Apache Longbow Simulators

Almost like the real thing.
Almost like the real thing.

One of the keys in the war so far has been Hinesville's Third Infantry Division's Apache Longbow helicopters. Although the terrain here where they train is completely different from what they're dealing with now, they're prepared thanks to some state-of-the-art technology. It's a simulator that lets pilots fly through everything from mother nature's worst to heavy firepower without leaving the ground.

Strapped in and suited up, Apache pilots Sarah Pierce and Wayne Shill practice for what their comrades are experiencing overseas. But without the risk.

"This gives us the opportunity to create a virtual enemy and correct our mistakes," trainer CW3 Wayne Shill said.

Everything in the cockpit is identical to what you'd find in a real Longbow, from the instruments to the firepower. These simulations are so real that when the pilots steps into the cockpit, they have no idea what they're up against. The instructor pilot can throw anything at them, from an engine failure to a sandstorm.

"We wouldn't want to go out and shut off both engines and see how hard it is to land," said Shill. "You've only got one chance. In here we can do it again and again."

Just as the Apache Longbow attack pilots are firing at their armored ground vehicles, with the flip of a button, their instructor can put them in the midst of the worst battle scenario.

"The training tempo has gone to such a point, you're continually challenging somebody to see how far you can go," explained Shill.

Desert and storms, aggressive enemies and equipment failure. Every move is traced and recorded, so pilots can learn from their mistakes, without paying with their lives. The pilots tell us the only real difference between the simulator and flying the Apache is that gut feeling you get, like when an elevator falls really quickly. They say it's so lifelike, some people have gotten airsick in the machine.

Reported by: Holly Bristow, hbristow@wtoc.com