NATIONAL HARBOR, Md.--The Air Force’s training command is building on its capacity to address the service’s pilot shortage while focusing on the request for maintenance development phase of a program to replace its 350 outdated trainer jets.
Commander of the Air Education and Training Command (AETC) Lt. Gen. Darryl Roberson addressed the media at the Air Force Association’s Air, Space & Cyber Conference on Wednesday, and pointed to the implementation of higher quality live, virtual, constructive (LVC) training simulators as a key component of its pilot training program for the T-X jet trainer aircraft.
“We know because of the capabilities that are going to be in the T-X that we are going to be able to look at how we can change the way that we do pilot training. The way we’ve done it is the same way for the last 70 years. Now with this technology, with these kinds of capabilities, we’re looking at how do we adapt our curriculum, our capabilities and our learning so that we can change the way we do it,” said Roberson. “We are literally looking across our enterprise on how we can incorporate live, virtual, constructive into everything that we’re doing. It’s not going to be applicable for everything, but it’s going to be useful in many ways to a lot of our training.”
AETC hopes the incorporation of cutting-edge simulated training, which includes exploring elements of augmented reality capabilities, may help address the Air Force’s current pilot shortage.
Last year, the AETC produced 1,100 pilots and is set to complete training around 1,200 this year. Roberson believes his command will increase that number to 1,400 years in subsequent years, a level which still may be below Air Force needs.
“There is a forecast that we’re going to need 1,600 or more per year in the future, so we are going to have to figure out a way to get at producing pilots that is outside of the resource capacity of the United States Air Force,” said Roberson.
The Air Force has also formed an Aircrew Crisis Task Force run by the service’s chief of staff, and comprised of representatives from all major commands and operations, to examine where capacities can be increased to address the pilot shortage issue.
For it’s T-X program, which aims at replacing its entire fleet of 350 T-38 trainer jets by 2024, is now seeking industry requests for maintenance development training proposals.
“We’re kind of one-year behind where we were for the aircraft proposal side with the maintenance training side of T-X,” said Roberson. “On the maintenance training side for the T-X we’re in the request for development proposal phase and what we’re trying to do is marry up the technologies that we know are going to exist in the T-X into the maintenance training side of the house as well.”
Boeing [BA], Lockheed Martin [LMT], Leonardo and Stavatti Aerospace are all pursuing the T-X program, which is expected to be awarded to a single contractor this year.