NAVAIR

Manned flight simulator continues to advance modeling and simulation after 30 years

From left, Delegate Tony O’Donnell; Delegate Deb Rey; Rachel Jones, assistant to Senator Mikulski; Amy Markowich, director of the Integrated Battlespace Simulation and Test Department; Chad Miller, division head of the Simulation Division; and County Commissioner Todd Morgan participated in the rededication ribbon-cutting ceremony held at the Manned Flight Simulator facility Oct. 15 at Patuxent River, Md. (U.S. Navy photo)

From left, Delegate Tony O’Donnell; Delegate Deb Rey; Rachel Jones, assistant to Senator Mikulski; Amy Markowich, director of the Integrated Battlespace Simulation and Test Department; Chad Miller, division head of the Simulation Division; and County Commissioner Todd Morgan participated in the rededication ribbon-cutting ceremony held at the Manned Flight Simulator facility Oct. 15 at Patuxent River, Md. (U.S. Navy photo)

Oct 28, 2015

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Manned Flight Simulator began construction at Patuxent River, Md., in the spring of 1984 and finished in the fall of 1985. (U.S. Navy photo)

Manned Flight Simulator began construction at Patuxent River, Md., in the spring of 1984 and finished in the fall of 1985. (U.S. Navy photo)

NAVAL AIR SYSTEMS COMMAND, Patuxent River, Md. — This year marks the 30th anniversary of NAVAIR’s Manned Flight Simulator (MFS) facility, a center of excellence for aircraft simulation. What began as a place to perform ground testing of the F/A-18 mission computer prior to in-flight testing has grown into an innovative cross platform facility for modeling and simulation (M&S), and test and evaluation (T&E) of integrated warfighting capabilities.

Thirty years ago, MFS opened its doors for T&E. Today, it stands as a premier facility having hosted many greats such as John Eugene Cernan, the last man to walk on the moon; Tom Clancy, well-known author; Leon Panetta, former secretary of defense; and Dick Ruttan, renowned test pilot. The MFS facility has grown to support multiple M&S capabilities for various platforms.

Utilizing M&S throughout the acquisition life cycle is vital for reducing risk and saving program funding. At the celebration of MFS’ “pearl” anniversary, Amy Markowich, director of the Integrated Battlespace Simulation and Test Department, explained the importance of M&S and how facilities such as MFS affect the future of the fleet.

“Modeling and simulation is a key enabler to achieving efficient and effective capability in the fleet,” Markowich said. “There was a time, actually not that long ago, when there were no computers in aircraft systems, no thoughts of computer models, and everything was developed and tested in flight. These flight tests took a great deal of time and were often risky.

"Today, facilities such as MFS harness the power of real-time computing to rapidly develop and thoroughly test powerful new capabilities for our fleet, using models and simulations to complement and minimize flight test for T&E, which can be efficiently accomplished on the ground. This enables programs to identify deficiencies early in development and fix them before deployment."

Although the facility began with only two simulation cockpits, it now houses nine high-fidelity simulators, including a six-degree-of-freedom motion base providing acceleration/deceleration cues. With an advanced “roll-in, roll-out” methodology, MFS is capable of moving platforms in and out of labs quickly, allowing the facility to adapt rapidly and meet program’s evolving requirements.

MFS supports DoD, DoN and NAVAIR’s vision of using advanced M&S across all platforms.  The simulators can also connect to actual aircraft in the Air Combat Environment Test and Evaluation Facility‘s (ACETEF) anechoic chamber via 1153 and Link 16 or integrate into range testing to create a true live, virtual and constructive (LVC) environment.

“It is imperative that the [research, development, T&E] community continues to drive open standards and government-managed interfaces across our modeling and simulation enterprise,” Markowich said. “Interoperability of M&S greatly enhances re-use and enables the development of live, virtual and constructive modeling environments that can be shared across all government and industry.”

M&S is a key component for programs to save cost and schedule.

“Simulators play a major role in supporting safety-of-flight analysis prior to flight test and optimizing cost of flight test,” said Michael Piland, F-35 flight test simulation team lead. “When you can [simulate] instead of fly, you’ve saved a dollar. Simulation is a tool that the testers are using to be able to check out the aircraft’s capabilities before they turn it over to the fleet.”

Today, MFS continues to provide flexible simulation capability to test military aircraft, avionics and system software. The facility provides simulation capabilities to support aircraft system ground and flight test activities. The simulators are used for flying qualities and performance evaluations, avionics integration testing, mission scenario rehearsal, accident investigations, prototype evaluations, installed systems testing, and prototype simulator design.

MFS is poised to play a major role in T&E and LVC for at least another 30 years.


Watch the video to learn more!
 

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