Weapon Systems

High-tech training systems prepare F-35 pilots for combat scenarios


F-35 pilots put in almost half of their flying hours inside high-tech training systems that enable them to master the fifth generation fighter jet.

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A pilot sits inside an F-35 training system. [Lockheed]
A pilot sits inside an F-35 training system. [Lockheed]

The F-35, also known as the Lightning II, is one of the most versatile and advanced military aircraft in the world, designed to meet the diverse needs of modern military operations.

But it is not just the technology and hardware that make the fighter jet a key weapon in the battle space.

The pilots of the F-35s are a vital piece of the puzzle, and high-end technology is keeping these pilots ahead of the game.

After pilots begin their training in classrooms with training aids and interactive courseware, they progress to a 360-degree mission simulator, which accurately replicates all sensors and weapon employment and uses the same software as the aircraft.

The Deployable Mission Rehearsal Trainer (DMRT) can be seen in a container on a forward-operating ship. [Spaz Sinbad]
The Deployable Mission Rehearsal Trainer (DMRT) can be seen in a container on a forward-operating ship. [Spaz Sinbad]

"The Full Mission Simulator [FMS] cockpit can be reconfigured to support training on all three F-35 variants," says Lockheed Martin.

The F-35A, used by the US Air Force, is the conventional takeoff and landing variant.

The US Marine Corps uses F-35Bs, which "can land vertically like a helicopter and take off in very short distances. This allows it to operate from austere, short-field bases and a range of air-capable ships," according to Lockheed Martin.

The third variant is the US Navy's F-35Cs, the carrier variant, which can take off from any US aircraft carrier anywhere on earth.

Pilots complete roughly half of initial qualification flights in the FMS. After graduation, pilots remain in a continuous learning environment with access to training courseware, applications and mission rehearsal trainers to increase skill proficiency and combat readiness.

The FMS is set up in a dome with 360-degree visuals for a full cockpit experience and uses the actual aircraft software to accurately replicate all sensors and weapons employment.

It is the most widely used F-35 training system, with more than 100 trainers delivered across the globe, according to Lockheed.

Small-footprint training

Pilots can also train on two other devices -- the Deployable Mission Rehearsal Trainer (DMRT) and Mission Rehearsal Trainer Lightning Integrated Training Environment (MRT LITE).

The DMRT is designed to be placed aboard aircraft carriers and deployed to austere sites to achieve continuation and mission rehearsal training.

The system is essentially a 40-foot (12.1-meter)-long shipping container that contains two simulators on which pilots can conduct training missions. A second container provides heat, ventilation, air conditioning and power for the system.

In addition, two DMRTs can be linked, giving four pilots a chance to train together.

The system inside the DMRT comes with a smaller visual display, about the size of a large whiteboard, than does the FMS, as well as having a static cockpit. However, both use the same software.

The DMRT can also be used to plan and simulate missions.

Meanwhile, the MRT LITE, first unveiled in 2021, is a small-footprint trainer with a limited visual system.

The MRT LITE features 90% less hardware than does the FMS, with eight of the systems capable of fitting within the allotted space of a single FMS, according to Lockheed.

The platform can be integrated into existing training facilities, is easily transportable for deployments and can fit onboard ships.

The system includes three screens, glass cockpit handles, touchscreen devices for functionality, and other capabilities needed to simulate F-35 mission and rehearsal tasks but has reduced views and excludes some switches and other interfaces needed for emergency-only procedures, among other changes when compared to the FMS.

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