NORTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. — In December 2001, the 143rd Airlift Wing of the Rhode Island Air National Guard became the first wing to receive the then new C-130J-30, the stretch version of the C-130J transport plane.
Now, almost 20 years later, the Rhode Warriors have received another first with the addition of a new, state of the art simulator designed to test and prepare pilots and load masters for any conditions, environments or errors at any airfield in the world.
“(This) is a state of the art, brand new, and only one of its kind in the world C-130J reconfigurable flight simulator,” Col. Adam Wiggins, Wing Commander of the 143rd, said. “It’s got glass eight foot mirrors and high definition projectors which we can reconfigure between the C-130J and H-130J (the search and rescue version of the C-130J).”
The state of the art simulator, which first arrived at Quonset Point last July before undergoing a 10-month installation process, will allow pilots and load masters from the wing as well as other Air National Guard units and units from international allies to train in operating the aircraft through a complete replica of the cockpit, which with the addition of high definition projectors and reactive motions gives the feeling of actually flying in a C-130J or H-130J without sending a crew up in an actual aircraft, with the added benefit of being able to adjust conditions and the environment around it and create threats or errors for the training crew to resolve.
“Our pilots are able to train in this annually for their refresher efficiency training to enhance their ability to operate when they encounter any type of emergency or any type of weather or threat,” Wiggins said.
Wiggins said while the simulator is currently configured to represent Quonset Point and the surrounding area of South County and Narragansett Bay, it is easily able to be adjusted to practically any airfield and location in the world, allowing pilots and load masters the opportunity to practice landing the aircraft and familiarizing themselves to the local terrain before even embarking on their assignment.
“The database can be set to represent virtually any airfield across the world for terrain features and approaches and any other threats that would be concerned with operating in and out of an airfield for humanitarian assistance, disaster relief or combat operations,” Wiggins said. “What it offers is really the opportunity to train exactly in the conditions and environment that they would see when operating out of the exact same airfield anywhere around the world and having that kind of experience ahead of time is obviously going to put them in a position to optimize success and we call it first pass success optimization, so they can encounter as much the first time being exposed to that in a safe environment and be able to react to changes quickly and being able to provide very complex training scenarios will help them to perform in a volatile, unpredictable environment that you encounter in the real world.”
In particular, it’s that offering of varied conditions and locations that make the simulator so vital according to Wiggins.
“To make sure pilots maintain optimum proficiency and also be able to operate the aircraft safely in any condition or environment, we can put them through virtually any possible scenario you can envision, incorporating both the terrain, in particular the characteristics of where they’re operating out of, as well as the weather and impact it from being beautiful clear sunny days to the worst crosswinds, 35 knots on a wet, icy runway in the middle of Afghanistan,” Wiggins said.
While the simulator is currently being used just to train members of the 143rd, Wiggins said there are plans to soon train other wings from around the country and from such international partners as the Indian Air Force.
“We’re going to be training with initially mostly guard units from here as well as potentially California, but mainly New York, West Virginia, Kentucky and Texas and potential for Georgia and down the road we expect to be able to train with our international partners and many of the nations that we’ve worked with in the past to get their pilots and load masters up to speed on the skills and proficiency to operate the C-130J,” Wiggins said, noting California will eventually receive its own version of the simulator as the main west coast base for the C-130J-30.
Overall, Wiggins said he’s most excited for the potential it brings for his airmen.
“We’re really fortunate and honored to have this capability here in Rhode Island,” Wiggins said. “We’re known in Rhode Island as the 143rd Airlift Wing and we are known for being the first in a lot of ways with operating C-130Js. We were the first to operate the C-130J stretch version and the first operated in combat, so we’re really excited to be the first to have a simulator of this capability right here in Quonset Point. We’re very excited about the capability and what it brings to us and what it offers our air crews for efficiency, for capability and for opportunities to train others across the Air National Guard and our partners around the world.”
Members of the media were able to get a sneak peak of the simulator last Thursday, while a ribbon cutting ceremony with members of the state delegation and some local representatives was held at the base Friday.