Thales has started work on the construction of a state-of-the-art, High-G Training and Test Capability facility that could save the lives of fast jet fighter pilots.
Pilots flying the Hawk, Typhoon or new F35 Lighting II aircraft can experience up to 9 g - nine times the normal gravitational pull of the Earth. High g-forces can cause a pilot to lose consciousness and has caused fatal accidents in the past.
Thales has teamed up with Austrian firm AMST to construct a new facility at RAF Cranwell in Lincolnshire to train RAF and Royal Navy pilots to counter the effects of these forces on their bodies during combat missions.
The new centrifuge facility, which is due to go online in October 2018, is part of a £44 million project with the UK Ministry of Defence. Once the building phase is complete, Thales will provide instructors and maintainers to run the centre for an initial three-year period.
Thales has more than 20 years’ experience building and running synthetic training facilities globally, but this is their first high-g centrifuge project which is why they have partnered with AMST.
Project manager Mike Wallace from Thales said: “AMST are the world leaders in the design, manufacture and delivery of centrifuges and Thales brings experience of working closely with the UK MoD and delivering training services to the RAF.”
The new facility will replace the RAF’s current high-g trainer, which dates from the 1950s. The new 39 tonne centrifuge will accelerate from zero to 9 g in one second at which point it will be travelling at 58mph and rotating 34 times a minutes. It also features a virtual cockpit display so that pilots can train under realistic conditions.
Mike explained: “You basically sat in the old centrifuge and went for a ride, but with the new facility they will be flying a simulated cockpit. With this capability the pilots will better understand the processes required to deal with the accelerations while flying a combat aircraft and managing the mission systems, all at the same time.”
The virtual cockpit contains flat panel displays can be swapped to represent the layout of the three different aircraft types.
Thales and AMST will be working at every stage of the build with the MoD/RAF to ensure the safe training of our pilots and safe operation of the facility.
The facility is also being built to the highest specifications. Mike explained: “With 20 tonnes of main drive and gear box below ground generating around 3200 KW at peak power (around 4300hp) the foundations are critical; it’s crucial that the tolerances and interfaces are correct to ensure continued safe operation of the facility for the next 25 years.”