The U.K. Royal Air Force (RAF) Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier, opened a state-of-the-art high-G training and test facility at RAF Cranwell, U.K.
The £44 million project is used by fast jet pilots in the U.K. Royal Navy and Royal Air Force to replicate flight in aircraft such as the Hawk, Typhoon and new F-35 Lightning aircraft. Pilots are able to experience up to 9G – nine times the normal gravitational pull of the Earth – and learn how to use their specialist in-cockpit flying equipment to help them cope with these stresses. The centrifuge can accelerate up to 9G in one second and rotate up to 34 times a minute.
The new facility revolutionises high-G training, the U.K. Ministry of Defence (U.K. MOD) says, as pilots are not simply strapped into the device and exposed to G-force but are able to fly as they would in a flight simulator as the pilot manoeuvres the aircraft and applies the G-force.
Pilots benefit from a cockpit which closely represents that of their normal aircraft enabling them to conduct a plethora of training scenarios from air-to-air combat to dealing with in-bound missile threats, says the U.K. MOD.
The device will also be used to trial and test new equipment to be used on fast jet aircraft and by the pilots. This will also ensure that the testing is done in a benign environment before being trialled in live flight.
The new facility at RAF Cranwell is used by fast jet pilots progressing through the U.K. Military Flying Training System and into their flying careers. Fast jet pilots will refresh their training at least every five years to keep them as safe as possible and current in the techniques used to handle high-G forces in flight.
The RAF Centre of Aviation Medicine is using the facility to train aircrew to recognise the effects of G-force, develop awareness of it and learn the physical techniques needed to counter the effects on their bodies during combat missions. Up to 300 aircrew will receive training on the centrifuge each year.
The 39-tonne centrifuge, built by Thales U.K., has seen the company team up with centrifuge specialist AMST from Austria to design and build the equipment. Thales has been training RAF aircrew since the 1930s providing over 300 complex simulators for 60 different platforms.