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By Brandon Knapp, Atterbury-Muscatatuck Public Affairs

The digital display of the Aviation Combined Arms Tactical Trainer replicates the flight instruments of a real helicopter in the Aviation Combined Arms Tactical Trainer at Atterbury-Muscatatuck, near Edinburgh, Ind., May 3. (photo by Brandon knapp,Atterbury-Muscatatuck Public Affairs)A Soldier’s face is lit by the glow of an instrument panel as the whir of the engines above his head drowns out any noise. He lands in a field, dust flying as the rotor blades spin. Taking off his helmet, he steps outside. It’s not a helicopter; it’s the Aviation Combined Arms Tactical Trainer.

The Aviation Combined Arms Tactical Trainer is a virtual flight simulator that gives aviators the ability to train without real aircraft. The AVCATT is a suite of six simulators which can be configured to emulate any of four Army aircraft; the AH-64D Apache, the UH-60L Black hawk, the CH-47 Chinook and the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior.

The simulator allows pilots to train in various flight scenarios, from destroying enemy vehicles to evacuating wounded soldiers. Because the AVCATT is a mobile system, it allows Soldiers to train anytime, anywhere. Housed and transported in two 18-wheeler trailers, the AVCATT can be driven to just about any location where there are Soldiers. The trailers can be fully operational in eight hours, once the trailers are in place and secured. If the AVCATT operators know ahead of time what maps and aircraft type will be needed, they can be preloaded into the simulator before the AVCATT is transported, according to Howard Plants, senior trainer and battle master controller for the AVCATT.

The detailed replication of the actual flight controls has a significant impact on the realism of the training as well. “The controls in the modules are virtually the same as they are in a real helicopter. Anytime you continue to use your hand eye coordination it can’t do anything but make you better whether you are in an actual helicopter or in the manned module,” said Plants.

Chief Warrant Officer 2 Mark Shimnoski, Newaygo, Mich., C Company, 2nd Battalion, 238th Aviation Regiment (Medevac), Indiana National Guard, is a former flight instructor with over 6,000 flight hours and most recently flew combat missions in Operation Enduring Freedom. He was impressed by the abilities of the AVCATT. “The simulator flight controls move properly and you can see the dust of the other aircraft.

We can fly in the day, at night or with night vision goggles. The terrain in the simulator looks exactly like the terrain I experienced in Afghanistan. It’s about as close as you can get to flying a real helicopter.”

The AVCATT can support six aircraft at one time using multiple simulators, allowing them to fly in unison in the same mission, just as they would in combat. “I think the biggest benefit to having the AVCATT is the multi-ship training. This lets pilots get experience. It requires situational awareness, and the AVCATT will enhance that,” said Shimnoski.

 The AVCATT is also capable of simulating different types of weather conditions and the effect they would have on an actual aircraft in flight. This means that the pilots have to plan and compensate for weather, and react to changing weather conditions, just as they would in a real mission. From high wind to falling snow, the AVCATT can make it happen.

With missions happening around the world, being able to train for different areas is crucial. This is another area where the flexibility of the AVCATT plays a critical role. “We currently have maps of Afghanistan, Iraq, Korea, and several areas of the United States. Maps can also be made on an as needed basis per customer requirements. Once the maps are loaded it is just like being there. They can practice an Afghanistan mission right here at Camp Atterbury” said Plants.Chief Warrant Officer 2 Mark Shimnoski, Newaygo, Michigan, C Company, 2nd Battalion, 238th General Support Aviation Regiment (Medevac), Indiana National Guard, navigates through Afghanistan during a simulated mission in the Aviation Combined Arms Tactical Trainer at Atterbuty-Muscatatuck, near Edinburgh, Ind., May 3.  (photo by Brandon Knapp, Atterbury-Muscatatuck Public Affairs)

A unique aspect of the AVCATT is its ability to be integrated into other training simulators. The AVCATT can be connected to the Virtual Battlefield Simulation System and the Close Combat Tactical Trainer here at Atterbury-Muscatatuck. This allows the Soldiers in the different simulators to work together in a simulated combat mission, and support one another just as they would in actual combat. “The AVCATT can be integrated with the Virtual Battlefield Simulation System and the Close Combat Tactical Trainer, to create a simulated battlefield experience. If you have wounded personnel in one simulation our helicopters can come in and pick up those wounded personnel and take them to a location where they can get treatment. It is as real as it gets without actually being there,” said Plants.

The AVCATT at Atterbury-Muscatatuck will bring new training capabilities and help the installation in supporting its ongoing mission to train and prepare Soldiers from across the country.

To view more photos from the AVCATT, click here to visit the photo gallery.

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