Rapid technological advancements and a shift back to great power competition has created a higher demand for well-trained warfighters. The undergraduate combat systems officer schoolhouse at U.S. Naval Air Station Pensacola in Florida is changing to meet that demand.
The new training plan is based on a mix of historic and new training methods combined with high-tech advancements in training simulation. It represents the collective effort of experts in the 479th with inputs from warfighters in squadrons that operate any one of 14 different aircraft that CSOs fly in air-to-ground attack, air-to-air attack, transportation, refueling and information operations.
Col. Charles McElvaine, 479th Flying Training Group commander at NAS Pensacola says: “We’re going to a syllabus that exposes students to each of the primary CSO skillsets through simulators before they begin flying, and then we are going to begin selecting their individual tracks at the 85th training day instead of the 195th. Our new syllabus will “track” students earlier, which will allow us to provide gaining formal training units with a more highly qualified aviator for their weapons system. We will simultaneously increase the quality of our graduates and reduce the graduate-level training burden on the operational units.”
The school rearranged training in order to identify students with the best aptitude for typical CSO missions. To do that, they inserted portions of formerly advanced phases of training into the primary phase using simulators. Cadre are now evaluating each student's potential to function as a WSO, sensor operator, navigator, or EWO before assignment in one of four new specialized advanced tracks.
The change yielded 85 days of fundamental training with exposure to core CSO skillsets, and then up to 143 more specialized training days for WSOs, 88 more days for navigators and sensor operators, and 91 more days for EWOs. The increased specialized training reset the baseline for what CSOs believe are the fundamentals needed to be ready to fight. Air warfare concepts that were formerly introduced much later in a CSO’s career are now considered basic tactical knowledge, and are taught at the schoolhouse.
In addition to more specialized tracks, UCT instructors have been working hand in hand with civilian experts to design tailorable and reconfigurable aircrew training devices and sensor suites. This allows instructors to use off-the-shelf equipment and modify it real-time to reflect more realistic training.