Náměšť will have the only and most modern H-1 simulator in Europe
The installation of flight simulators for the AH-1Z Viper and UH-1Y Venom helicopters is entering its final phase at the H-1 Plant of the state enterprise LOM PRAHA on the premises of the 22nd Helicopter Air Force Base in Náměšť nad Oslavou. The enterprise should thus meet the planned start of live operation, which is scheduled for 1 July this year. The final installation of the first simulator for the Viper combat machines is underway these days, and then the equipment will be delivered and the installation of the virtual training ground for the Venom multi-purpose machines will be completed. This week, the director of the state enterprise LOM PRAHA, Jiří Protiva, accompanied by the commander of the 22nd base, Brigadier General Rudolf Straka, the director of the H-1 Plant, Milan Obr, and the head of the simulation centre, Petr Valehrach, toured the entire facility of the H-1 Simulation Centre. Under the agreement with the Czech Army, the simulator will provide up to 3,000 operating hours per year. The H-1 simulation centre in Náměšť nad Oslavou has a capacity of 34 people. In addition to two halls for FTD (Flight Training Device) of AH-1Z Viper and UH-1Y Venom helicopters, the simulation centre also includes classrooms for CBT (Computer Based Training) and a workplace for operations planning and flight activity evaluation.
As H-1 Plant Director Milan Obr said at the meeting, construction of the building began in April last year, and from a construction standpoint, the hall was completed in December, at the same time that representatives of the U.S. government administration visited the new facility for an Initial Site Survey. The necessary modifications were then made for the actual installation of the simulators and the operator's station. The new facility was then approved in early February. "I would divide the building into two parts. In the first part there are two large halls. One hall will house the simulator for Viper, the other will house Venom later on. In the second part, which is smaller, there are two classrooms, office facilities and two mission planning rooms, for example," Director Fig. The centre is secured and operated in an unclassified mode, he said, adding that if there is a requirement for a higher classification regime in the future, everything is in place. For the first two years after the start of operations, all simulator operations will be provided by an American partner and gradually this capability will be transferred to the state-owned enterprise LOM PRAHA.
The assembly of the simulator itself is a demanding process, which takes several months, more precisely two and a half months, and to this must be added about 6 weeks of test operation. Nevertheless, according to Petr Valehrach, the head of the simulation centre, the live launch should take place within the given deadline, i.e. from 1 July 2023. CZ DEFENCE was interested in the installation process itself and the number of parts that had to be unloaded from two C-17 aircraft of the US Army. According to Petr Valehrach, these are countless. "The entire so-called dome came in four large crates and occupies more than two hundred steps, so there were more than ten of these parts alone," says the head of the centre. When our editorial team visited the simulation centre building in late 2022, there were only empty halls ready for the installation of the simulation equipment. Today, a dome already stands in one hall and the installation of the Flight Training Device (FTD) simulator for the Viper helicopter is proceeding with the utmost precision. All the panels of the dome had to be precisely aligned to make the overlap as perfect as possible. A team of American technicians had to assemble everything perfectly, another team was in charge of the perfect bonding of all the joints and the trainer is still waiting for the final coat of paint.
Picture: Currently, the dome is already standing in one hall and the installation of the FTD (Flight Training Device) simulator for the Viper helicopter is proceeding with the utmost precision. All the panels of the dome had to be precisely aligned so that the overlap is as perfect as possible. A team of American technicians had to assemble everything perfectly, another team was responsible for the perfect bonding of all the joints and the trainer is still waiting for the final paint. | Michal Pivoňka / CZ DEFENCE
And again, it's not just any paint job. It's several base coats of paint up to the final coat. Any slightest mistake would affect the quality of the transmitted image of the simulation. The simulator itself is of a very high technical standard. "This is a state-of-the-art model of the H-1 simulator. Even before it was delivered to us, many upgrades were made. It will be truly cutting-edge, and we can say that we are the first and only ones in Europe to have this type of simulator," says Petr Valehrach, highlighting the technical level of the simulator. The simulator works by projecting images (generated by image generators) from 6 high-end projectors onto a projection dome. In the middle of the projection area is the cockpit where the pilots sit. Behind the pilots there is a small room where the instructor is, who controls the whole mission. It should be added that the cockpit of the simulator corresponds perfectly to reality, therefore two simulators are needed. In the combat simulator for Viper, the pilots will sit behind each other, and in the second simulator for Venom, the pilots will sit next to each other. We were interested in how realistic the flight simulation is, including the shake and cabin movements. "There are several types of simulators and this is basically a fixed simulator that is not on any moving platform. But the cockpit anchoring and the servo motors attached suggest that some vibration will be there to make the simulated flight as realistic as possible for the pilot. The cockpit is on an elevated platform, which means pilots will see the image in front of them, beside them, behind them and above them. They will be perfectly immersed in the image and I believe the perception will be truly as if they were flying in a real machine," says Petr Valehrach, head of the simulation centre.
According to the commander of the 22nd Helicopter Air Base Brig. Gen. Rudolf Straka, the location and commissioning of the H-1 simulator at the air base in Namesti is a major positive milestone. "I won't hide the fact that it was our ambition from the beginning to have the simulator at our base. We have great experience from other simulators. The trend nowadays is that simulation technology replaces part of the training and is a very important element. It is crucial both in terms of safety and preparation for tactical operations. The comfort of having a simulator at hand is priceless," General Straka said, adding that simulation technology is the direction in which all armies are heading. And it's not just that it reduces the noise pollution for the population. "What's important is that on these simulation technologies, which are true to the practical use of the equipment, pilots can study situations and tactical missions in advance that they might not be able to practice in the environment of our airspace," said the 22nd Helicopter Wing commander.
Picture: From left: director of the state enterprise LOM PRAHA Jiří Protiva, commander of the 22nd Helicopter Air Force Base Brig. Gen. Rudolf Straka, Director of the H-1 Plant Milan Obr | Michal Pivoňka / CZ DEFENCE
General Straka also recalled the seven-month training already underway for pilots and aircrew in the United States, as well as the training of ground personnel. All preparations are aimed at a smooth handover of the first two Viper aircraft in May. "With the delivery of the first units of the new helicopters, we will be expecting the United States mobile training team. American experts will be involved in training for the next two years so that we will be able to conduct the training ourselves and in cooperation with the LOM PRAHA simulation centre," Straka added.
Picture: Head of the simulation center Petr Valehrach shows a training helmet for pilots. The helmet also includes an accessory in the form of a day and night vision device | Michal Pivoňka / CZ DEFENCE
For the director of the state enterprise LOM PRAHA, cooperation with the Czech Army is particularly important. "We are at a completely new project within the rearmament of the Army of the Czech Republic and for LOM PRAHA, this means a major step forward in the transformation of the company," said Protiva. "Just as the army is modernising, so is the transformation and transformation of the state enterprise. It is also important that the army and the state enterprise have been linked in one place in the area of the helicopter base and the capacities they share together. This is also the vision of the state enterprise LOM PRAHA for the future. The state enterprise is an integral part of the Ministry of Defence and the Air Force of the Czech Republic. At the same time, this project is also a great demonstration of new capabilities for the enterprise. It is a great experience and reference for us. We have been working in simulation technologies in cooperation with our subsidiary VR Group for a long time, and therefore this project is a reference for us also for the platforms that will be introduced by the Czech Army in the future," said the director of Protiva. "In the context of the negotiations we are conducting with Lockheed Martin, this reference is also important because it shows that we can provide this for the army and that training is something we are no stranger to," added Jiří Protiva, director of the state enterprise LOM PRAHA.