I’ve Got Something on the Range

Training fifth-generation crews is going to take some significant investment in practice ranges, experts said at an AFA Mitchell Institute panel discussion on F-22s and F-35s on Capitol Hill Monday. “The plane is too smart” for the F-35 to be much taxed by the threat emitters the Air Force uses on its training ranges today, said Lt. Col. Scott Gunn, an Air Force F-35A pilot. The service needs more threat-representative targets—and many more of them—to challenge the F-35. The current systems are so un-threatening to the F-35 that it doesn’t even respond to some of them, and pilots have to “dumb down” the exercise. Gunn said USAF needs targets that are hard to see at a distance, and even need several F-35s to characterize them with synthetic aperture radar and electro-optical systems, at a great distance, to better prepare for the kind of conditions fifth generation aircraft pilots will encounter in real combat. Maj. Gen. Glen VanHerck, head of the Air Force Warfare Center, said the service is putting a lot of effort and investment into live, virtual, and constructive environments, but acknowledged that there needs to be more attention paid to live-fly training. “That’s a bill to pay” at a time when “we still have to build airplanes,” Van Herck said.