By Officer Cadet Kylie Penney
In January 2018, a group of airborne electronic sensor operator (AES Op) students at 402 “City of Winnipeg” Squadron, located at 17 Wing Winnipeg, will be the first course to graduate with the benefit of using the newly installed Procedural Crew Trainer (PCT) System at the squadron.
Until now, AES Ops were able to complete only about 40 per cent of their Qualification Standard (QS) requirements at 402 Squadron, which meant the rest of their training had to be covered during their subsequent operational training course at 406 Maritime Operational Training Squadron at 12 Wing Shearwater or at 404 Long Range Patrol and Training Squadron at 14 Wing Greenwood, both in Nova Scotia. With the new equipment up and running, 402 Squadron can now cover 97 per cent of the AES Op QS requirements, making the training more efficient, reducing the training burden and time at the operational training units, and making the new airborne electronic sensor operators more proficient at what they do.
The goal is for AES Ops to become comfortable and confident with basic procedures, skills and systems knowledge during their initial training. By using the PCT, AES Ops can focus on more advanced techniques during their subsequent training.
The PCT is capable of emulating and simulating sensors and systems such as communications, acoustics, electro-optics/infrared, imaging radar system, electronic support measures, and magnetic anomaly detection. The PCT system also has a modular Versa Module Europa (VME) bus acoustic signal processor system to teach acoustics, and a tactics procedure trainer to teach programmable entry panel—a special type of key board—selections and locations to crewmembers.
“When you combine [AES Ops with members of] other trades and do a mission-type scenario—like they do on the operational training units and maritime operational aircrew training courses—it becomes hard to do individual core training,” explains Master Warrant Officer Derek Inman, Senior AES Op instructor at 402 Squadron.
Using the PCT, “students can concentrate [on] an entire three-hour scenario on one topic, such as inverse synthetic-aperture radar. We can take six students into the PCT and [they can] operate each radar individually on different aircraft.”
“It’s totally up to the instructor how he sets up the exercise,” Master Warrant Officer Inman adds. “The flexibility of the trainer allows us to teach one skill set to all of the students simultaneously before we move on to the next teaching point.”
The PCT is not only beneficial because it reduces the subsequent course time, but also because it is more cost effective. The instructor, who monitors two students per station, is able to pause a scenario to explain a teaching point or even rewind and replay a scenario. In an aircraft, it would take substantial extra time and fuel to turn around and re-do the scenario, but on the PCT, the aircraft is repositioned by simply dragging it across the screen. The scenario can be restarted within seconds.
For the regular course intake of 24 AES Op students a year, the total station use will be 1,008 hours for that occupation alone. Air Combat Systems Officers, who currently cover two-thirds of their QS requirements at 402 Squadron, are also working on incorporating PCT training into their initial curriculum to increase their QS compliance training to more than 80 per cent.
Master Warrant Officer Inman explains the impact the PCT will have on an AES Op’s career by saying that it has re-vitalized the training at 402 Squadron, and has provided new motivation for future AES Ops to excel in the trade.
“The students like the idea of operating new modernized training systems,” he says. “It is a big motivation for them. It’s new, it’s efficient, and it’s what the operational units are using. Instructional staff at 404 Squadron have already noticed an increase in proficiency by the students who trialed the PCT during our validation in Greenwood. The operational training unit squadrons will be able to get the students out to the line operational squadrons faster, and send them on deployed operations sooner.”
The RCAF procured the Procedural Crew Trainer for 402 Squadron as a quick way to bridge a gap in training deficiencies. However, the training now available has far exceeded expectations and the long-term benefits go far beyond the original plan. The PCT will now provide a bridge until the implementation of the proposed Future Aircrew Training (FAcT) project, and may even remain as a key training aid for FAcT.
Regardless, in the meantime, the PCT ensures that the RCAF’s future AES Ops will be better trained in less time, and ready to stand on guard as operationally effective aircrew.