The Australian Army’s 1st Aviation Regiment has a sometimes grim but critical task — from the air, they help keep Australia’s ground soldiers in conflict zones safe and take out any threats posed.
- The 1st Aviation Regiment is using a flight simulator modelled on Tiger’s Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter
- The unit helps pilots train in war-like scenarios and a range of weather conditions, without leaving the ground
- Pilots revisit their training using the simulator every three months to keep their skills fresh
The skills required are highly specialised and take time to develop, and are strengthened by hours of experience.
But opportunities for training in war-like scenarios and difficult flying conditions can be hard to come by.
That is where military flight simulators have come into their own — it’s cutting-edge technology that is being used to ready soldiers for the worst possible situations.
The ABC was given exclusive access to the full flight mission simulator at Darwin’s Robertson Barracks, one of only two in the country.
The gear simulates a flight in a Tiger Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter with scary accuracy.
Captain Alistair Poyner has trained in the unit, which is based around a visual display system loaded with realistic maps, including one of Darwin.
“It’s a bit bizarre. You can fly past and see where your house is on the maps,” he said.
He said the flight simulator allows pilots to train for a wide range of combat, terrain and weather conditions.
Captains Alistair Poyner and Nathan Lauinger with a Tiger helicopter in Darwin. (ABC News: Kristy O’Brien)
“We can have different emergencies, whether that be system failure or any engine failure where we have to deal with that in the cockpit,” he said.
“We can also set up different scenarios that include other entities — ground vehicles, other personnel moving around in the battle space — which we have to coordinate with.”
The regiment requires regular recertification of its pilots to ensure their skills remain current, according to co-pilot Nathan Lauinger.
“Being aircrew and flying is a skill that does degrade so on a regular basis, three months is the outer limit of what we use for currency training,” Captain Lauinger said.
The simulators also cuts costs.
The military would not disclose the cost of a real-world training flight but it is estimated to be in the millions.
Flying is not the only skill practiced in the simulator — the confronting reality is that one of the regiment’s main roles on the front line is to deploy missiles.
“The Tiger’s primary role is to aim for reconnaissance and attack missions in support individually or the joint army or special operations,” said Captain Nathan Lauinger.
“The training we do helps make what we do second nature so if something comes up in real life we are prepared for that.”
The 1st Aviation Regiment was formed in 1966 and consolidated in Darwin just over a decade ago.
The regiment will this year be integrated into the Joint Amphibious Force, combining resources with the Navy.