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Combat training system fielded for first time

EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- The Air Force's next generation air combat training system has been handed to the user.

The P5 Combat Training System was delivered to Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., Oct. 19, courtesy of Eglin's 689th Armament Systems Squadron.

"There have been a number of challenges this team has had to overcome since the contract was awarded in June 2003, but ultimately they were successful," said Maj. Scott Foreman, P5 CTS program manager. "What makes this fielding particularly special is that it was one of the most technically challenging installations we will have to face. It's very encouraging to the team as we look at all the installations planning to receive the P5."

The P5 CTS is a self-contained airborne training system that provides fighter pilots the evolutionary capability of rangeless operation and real-time monitoring. With the pod attached to their aircraft, personnel on the ground are able to "watch" the flying activity in real-time and experience simulated weapons events on the Live Monitor ground system. Aircrew can also review their training flights on a ground display and debriefing system.

"Receiving the P5 is the culmination of many agencies working together to make it a reality," said Lt. Col. Tim McIlhenny, Air Combat Command's range instrumentation requirements chief. "I'm just really impressed with the capabilities that we're leaving here; it's only going to grow. There has been absolutely outstanding support all around."
Before the official handoff occurred a team from Eglin deployed to Luke to make sure both the flying squadrons and the range systems were ready to receive the system.

"The final push was about a two month process," said 1st Lt. Nick Scotch, P5 CTS site activation task force chief. "It took about a month to finalize the microwave equipment and the range infrastructure, and the last three weeks we just made sure the range equipment was communicating properly with the P5 debriefing center."

With everything ready to go, 80 P5 pods and 23 ground debriefing stations were delivered and immediately available for training.

"This was a big deal for the program office," Lieutenant Scotch said. "This was our first delivery to the actual user and it's going to be nice to get some real-time feedback."

The P5 CTS not only provides pilots with a recorded computer simulation of their training, but it can also provide them with air-to-air weapon simulations and provide realtime kill notifications to the user. Future capabilities under development will include embedded threats, up-link control, and air-to-ground weapon simulations.

"While only a few major test and training ranges like Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., and the Pacific-Alaskan Range Complex already provide a real-time display capability, P5 will bring that same level of advanced capability to the rest of the Combat Air Forces," Major Foreman said. "These advanced capabilities will be used at many of the Air Force and Navy training bases across the United States, as well as overseas"

Seven F-16 squadrons at Luke currently have the capability to use the pods.

"The pilots were chomping at the bit to use it," Lieutenant Scotch said. "They wanted to fly it the day after the government formally accepted it."

According to the 689th ARSS, Eglin's 33rd Fighter Wing and 53rd Wing will be the next units to receive the P5 CTS.

"Fielding at Eglin will be a fantastic opportunity, not only for the warfighters in the 33rd Fighter Wing and 53rd Wing, but also for the acquisition team that helped make P5 the success it has become," Major Foreman said. "This will be an excellent opportunity for the warfighter to see the latest P5 developments and what it will do before deploying across the CAF as well as strengthen our rapport with the operational community."

"We're very excited about fielding our home base here," Lieutenant Scotch said. "We should start that process very early next year."

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