Group Editor Marty Kauchak reports on the US Navy’s rapidly evolving P-8A training system and status of training programs for international customers of the new aircraft.

The US Navy’s replacement platform for the P-3C Orion, the P-8A Poseidon, will soon start to secure the service’s future in long-range maritime patrol capability.

The P-8A is a derivative of a modified Boeing 737-800ERX airliner, and brings together a reliable airframe and high-bypass turbo fan jet engine with a fully connected open architecture mission system. Coupled with next-generation sensors, the P-8A is set to dramatically improve the Navy’s antisubmarine and anti-surface warfare capabilities around the world.

The first fleet squadron in Jacksonville, Florida, Patrol Squadron (VP-16), has completed its P-3C to P-8A transition and is preparing for the first operational P-8A deployment this December.

Beyond the leap ahead in operational capabilities the Poseidon will provide operational commanders, the program’s training system is also nothing less than cutting edge. The P-8A training system’s latest technologies and instructional strategies concurrently provide multi-tiered instruction to different learning audiences as part of the program’s maturity and quickening expansion.

“Inherently multifaceted” Learning System

Through the turmoil surrounding the Pentagon’s Fiscal Year 2014 budget process, the Navy’s program of record for P-8s remains at 117, LaToya Graddy, Naval Air Systems Command’s public affairs officer for the program, confirmed for MS&T this October.

Also during that month, Boeing, the P-8A’s OEM, delivered its 11th Poseidon to the sea service, according to Charles “Chick” Ramey, the company’s program spokesperson. As this issue was published Boeing remained on contract to deliver 37 Poseidons to the Navy.

Accordingly, the supporting learning system must deliver training to multiple work groups of differing experience levels across the entire maritime patrol developmental and operational continua. Captain Scott Dillon, program manager for the Navy’s Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Aircraft Program Office (PMA-290), explained “The learning system is inherently multifaceted and provides the flexibility necessary to account for these different learning groups and their varying experience levels.”

On one end of the training continuum, aircrews conducting test and evaluation receive train-the-tester training. Dillon noted train-the-tester training provides experienced aircrews in-depth knowledge of a specific system to support testing. “This differs markedly from the other end of the spectrum where new aircrews, which have far less experience, require a learning system that delivers a much longer syllabus that encompasses not only the P-8A’s mission systems but also tactics,” he added.

In between these two extremes are a number of other training requirements: train-the-trainer, conversion of P-3 qualified aircrew, and type refresher training to name a few. The P-8A learning system also delivers this same continuum for maintenance personnel. “It currently delivers training to experienced maintainers via the Interim Maintenance Training course and will provide, in 2016, training to maintenance personnel who have no previous P-8A experience,” Dillon said.

Enabling Technologies

Boeing, as the P-8 OEM and prime integrator, developed the P-8A Training System as an integrated total training system based upon a training system’s front-end, joint training needs analysis/task analysis using the latest Instructional System Design techniques. Jerry Bushue, the company’s business development director for P-8, recalled his industry team participated in the analysis with its Navy customer. “We captured the results and used the analysis tools resident in Boeing’s Computer-Aided Mission Analysis (CAMA) tool to produce the training needs analysis documentation. For the actual maintenance courseware production for Center for Naval Aviation Technical Training, we take the task analysis results from CAMA and input them into the Authoring Instructional Materials (AIM) tool to actual produce the lesson materials,” Bushue said.

AIM remains a government-managed system used by the Navy and other agencies to develop, update, manage, and integrate training content.

Beyond completing the joint training needs analysis/task analysis, the sea service also laid the foundation for the training program infrastructure.

The US Navy’s P-8A training is currently focused at Naval Air Station (NAS) Jacksonville where the Integrated Training Center and soon-to-be-completed Maintenance Training Facility are located.

With construction scheduled for completion this fiscal year, the 58,262-square-foot operational and maintenance-training facility will ultimately house electronic classrooms, six virtual maintenance trainers and additional training devices.

Boeing’s Bushue noted the Jacksonville Aircrew Integrated Training Center’s training device deliveries through 2014 for aircrews will include nine Operational Flight Trainers (OFTs), six Weapons Tactics Trainers (WTTs), three part task trainers and associated courseware, classrooms and desktop simulations, all of which will provide concurrent capabilities with the aircraft.

As this issue was published, CAE, a program subcontractor to Boeing, had delivered 10 OFTs. Chris Stellwag, the director for Marketing and Communications in Defense & Security at CAE, said the OFT visual display system uses Barco Sim7Q liquid crystal on silicon projectors.

The visual display mirror system is provided by Rockwell Collins. Stellwag further pointed out “The CAE-built OFTs feature the CAE True Electric Motion system and flight controls. Boeing selected Aechelon Technology as the image generator supplier and provides the image generators to CAE as buyer furnished equipment for integration into the OFT.”

CAE has also delivered 17 Aircraft enhanced Desk Top Environment trainers (AeDTEs).

The company has one additional P-8A AeDTE on contract which was awarded in August 2013.

For the Poseidon’s maintenance program, the learning system will provide a mix of simulation and a mix of hardware devices, some which will be linked to the simulation. These hardware devices cover onboard mission systems through to systems such as the engine and external aircraft structures (e.g., the landing gear).

CAE has delivered one Simfinity Virtual Maintenance Trainer classroom which includes one Instructor station and nine student stations, to support this training audience.

The Navy end-user has realized considerable reductions in non-recurring engineering and development costs, and other efficiencies gained from CAE’s heritage as a supplier of Boeing 737 training devices and related simulation and training support.

Most significantly, CAE designs and manufactures a range of Boeing 737 flight simulators for airline customers around the world. Stellwag observed “we leverage this experience in developing the OFTs for Boeing’s P-8A program. The OFTs use our baseline CAE 7000 Series B737 full-flight simulator and any product line hardware improvements we make to the baseline product are incorporated in the OFTs for delivery to Boeing for their integration of the P-8A unique software.”

Another Boeing-led S&T industry team member is Systems Service Enterprises, Inc. (SSE) which provides support for courseware development.

What’s Different?

The Maritime Patrol Fleet Replacement Squadron, VP-30, delivers all initial aircrew training and transition training via the Fleet Introduction Team, and train-the-trainer training. Contracted support services and providers generally provide train-the-tester training. Similarly, they supply transitional maintenance training to maintainers with the Center for Naval Aviation Technical Training Unit, preparing to commence full continuum maintenance training in 2016.

Learning systems courseware is delivered through several media with the selection of the medium specific for the target audience. Accordingly, courseware is delivered via self-paced Computer Based Training or instructor-led classes. Aircrew at VP-30 will also conduct numerous training flights within the simulators before their training culminates in conducting specific training scenarios within the P-8A itself.

The Navy’s Dillon further noted that currently, refresher training for maintenance personnel is being developed. “This will provide our deployed maintainers the opportunity to keep their skills up-to-date no matter their location,” he emphasized.

Dillon was asked to place the training system’s new technologies and program’s training design in perspective, and highlight what sets them apart from those of the legacy P-3C and other naval aviation programs.

At the top of his list, the service training official noted the P-8A OFT is an all-electric, full motion simulator that is based upon the latest CAE commercial training system architecture. “As such, P-8A pilots can now count time in the simulator just as if they were doing it in the aircraft. This is especially [important] for the US Navy’s maritime patrol capability as the intention has always been to maximize the use of simulation in maintaining the US Navy’s capability. Maximum use of simulation should reduce operational and sustainment costs over the capabilities’ life cycle, effectively delivering more ‘bang for the buck’,” he emphasized.

The P-8A maintenance training facility combines simulated training with hands-on training. “While this approach is not new, the P-8A system takes it to the next level by nearly doubling the number of simulated tasks available for maintenance personnel to undertake,” Dillon said, and added, “The P-8A Virtual Maintenance Trainer will also employ the latest virtualization technology in order to achieve the best possible training outcomes whilst also reducing life cycle sustainment costs.

Although previous generation P-3 training systems could couple the flight deck with the tactical rail, the P-8A training system takes this further by allowing any OFT to be coupled with any WTT across a single training site. “This will increase system availability, facilitating crew-based training across the entire training evolution,” Dillon pointed out.

For its part, Boeing will retain its industry leadership for the US Navy’s P-8A training system well into the future.

The company is under contract to maintain simulator / aircraft concurrency through 2015. Bushue added, “Boeing expects to be under contract by the end of 2013 to deliver the US Navy’s maintenance training curriculum, courseware and training devices. Boeing will continue delivering P-8A maintenance training to transitioning P-3 squadrons at Jacksonville through 2016, followed by training the transitioning Whidbey Island [Washington] squadrons.”

International P-8 Developments

Beyond the US Navy’s P-8A program are rapidly evolving developments in other navies’ maritime patrol programs.

As P-3s and other legacy maritime patrol aircraft in other sea services around the world approach the end of their service lives, those navies are viewing the P-8A with increasing interest.

The Indian Navy is preparing to become the first Poseidon international operator, with Boeing on contract with the Indian government for eight P-8I aircraft (a variant of the P-8A). Boeing’s Ramey noted there are options for four additional aircraft. “The first plane arrived in India in May and we'll deliver the second in the coming weeks,” the program spokesperson said in October.

Boeing, through that direct commercial sale, has finished aircrew and maintenance training for the Indian Navy’s first P-8 squadron. “We just completed training 100 (plus) Indian students in Seattle who will operate and maintain the aircraft,” Ramey added.

The P-8 OEM remains in discussions with the Indian Navy to establish a turn-key P-8I training center for that sea service.

Australia is also expected to order a minimum of eight P-8s. Canberra is projected to have the aircraft delivered and in service around 2016 or 2017. The nation is already participating in the development of the P-8’s Increment 2 and Increment 3 upgrades.