On Friday March 4, 2011, Photorecon was invited to the A-10 flight simulator training facility at Davis Monthan Air Force Base outside Tucson, Arizona.
The A-10 Thunderbolt II (later called the “Warthog” for it’s ugly appearance) was designed in the early 1970s as a close air support platform. The Warthog or “Hog” was built around a 30mm GAU Avenger 7 barrel Gatling rotary cannon. Initially unpopular with pilots due to its slow speed and ugly appearance, the A-10 became very popular after proving itself during the 1991 Desert Storm conflict. Since Desert Storm, the Warthog has participated in every major conflict the United States has been involved in, including Operation Odyssey Dawn.
When the A-10 was built, a two seat training version was not produced. Although a two seat YA-10B Night/Adverse Weather prototype was built from an single seat A-10 airframe, this version never went in to production.
With no two seat training version available, new A-10 pilots are required to spend time on a flight simulator before flying a real Hog. Located at Davis Monthan Air Force Base (DM) and under contract with Canadian Aerospace Electronics (CAE-USA), are the most advanced A-10 flight simulators around. Our guide for the afternoon was Lt Col David “Doc” Baker (retired USAF). Lt Col Baker retired from the USAF in 2007 with 3,400 hours in the A-10, including 400 combat hours while flying missions over the hostile skies of Iraq (1991), Bosnia, and Kosovo. Doc is one of 11 instructors’ onsite at Davis Monthan training facility.
Lt Col Baker first showed us one of the seven the HOTAS (Hand On Throttle and Stick) flight simulators they have at the training facility. This is the first simulator a new A-10 pilot will be trained on. The HOTAS flight simulator actually looks a lot like a simulator an avid flight simulator user would use at home. The purpose of the HOTAS simulator is for the new Hog drivers to get use to the systems of the A-10 at a basic level. Once a student pilot completes the HOTAS flight simulator syllabus, they advance to the A-10 Full Mission Trainer (FMT).
The A-10 FMT is a 180 degree full cockpit simulator. In the FMT, the student pilot completes missions, participates in joint missions with other A-10 students or instructors on a linked FMT, and/or full scale scenarios with other airborne assets.
Lt Col Baker was gracious enough to allow Photorecon’s owner/editor Joe Kates and me to fly the FMT. I have played on a few flight simulators at home in the past, but the FMT is incredibly realistic. The cockpit is set up exactly as an A-10 would be set up, including the multi function displays. Although the FMT isn’t a full motion simulator, you definitely get a full sense of motion due to the moving screen that surrounds the cockpit.
After an A-10 student pilot successfully completes the two simulator syllables’, they graduate to a solo flight in an A-10. Without the flight simulator training, the success rate of pilots being able to solo in the A-10 would be dramatically decreased, would increase the time a pilot is in the training pipeline, and would increase the work load of the training cadre.
A special thanks to Lt Col “Doc” Baker for taking the time to provide us with a tour of the training facility and for giving us an inside look at one of the evolutions of training an A-1O driver undergoes.