REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. (Nov. 9, 2022) – In a place as innovative as Redstone Arsenal, the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Aviation & Missile Center’s Black Hawk Aircrew Trainer still stands out.
Walking into its facility, what at first looks like a nondescript warehouse is actually home to the Army’s highly immersive home-station UH-60M flight training device. As the Army transitions to creating more technologies and capabilities in-house as it builds the Army of 2030, the BAT and its team is a success story 10 years in the making.
“The genesis of the BAT project came out of a desire to have a simulator trainer, mission rehearsal tool that was always in lockstep with the progression of the aircraft,” said Jody Creekmore, BAT project manager. “The UH-60M being a digital aircraft, the Army is able to make very rapid changes to keep up with technology to keep up with the warfighter. We are always trying to, as the U.S. Army, maintain dominance on the battlefield, to fight and win America's wars. The aircraft is perfect for that, it moves very rapidly.”
What is the BAT? Envision the world’s biggest Xbox. From adverse weather to enemy fire, the BAT allows aviators to train under conditions that could not be replicated with live aircraft exercises. For U.S. Army Security Assistance Command's Capt. Roberta Woronowicz, who has been flying the trainer since 2017, the experience is “spot-on” to an actual aircraft.
“You are able to mess up,” Woronowicz said. “You can practice the things you need to in the air without the consequences.”
Whenever something is pushed down from the field, the team has the ability to build and develop in-house to make sure that it stays concurrent.
“Since it's all vertically integrated, it comes down to flying it and knowing what needs to be adjusted. I can pass it out to the team and then they can make changes. And then we just iterate,” said Dong Tran, senior aerospace engineer and LAB manager, flight model.
“You can't think of something, design it, build it, fund it and field it technology-wise, before things are virtually obsolete,” Matt Black, chief of operations, said. “We have a perpetual obsolescence remediation effort going on. It's a balance between trying to get stuff that will stay in the field for a few years and be able to be used without going obsolete in a month versus keeping the latest technology out there so that the guys can train to the fullest. That's a full-time mission.”
Why is the BAT so essential to the Army? It is high-fidelity, cost-effective and portable. The BAT Project has built and fielded U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence-accredited simulator/trainer devices across the United States, in Europe and East Asia.
“Simulator hours are in the hundreds of dollars,” Black said. “Flight hours are in the thousands of dollars.”
Not only does the BAT allow pilots to train certain tasks for accreditation in the simulator versus the aircraft, resulting in money saved, but the very creation of the simulators puts more than $3 million back into the Alabama economy annually through material procurements alone. The BAT simulator is not just made in America – it’s sourced from Alabama vendors and suppliers.
Having the responsibility of building the program from the ground up has been both personally and professionally rewarding – if challenging, the team said.
“I would say knowing what doesn't work is as important as knowing what does work,” said Neal Rivenbark, senior mechanical engineer and lab manager, flight model applications. “Knowing what doesn't work has actually solved other problems that we've had to tackle.”
The DEVCOM Aviation & Missile Center, headquartered at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, is the Army’s research and development focal point for advanced technology in aviation and missile systems. It is part of the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command (DEVCOM), a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Futures Command. AvMC is responsible for delivering collaborative and innovative aviation and missile capabilities for responsive and cost-effective research, development and life cycle engineering solutions, as required by the Army’s strategic priorities and support to its Cross-Functional Teams.