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Pods Help Warfighters Improve Air Combat Maneuvers

Here at the Ogden Air Logistics Center, the collection of information leading to superiority
in the skies over a battlefield begins with maintaining Air Combat Training System pods.

By G. A. Volb / Ogden Air Logistics Center Public Affairs

HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah, April 19, 2006 – Knowledge is power and power is influence. In the case of fighter pilots, it enables them to control – even force their will on – adversaries in the air and on the ground.

Here at the Ogden Air Logistics Center, the collection of information leading to superiority in the skies over a battlefield begins with maintaining Air Combat Training System pods.

The pods, which look similar to the typical air-to-air missile in dimensions, collect data as the aircraft negotiates training scenarios.

Back on the ground, the information is dissected and used to debrief the crew on what they did well and what they could improve on – education being the key.

English statesman Benjamin Disraeli once said, "As a general rule, the most successful man in life is the man who has the best information."

In the defense business, success in gathering information and thus, increasing knowledge, is a life or death venture; hence the importance of 309th Electronics Maintenance Group work – as pod maintainers. 

"ACTS pods are used to improve aircrew proficiency. They help interject high-intensity exposure to realistic combat scenarios, which allows for operational realism."

Thomas Nicholson, system support manager

"ACTS pods are used to improve aircrew proficiency," said Thomas Nicholson, system support manager with the 84th Space and C3I Sustainment Group here.

"They help interject high-intensity exposure to realistic combat scenarios, which allows for operational realism," he explained. "Essentially, it's a means to evaluate an aircrew's tactical air combat maneuvers and their tactics employment."

The pods for F-16s are mounted on the wing tip stations.

"We use the AIM 9 missile launchers," said Nicholson. "On the other hand, pods for the F-15 and A-10 aircraft are mounted under the wings."

"This is one of the primary reasons – training wise – that we've produced the most capable air superiority force in the world," said 309th EMXG's Steve Halverson, with an air of pride.

"We have air superiority over Iraq and other areas of the world in part due to the training our pilots can get with this system," he noted.

See Caption.
Shane Wright, an integrated electronic equipment repairer for the 309th Electronic Maintenance Group at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, assesses a P4B mockup pod for power amp testing. U.S. Air Force photo by G. A. Volb

"The data gathered using these pods provides real-time, detailed feedback," said Halverson. "By the time a pilot engages a real-world enemy, their instincts regarding air-to-air combat or providing ground support is second nature."

"Our job is to maintain the components by working with item managers, equipment specialists, system engineers, and technicians," he explained. "We do the same for test equipment."

The pods were introduced into the Air Force in 1974; prior to that instructors used "stick aircraft," said Nicholson; "wooden models of aircraft used to demonstrate maneuvers. Instructors would stand in front of the class and demonstrate moves using wooden aircraft. Everything was done in two dimensional, and aircrews had to use live ammo to practice using their guns and missiles."

By maintaining the system components and not purchasing brand new complete pods, the Air Force saves hundreds of thousands of dollars each year.

In the works, however, is a more comprehensive scheme. Known as the P5 Combat Training System, it's designed to provide a state-of-the-art mission debrief environment and improved mission recall.

"It'll provide accurate time space position information for up to 72 airborne participants," said Nicholson.

"The debrief facilities, combined with training from experienced pilots and staff, will provide an accurate and complete assessment of aircrew weapons systems - determining the actual outcome of 'air battles' and reviewing lessons learned from previous missions," he explained.

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Nov. 26, 2014
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