Defense

September 2, 2014

Sill simulator trains Stinger crews

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Marie Berberea
Fort Sill, Okla.

Army National Guardsmen Spec. Gabe Lindley of North Dakota holds a Man-Portable Air Defense System while Spc. Stephen Shafer from Ohio points to a possible enemy aircraft. The two trained Aug. 21, 2014, inside the Improved Moving Target Simulator at Fort Sill, Okla.

Inside the Improved Moving Target Simulator, Fort Sill, Okla.’s newest Avenger crew members are encapsulated in training necessary to take down enemy aerial targets.

The Improved Moving Target Simulator, or IMTS, is a high-tech simulator that recently underwent renovations from its previous model, the Joint Fires Multipurpose Dome.

Earl Bailey, Avenger Stinger Schoolhouse equipment specialist, said the upgrades fixed glitches in the old software.

“We’d be in the middle of training and it would just shut down. And the graphics were not as clear as some of these graphics are.”

He said they can also incorporate the latest real-world threats into simulations to keep the training up-to-date.

“We can add the drones and everything into this one where the other one we didn’t have the capability.”

The main differences between the Joint Fires Multipurpose Dome and the IMTS are wireless Man-Portable Air Defense Weapon systems, known as MANPADS, no bunkers for more movement on the platform, fewer cameras, upgraded binoculars and less panels for a seamless skyline.

“Pretty stoked about getting to actually see the system and hold it and fire it for the first time,” said Spec. Gabe Lindley of North Dakota.

As far as choosing 14S as his military occupational specialty, Spc. Stephen Shafer from Ohio said, “It was either graphing maps or blowing stuff up. So I decided to pick the fun one.
It’s a blast.”

The students go through three weeks of the course before they are allowed inside the simulator. During that time they train on visual aircraft recognition, preventive maintenance checks and services, and how to use the MANPADS.

They also memorize 50 types of aircraft taking in the difference in wings and other markings that will help them make the right decision in firing or holding fire.

Once inside the simulator, the students spend 72 hours training as a two-person team on a variety of missions.

“They have to learn to think quick, because the aircraft are moving pretty fast, depending on the scenarios. The system is pretty advanced. We can actually modify the aircrafts’ speeds and create our own scenarios and challenge them,” said Staff Sgt. Victor Alvarado, instructor.

Many soldiers coming through the course are in the National Guard and will be assigned to the National Capitol Region mission in Washington, D.C.

Once there they will use their skills to guard the White House and other buildings of high security.

“The main goal of this simulation is to take everything they learn and incorporate it in here and just execute so when they go out into the operational force they’re trained to do this task,” said Alvarado.

The IMTS operators can put civilian or military aircraft, as well as unmanned aircraft systems into the simulations to keep students on their toes.

“It builds that confidence up that, hey, I can go out there, I can sit on a rooftop and if I needed to, shoot down an enemy aircraft,” said Alvarado.

While different targets zoomed across the screen, subwoofers rattled the platform to put out a realistic rumble inside the dome.

With all of the sensory information put out the Soldiers were expected to correctly perform the steps in their training: detect the target, identify friend or foe, activate, tone, uncage the seeker, super elevate and fire.

“I like the teamwork. Being on a two man crew instead of having to be on a bigger squad … The choice is really up to you on shooting an aircraft down or not. I think it’s better that way It’s faster,” said Schafer.

While the students receive realistic training, the entire system also saves the Army a lot of money.

SFC Christian Wilson, Avenger Stinger Schoolhouse chief of academics, said they train 300-400 students a year. A live Stinger missile costs $120,000 to shoot. With each student having to accurately take down five enemy targets to pass, the simulator saves at least $600,000 per student.

“It’s kind of a relief. Instead of sitting in front of books learning about it I actually got to pick it up and use it and build confidence in what we’re going to be doing later on down the road,” said Shafer.




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