Support: Simulators Become a Necessity


February10, 2007: Air combat flight simulators continue to get cheaper, and more capable. The Link company, which pioneered development of flight simulators 70 years ago, provides, for example, a set of four F-18 simulators, and a briefing/de-briefing facility, for under $40 million. Because of the rapid advances in PC based graphics, a major cost factor has been brought under control. It's still expensive to use what amounts to an actual F-18 cockpit, and link all the controls and displays with the simulator software and graphics system. Selling the simulators in four-packs enables four pilots to exercise together, or practice individually. The graphics come in handy once more in the briefing/de-briefing facility, where large flat screens are used for mission planning and briefing, and in the after-action briefing. Here, actual performance can be replayed, from different perspectives, to show pilots what to avoid the next time around. Putting the actual aircraft in the air costs several thousand dollars an hour. Much of this is just the cost of fuel. Simulators cost as little as a fifth as much as actually flying the aircraft (depending on how intensively the simulators are used.) But more importantly, you can afford to make mistakes in the simulators, without the risk of losing a $50 million aircraft. Even developing nations, which can barely afford the actual warplanes, see a need for simulators to keep their pilots competent.