US Navy flight tests new pilot training system for the first time

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The US Navy has completed the first successful test flight of its next generation pilot training system on an operational F/A-18E/F Hornet at Naval Air Station Patuxent River.

The Tactical Combat Training System Increment II (TCTS Inc. II) has been developed and built by Collins Aerospace Systems and partner Leonardo DRS.

The flight marks a critical program development milestone for the next-generation combat training system. TCTS Inc. II is expected to bring significant advancements in training capabilities to the US Navy and US Air Force.

TCTS is designed to be a scalable and flexible open architecture system that enables highly secure air combat between US Navy and US Air Force 4th and 5th generation aircraft. It is also designed to encompass multiple functions that make more efficient use of size, weight, and power while bringing new operational capabilities to the given platform.

The training system securely connects the aircraft to other aircraft, ground, sensors, and threats in the training space for a realistic training experience. This capability significantly improves training realism in simulated, highly contested combat environments.

TCTS II also features Synthetic Inject to Live capabilities which connects the live aircraft with synthetic sensors and threats for training in a more realistic environment. TCTS II also collects data to rapidly develop new tactics, techniques, and procedures within a matter of weeks instead of months or years.

Heather Robertson, vice president and general manager of integrated solutions for Collins Aerospace said, “TCTS Inc. II is a massive leap in technology and training realism, and the first flight we witnessed at Pax River brings this program to life.

“US Navy and US Air Force pilots will be able to train as they’ve never been able to train before with secure cross-service air combat training and joint live, virtual, and constructive-enabled capabilities. When it comes to redefining the future of training, this program certainly delivers, and I can’t wait to see its full potential realized.”

This flight, which is part of the developmental test phase, helps pave the way for the production decision, Milestone C for the program, which is anticipated this year.

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Ben has worked as a journalist and editor, covering almost all aspects of technology, engineering and industry for the last 20 years. Initially writing about subjects from nuclear submarines to autonomous cars to future design and manufacturing technologies, he was editor of a leading UK-based engineering magazine before eventually becoming editor of Aerospace Testing in 2017.

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