Warplanes: April 21, 2003


Some of the "rapid procurement" for the Iraq war had to do with software. Soon after American helicopter pilots began operating in sandstorm conditions during late March, they encountered "brown out." This is a condition similar to "white out", where a helicopter pilot flying in a snowstorm encounters so much snow that all he sees is white and loses all his visual references used for flying in the right direction. "Brown out" occurs during severe sand storm conditions, when all the pilots sees in brown. With a little experience, most pilots can adapt to brown out, and deal with it. But that first experience is often fatal for the pilot and any passengers on board. Fortunately, the U.S. Army's wargaming and simulation operation (PEO-STRI) was in the midst of installing new, higher resolution, video software in their helicopter simulators. Video of "brown out" was quickly obtained and added to the video catalog for the simulators. By April 1st, helicopter pilots on their way to Iraq stopped off at an Army base in Germany and got exposed to "brown out" in a simulator before going off to deal with the real thing in Iraq. There's no way of knowing how many lives this saved, but the pilots were really enthusiastic about dealing with a simulated brown out first. Pilots headed for Iraq already heard horror stories of the dreaded brown out. At the very least, the rapidly developed new training scenario was great for morale. 


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