Big Return on a Dollar

Overhauls of the simulators used to train B-52 aircrews are providing more realism and training flexibility, Air Force officials say. “It is now the same view that we have from the airplane,” said Lt. Col. Tom Silvia, commander of Det. 3 of the 29th Test Systems Squadron, who is overseeing the upgrades to USAF’s two B-52 simulators at Barksdale AFB, La., and one at Minot AFB, N.D. Indeed the new configuration has six screens that offer a digital 180-degree display. The low-definition views provided by the previous two analog displays made it difficult, if not unfeasible, to recreate scenarios such as air refueling. But with the upgrades, training on complicated maneuvers can now be done in the simulator. This is important since an hour in the simulator costs the Air Force about $400 compared to about $16,000 for an actual hour in the air. As part of the overhaul, the Air Force is adding the ability for B-52 aircrews to train with the Litening targeting pod. USAF plans to create an additional combat-ready squadron of B-52s at Minot and maintain an inventory of 76 B-52s in total, up from the previous desire to keep only 56 of them in combat status. So having modern simulators is an added plus. (Includes Barksdale report by SSgt. Jeremy Iarlee)