The Naval Aviation Training Systems and Ranges program office (PMA-205) Naval Aviation Survival Training Program (NASTP) team received a Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division (NAWCAD) Commander’s Award for acquisition support Jan. 25 during the annual ceremony in Patuxent River.

“Winners today thought outside the box, took risk where it made sense, and led their teams in delivering capability, enhancing availability, affordability and safety,” said Rear Adm. John Dougherty, NAWCAD commander. “Your programs are examples of expert leadership and teamwork for the rest of the command.”

The Parachute Descent Procedure (PDP) trainer transition team is geographically dispersed, comprised of personnel across multiple organizations and competencies, including the PMA-205 NASTP team, the NAWCTSD Research, Development, Test and Evaluation department and the Naval Survival Training Institute.

Through close collaboration, the team established acquisition processes to successfully develop and execute a procurement strategy covering the entire transition path to research, develop, test, deliver, and integrate a product into an acquisition program of record that will deliver a capable and affordable fleet training system that improves training capabilities and ensures warfighter survival readiness, at approximately half of previous system costs.

“I am very proud of the entire PDP Trainer Transition team for their hard work in bringing this critical training system to the fleet,” said Capt. Kevin McGee, PMA-205 program manager. “Our team recognizes the importance of the parachute as one of the last lines of defense our aircrew has in an emergent situation, and this critical trainer prepares them for what to do should the worst outcome occur.”

The NASTP provides hands-on training in simulated parachute descent procedures in a post ejection or bailout scenario. However, antiquated, legacy training solutions have provided significant affordability challenges due to costs of individual training units, as well as the durability, reliability, integration issues, and obsolescence of virtual reality head mounted display (VR HMD) solutions.

The team leveraged Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) development efforts to mature and transition a solution to ensure the acquisition support effort would deliver a capability that meets aviation survival training objectives necessary for warfighter proficiency in critical lifesaving skills. They supported critical research, testing, and revisions to deliver a training solution with capabilities that achieve a more realistic virtual environment in which to situate the training, a better means to track trainee parachute operation, support for multiple type/model/series aircraft and an embedded means for tracking/assessing critical trainee decision making processes.

“The PDP trainer provides muscle memory for aircrew who fly in ejection seat equipped aircraft,” said Cmdr. Andrew Hayes, PMA-205 NASTP team lead. “In emergency situations, aircrew need to perform in a small window of time in order to survive, and this trainer allows aircrew to practice a specific sequence of events that must happen within seconds following ejection from a jet.”

The PDP Trainer Transition team facilitated significant end user testing to validate the high fidelity virtual environment capable of capturing trainee behavior as well as providing instructors information on trainee performance for enriched after-action review and what-if scenarios.

The SBIR technology the team explored offered several improvements to affordability and training effectiveness. First, while delivering improved capabilities, the approved acquisition strategy results in significant up front cost savings for initial procurement. While legacy system per unit costs are approximately $130,000, per unit costs for the new technology with all initial technical documentation, training, delivery and support is approximately $88,000. This represents an initial acquisition savings of almost half for delivery of units.

“This was a very impressive, collaborative effort,” said Marcus Gobrecht, PMA-205 general training department deputy. “The Basic and Applied Training and Technology for Learning and Evaluation Lab at Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems Division (NAWCTSD) initiated the SBIR effort, and the NASTP PDP team was able to transition that matured technology into an actual fleet training device supporting thousands of warfighters annually.”

The simplicity of the new design leverages display-based technology instead of HMDs and provides projected out year cost avoidance due to longevity of traditional displays with better durability and lower replacement part costs. By eliminating the system calibration requirements that were part of the legacy VR HMD trainer, the new systems decrease trainee setup time and increases training efficiency in the schoolhouse.