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AFLCMC delivers AWACS simulator to ACC

Members of the Simulators Division and 552nd Air Control Group pose in front of the first delivery of the DRAGON Flight Training Device at Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., in December 2019. (Courtesy photo)

Members of the Simulators Division and 552nd Air Control Group, pose in front of the first delivery of the DRAGON Flight Training Device at Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., in December 2019. (Courtesy photo)

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla., – A new Air Force Life Cycle Management Center (AFLCMC) simulator will train pilots and flight engineers operating the E-3 Sentry (AWACS) aircraft updated with cockpit modifications known as DRAGON, which stands for Diminishing Manufacturing Sources Replacement of Avionics for Global Operations and Navigation.

Recently, AFLCMC’s Simulator Division delivered the simulator to Air Combat Command’s 552nd Air Control Group located at Tinker Air Force Base.

DRAGON, replaces 1970s analog technology with digital, automated aircraft navigation functions, and it ensures E-3 aircraft are compliant with current and future air traffic control requirements.

Overall, the upgrades increase aircraft capabilities and reduces maintenance costs.

The new simulator, known as DRAGON Flight Training Device, is configured to replicate the digital flight deck of an E-3 aircraft. It will provide E-3 aircrews with realistic flight training and eventually replace the non-DRAGON configured simulators across the fleet.

“It’s important to train like you fight, so you have to match your training to what you are actually doing operationally,” said Lt. Col. Emilio Talipan, the program manager in the Simulators Division leading the DRAGON effort. “ACC required a simulator to match the [upgraded] aircraft, so they came to us.”

Talipan went on to add that the successful design, development and delivery of the simulator, was a testament to the hard work, and persistence of his team, ACC, and industry partner, L3 Harris.

“There were several challenges along the way during the history of this program,” said Talipan. “We overcame those in part by adapting our acquisition style and approach. I’ve been fortunate to work with a phenomenal group of people that have made this a success.”

DRAGON Increment 2 is the next phase, and it will deliver a full-motion simulator in July of 2021 with another full motion simulator to follow during Increment III. All three DRAGON Increments will be housed in the Consolidated Simulator Building that is currently being built on Tinker AFB.

The new training facility of more than 50 thousand square feet will network the E-3 DRAGON flight deck Sims with the E-3 mission crew Sims,  completing the full "train as you fight" circle.

The total cost of all three simulators including sustainment – until 2024 – is $66 million.

“The simulator world is going to be leaned on more heavily by the Air Force in the future,” Talipan said. “Sim technology has come along in such a way that we can now simulate the full environment operationally and never expose our hand to our adversaries. Say, for example you fly the E-3 or F-22 at full capability. Now adversaries could potentially see exactly what the envelops of the E-3 or F-22 are.  However, if you train in the simulator environment, now you can really press the envelop of the aircraft and still keep it a lot more secure and away from what our adversaries can see.”