsky S-92 pilots, together with a flight training device (FTD) that has been used to train PC-7 pilots. The facility, which was established in 2012, also includes an Emergency and Crisis Management Centre of Excellence that is used by local authorities including Brunei’s Ministry of Home Affairs and National Disaster Management Centre (NDMC) to train personnel in national emergency planning.
Christophe Nurit, regional executive for Sikorsky in the Asia Pacific, told AMR that the collective Black Hawk fleet around the world had clocked up an impressive 10 million hours, with an incredible 2.4 million of those as combat flight hours in various theatres. He said that the US Army now had over 1000 UH-60M (digital) Black Hawks out of a total of around 2100 UH-60s. The US Navy currently has a mixed fleet of 491 MH-60S and MH-60R Seahawks. Once all deliveries have been completed its total Seahawk fleet will number around 560 between the two versions.
CAE’s Brunei MPTC was deliberately designed for overcapacity to allow for the future expansion and introduction of additional simulators. As a consequence that are three spare bays that could be used to house future military and/or civil flight simulators.
Under the terms of operation, CAE will be allowed to provide training services to other regional Air Force pilots operating the S-70i as the capacity currently exceeds the demands of the RBAirF.