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[F-117A Simulator.(LMSW)]

F-117A Pilot Training

Because of the secrecy involved with the F-117A program, perspective pilots were often found based on personal recommendations from current Bandits, Wing commanders, and recommendations from the individual Commands (SAC and TAC) themselves. Minimum qualification for being a F-117A pilot included a stellar record of performance, a rank of Capt. (often Maj.), at least one tour as an instructor pilot, and over 1,000 hours (many over 2,000 hours) of command pilot flight experience. Pilots selected for the F-117A program often had experience in the F-111, F-15, F-16, or A-10. Many pilots had held positions such as chief of tactics, flight examiner, or squadron leader at their former assignments. Even with all of these credentials, a perspective F-117A pilot would have to go through almost a year of training before making their first flight in the Black Jet.

4450th TG SLUFF. (USAF) Aviators joining the 4450th TG during the days when the program was "black" were first sent to Tucson International Airport where the 162nd TGF (Air National Guard) trained A-7 pilots. This unit trained pilots for flying the Air National Guard A-7s. The 4450th TG was only active duty USAF unit still using the A-7. The 4450 TG pilots stuck out in the crowd during the four month long training, and the Air National Guard pilots soon heard rumors of this mysterious unit flying A-7s that had a classified mission. "Then, you came back to Nellis and got a little local-area check out by the A-7 Instructor Pilots (IPs) they had working there (at Nellis)" as one F-117A pilot would later recall. Another would recall "These consisted of five or six rides, flying around Nellis Ranges and some low level; basically showing you how to fly around the local area". It is at this point that the pilots where told their real assignment-flying the F-117A.

The soon to be Bandits now went through the academic and simulator training specific to the F-117A. Because of the backlog of training pilots, it would often be 5 months from when the pilots finished A-7 training to when the pilots would start their F-117A academic training. After academic training was cockpit mock-up and simulator training. One of the final things that pilots would do before making their first F-117A flight was a high speed, no flap landing in a USAF F-15. The pilots would go to Luke AFB and undergo two days of academics and simulator instruction-all for one ride in a F-15. It was thought that this best simulated the landing profile that these pilots would experience in the F-117A. "Since the F-117 only has one seat and there are no trainer versions, you have to be able to land it "the first time!" one pilot remarked. Only after almost a year a training was a perspective 4450th TG permitted to make their first daylight flight.

After the existence of the F-117A was revealed, training procedures were modified slightly. Shortly after the Pentagon released the first grainy photo, the older A-7's were replaced by more common place T-38's. As one 37th TFW pilot would recall: "As for training, the first thing we did was go to Holloman AFB (Ironically, the future home for the F-117A) to get landing currency in the AT-38. The students got three sorties in the AT-38, then went to Tonopah for computer-based and contractor-taught academics and a host of simulator missions." Before being allowed to even taxi a F-117A, new pilots had to go through a three stepped training process that taught the pilot the cockpit of the F-117A. The first step was the computer based training (CBT). The CBT program were SUN workstations hooked up to a touchscreen monitor with switch positions in the graphics. The second step was the cockpit procedures trainer (PTT). This used for new pilots to get aquatinted with the different switches. One pilot recalled "I can't remember how much time we spent in the cockpit procedures trainer, but it was quite a bit. You have to get the switch locations down even before you get in the simulator, but a lot of that was covered in the computer based training (CBT). However, this was not a substitute for cockpit procedures trainers (PTT), though.". Now came training in the F-117A flight simulator.

[F-117 WST(USAF)]

[F-117 WST(USAF)] There are two F-117A simulators, both built by CAE-Link Corp. in Binghamton, N.Y. The first devise is called the weapons system trainer (WST). It is located at Holloman AFB and is used for pilot training. The WST entered service at Nellis AFB in January 1987. The contract to build the simulator was awarded in August 1982. The second is at the CAE-Link Corp. plant in Binghamton, N.Y. Because the simulator combines computer mimicry with actual F-117A components, the system is kept locked up inside a huge vault and much about it remains highly classified.

This simulator was featured in the September, 1993 issue of Popular Science. Below is a portion from that Popular Science account.

"CAE-Links simulator in Binghamton checks out new or upgraded equipment before it's installed in the airplanes. Gary Creiglow, a civilian Air force engineer who ran the F-117A training system program for more than eight years, says the simulator has helped catch some design glitches that could have affected the aircraft's performance. Using the system for debugging new hardware and software also avoids tying up the other F-117A simulator the company has built; the WST used for pilot training.
Some aircraft simulators are mounted on hydraulic jacks that generate realistic motion. However, neither of the F-117A simulators because the machinery still can't reproduce the lightning-fast, gut wrenching forces pilots experience during combat maneuvering, Creiglow said. Still, the sounds and visual effects were convincing. When I flipped a canopy-closing switch during preparation for takeoff, the roar of the idling engines grew quieter. Then the noise increased as I advanced the throttles to taxi onto the runway. When I applied the brakes, the scene in front of the windshield bounced as if the airplane were rocking forward on its nose landing gear. I made several landings, learning that a bad one turns the windshield bright red while an electronic horn plays taps."

After completing the required hours in the simulator, and various written exams, the pilots were finally allowed to taxi the F-117A. The very first thing done was an intentionally-aborted takeoff in the F-117 to practice popping the drag chute, then finally their first flight in the Black Jet, all of which had to happen within the 45 days since they landed the AT-38 at Holloman. All the initial qualification F-117 sorties were chased by Tonopah T-38s with an instructor on board to talk pilots through everything.

[New bandit being chased by IP in T-38. (?)]

[Back of Bandit Coin.] "The first time you fly one, it's in full daylight and VMC with instructor pilots chasing in a T-38." a former Bandit would recall. Pilots get at least 12 sorties in day/VMC before flying at night, as well as a lot of night simulator time. "We're very prepared to fly at night when the time comes." one pilot said. When a pilot becomes F-117A qualified, he receives an individual "Bandit #" and a medallion. The bandit medallion has the Desert Storm "team stealth" logo (same as on the patch) on the obverse and a plan view of the F-117 on the reverse with the bandit number punched into it and then "stealth equals death" around the top half. "The "stealth equals death" was from a sheet/sign carried by some protesters in 1991 or 1992 at the Oshkosh fly-in. The guys who did that static display brought the sheet back as a "trophy" and we loved it." as one pilot would later recall.

Once F-117A qualified, Bandits must now become mission qualified. At this point the Bandit would leave the training squadron and be assigned to one of the two operational squadrons. Here they would be mission qualified learning tactics by flying training missions. Once mission qualified, the full-fledged Bandit is ready to deploy with the F-117A and if necessary, employ the training he has received in combat.

7th CTS

In recent years the 49th Training Squadron was responsible for the F-117A academic training, and the 7th FS "Screamin Demons" was responsible the simulator training and Bandit qualification. In early 1999, the 49th TS was deactivated, and the 7th FS became the 7th Combat Training Squadron (CTS). In addition to the previous duties of initial F-117A pilot certification, the 7th picked up the academic training for the F-117A. The 9 F-117A's assigned to the 7th FS were transfered to the 9th FS and the 9th's PAA was increased from 18 aircraft to 24 aircraft. The 15 A/T-38's remained assigned to the 7th CTS.

From January 21, 2000 Sunburst:
Schooling the bandits: 7th CTS does lots with little
Story and photos by Airman 1st Class Chris Uhles
49th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

[Capt. Ken Frollini completes his pre-flight checklist in a T-38. Captain Frollini is an instructor pilot with the 7th Combat Training Squadron. Since the F-117 is a single-seat fighter, it is a solo flight each time a student flies. IPs follow along in the T-38 from takeoff to landing.
(Sunburst)] "At this schoolhouse, the tardy bell doesn't ring signifying the beginning of class. There are no bathroom passes, and no nap time.
However, there is simulator training, G-forces, flight suits and helmets. At Holloman, there is one squadron that is responsible for the training of all F-117 pilots. It is a "schoolhouse," of sorts, that is responsible for initial training, night training, and the overall recipe for producing mission-capable pilots to put bombs on target on time.
That squadron? The 7th Combat Training Squadron. Now, combined with the old 49th Training Squadron, the once designated 7th Fighter Squadron has been slimmed up and pared down.
But that hasn't affected the quality of Bandits -- nicknames for the F-117 pilots -- graduating from the hallowed halls of the 7th.
"Our mission is to produce combat-ready pilots to the 8th and 9th Fighter Squadron," explained Lt. Col. Rick "Seldom" Wright, 7th CTS commander. "And we do an excellent job at providing that."
[Tee Jay McGrath teaches Maj. Glen Roberts in classroom instruction. Mr. McGrath is the chief instructor for Boeing, the contract holder for academic training.(Sunburst)] Each pilot that comes to the 49th Fighter Wing as a stealth pilot must first go through the 12-week course that starts where every other course in the world starts -- the beginning.
"They come to us first, and we give them the classroom training," said Tee Jay McGrath, chief instructor for Boeing. All the classroom instructors, in what used to be the 49th TRS, are contractors with Boeing.
The Air Force contracts with Boeing to ensure the stability of classroom instruction, without the worry of the program lacking or losing the edge due to temporary assignments or moves, according to Mr. McGrath.
"All of us, at one time or another, have been active duty Air Force members, and all but one of us have bandit numbers (an honor bestowed on pilots following a successful completion of the first F-117 flight)," Mr. McGrath said.

[Maj. Tom McCloskey, right, teaches Maj. Glen Roberts (left) and Lt. Col. Vince Caterina (foreground) egress procedures for the F-117.(Sunburst)] In conjunction to the classroom setting, and before flying, future "stinkbug" pilots must spend many hours in the F-117 simulator working through many scenarios and possible malfunctions.
According to Terry Edwards, site manager for the simulator run by Raytheon, the computers and cockpit instruments are extremely close the real thing, if not the real thing itself.
"A lot of the parts on the simulator could feasibly be taken out of here, and put right into a Stealth," Mr. Edwards said. "So everything is as accurate as possible."
Following classroom and simulator training, the pilots move to the flying part of their training.
"We have nine instructor pilots who are the cream of the crop of all the stealth pilots on base," Colonel Wright said. "We have a small and elite unit -- all IPs are hand-picked and most of them have combat experience."

[Maj. Chip Rice, a 7th CTS instructor pilot, takes Capt. Patrick Ellis, a student, through the mission to be practiced in that day═s flight.(Sunburst)] Experience and highly-trained IPs are the foundation of the 7th's out-of-classroom training.
"We have the most experienced and qualified F-117s pilots teaching for us -- that says a lot for the training these new F-117 pilots receive."
Beginning in October, the 7th began a new level of training called Mission Qualification Training. Originally, the 7th only prepared the pilots by giving them initial qualification training, allowing the two operational squadrons to further the training for MQT.
"With the changeover in the spring (joining the 49th TRS and 7th FS) we lost a lot of people, including two IPs. So now, we do more training with less people," the commander said.
"So, our people work hard, and stay extremely busy. The 7th 'owns' no F-117s, and each sortie is 'borrowed' from the 9th FS. "They provide us excellent support," Colonel Wright said.
"We have a pretty close relationship with that squadron, and appreciate everything they do for us."
[Doug Campbell, a Boeing instructor speaks to Colonel Caterina (not pictured) while he goes through a simulator ride during his initial training in the F-117. Noel Terry, a Raytheon Field Engineer helps out.
(Sunburst)] The quality training provided by the 7th has been demonstrated by the excellent track record of Bandits in combat action and is rated far above all other fighter training units by students that go through the program.
"We constantly get critiques from students saying this squadron and our training program is the 'best training they've ever been through,'" Colonel Wright said.
"And that's due to the high quality of the people we have in this squadron and the world-class support we receive from the 9th and DynCorp."
So, as the final bell rings, the Stealth School No. 7 (CTS) expands on that support, adding their own experience to consistently add new, qualified pilots ready for battle in the plane known as the F-117 Stealth."

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