Simulation & Training within the Attack Aviation Community / By CW4 Scott H. Durrer: Since it was first published in the March 2014 Flightfax Newsletter, “Defragging the Hard Drive” has certainly inspired a tremendous amount of discussion regarding Army Aviation training. These discussions have resulted in the Branch taking a hard, focused look into what subjects we teach and how much emphasis we should place on these subjects. The preponderance of the discussions have focused on which areas should be given less emphasis. Only recently have we started asking ourselves into which subjects can we invest the time gained by the “Defragging” effort.
Aircrews and maintenance soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment “Ghost Riders,” with the support of soldiers from the 90th Aviation Support Battalion, conducted an AH-64 Apache gunnery range at North Fort Hood, Texas from 1 to 7 June 2015. The Ghost Riders are one of the last U.S. Army Reserve units to participate in an Apache gunnery range before transitioning to the UH-60 Black Hawk. / U.S. ARMY PHOTO BY CPT DAVID DUNN
Refocusing the effort of what our instructor pilots and trainers teach and evaluate definitely doesn’t require reinventing the wheel. Army Aviators already have access to great training products, doctrine and professional literature; the hurdle is that we often “don’t know what we don’t know.” As an example, Aviation Mission Survivability (AMS) training is mandatory for MTOE units. Typically an aviator will complete Computer Based ASE Training-Operator (CBAT-O) once a year.
While this training is adequate to refresh the knowledge of component location and crew station indications, it doesn’t provide any insight on how to employ the platforms’ aircraft survivability equipment (ASE). The classified version, CBAT-Classified (CBAT-C) is an excellent product that delves into the capabilities, limitations, and effectiveness of each ASE component. An aviator with this understanding will likely reevaluate the employment of the aircraft and be armed with the knowledge to maximize the effectiveness of ASE.
During recent Directorate of Evaluation and Standardization (DES) unit assessments, most if not all aviators complete CBAT-O in accordance with Army and local command directives. The issue however, is very few aviators have ever completed CBAT-C and a large number are unaware a classified version exists. The United States Army Aviation Center of Excellence (USAACE) has produced the 2015 Classified Army Aviation TTP Manual, a very well written document that if read and reinforced through training will increase an aircrew’s confidence and ability to employ the aircraft. The AH-64D/E Aircrew Training Manual (ATM) Task 2412 – Perform Evasive Maneuvers, describes what maneuvers are necessary to evade a certain threat and the conditions for the task require the crewmember to be familiar with the classified evasive tactical techniques and procedures (TTP). Several of the evasive maneuvers listed in the ATM task provide no description other than “see classified Army Aviation TTP.”
Similar to CBAT-C, most aviators polled during DES assessments are unfamiliar with the manual and most have not read or received training on it. As commanders and standardization officers, objectively look at your unit’s aviators and determine if they have the received the tools and training necessary to employ and maximize the survivability efficacy of the aircraft against modernized threat.
Understanding the Mission
It’s likely safe to say that a large number of AH-64 aviators primarily focus their studying efforts on three manuals: the ATM, gunnery manual, and operator’s manual. While these are unarguably required references to operate and employ the aircraft, they aren’t designed to provide knowledge on why we take off in the first place – the mission.
Field Manual (FM) 3-04.126, Attack Reconnaissance Helicopter Operations, gives an overall framework to the mission and employment of attack reconnaissance units and at a minimum should be required reading for all attack helicopter pilots. As experience and familiarity with the aircraft and unit’s mission grow, expanding knowledge through professional literature should also occur.
An AH-64 conducting deck landing qualifications.
The Air Land Sea Application Center (ALSA) is a multi-service organization that develops tactical-level solutions of multi-service interoperability issues consistent with Joint and Service doctrine. ALSA publications provide excellent reference and descriptive procedures (both classified and unclassified) to topics that apply to all mission sets assigned to the attack reconnaissance battalion/squadron (ARB/ARS). ALSA provides numerous publications that range from Tactical Employment of UAS to Aviation Urban Operations. The true value that lies in exposure to these manuals is understanding the planning and procedural employment of our aircraft in a Joint environment. The introduction of the Link 16 equipped, version 4 AH-64E will place the ARB/ARS in the joint spotlight. Link 16 provides the AH-64E with the ability to contribute more than ever to the common operating picture. To maximize the effectiveness and synergy of the AH-64E, familiarity with Joint and Multi-Service doctrine cannot be overlooked.
Checking Boxes Versus Learning
Using the two examples above it’s easy to point out areas where the attack community has room for improvement. The difficulty lies in developing an effective aircrew training program that evolves with changing technology, doctrine and TTPs. Taking a step back, look at how we as instructors train and evaluate in the aircraft. Most aviators will attest to the fact that all too often two hours on the flight schedule has equated to a dozen, if not more trips around the traffic pattern.
hile this may be necessary during readiness level (RL) progression and proficiency flight evaluations (PFE), this should not be the norm during continuation training and pilot in command evaluations. While “checking the boxes” is built into the system based on the requirement to train and evaluate certain maneuvers, it doesn’t mean we as instructors must capitulate to the box checking mindset. When instructors accept the box checking approach, they are also accepting an attitude that the purpose of their job is to simply complete it. Thinking outside of the box for a moment, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in the mid-1970s began using scenario based training and evaluations known as Line Oriented Flight Training (LOFT), an innovation for which we can thank the airlines.
The idea behind LOFT is to provide pilot training and evaluation that is more representative of actual flight operations than maneuver-based training alone. For the airlines, a sample LOFT scenario may progress with the receipt of the manifest and flight plan, push back from the gate, departure, re-routing due to adverse weather, an aircraft malfunction during the initial approach, ending with the arrival at the next gate. An example of using the LOFT concept for an AH-64 evaluation may begin with receipt of a reconnaissance mission, reconfiguring the Aviation Mission Planning System (AMPS) based on mission adjustments, followed by crew and team briefings. As the flight progresses, the crewmember is subjected to realistic tasks they would likely be expected to perform in a mission environment (e.g., tuning the upper receiver to take advantage of an unplanned operation with an RQ-7 Shadow, or reacting to a mission change obtained through a tactical internet message). At some point the crewmember is placed in a situation where weapons employment is necessary and is challenged to select the right weapon for the desired target effect and employ tactical employment techniques based on the threat. As the mission progresses, the instructor simulates an emergency forcing the aviator to recover from the engagement area back to airfield challenging the aviator to fly the aircraft in a degraded mode for a longer duration than just the downwind.
A crewmember’s sound judgment and maturity managing the mission, crew, and assets are difficult to determine unless the instructor creates an environment of real-time scenarios that include routine, abnormal, and emergency situations. Adopting a LOFT approach to training and evaluations will encourage crews to become better problem-solvers and resource managers. FAA Advisory Circular (AC) 120-35C presents the guidelines for LOFT in the civil sector and, while it has no bearing over military aviation, instructors should be encouraged to reference this material to gain insight into tested and proven methods of creating an environment conducive to replicating realism into training and evaluation scenarios.
There is no doubt that as we continue to focus on the “Defragging” effort, we will continue to discover even more areas that can be re-shaped and modified to meet the emerging requirements of training the 21st Century Army Aviator. As we move forward, it is imperative that everyone in our community continue to apply critical thinking in this endeavor to ensure that we grow as a branch and are ready to meet the threats of this century and to train to fight and win the next conflict.
CW4 Scott H. Durrer is an AH-64 standardization instructor pilot in the Attack Branch of the Directorate of Evaluation and Standardization, at the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence at Fort Rucker, AL.