"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.