PORT HUENEME, Calif. -- After a decade of lengthy logistical planning that bore many unforeseen impediments, including funding hurdles and a worldwide pandemic, the 146th Airlift Wing held a groundbreaking ceremony to commemorate the beginning phases of construction efforts for their state-of-the-art future C-130J simulator site on Jan. 4, 2023.
Previously scheduled for Jan. 5, the wing decided to cancel the event out of an abundance of caution for the predicted incoming unfavorable weather headed for southern California. However, rather than losing all opportunity to celebrate the occasion, the wing provided the impromptu event for personnel stationed at the 146th Airlift Wing the day before the scheduled heavy rain and winds.
As the predicted rainfall barreled toward those in attendance, the dark and looming oncoming rain clouds provided a gray backdrop for the ceremony. But even as the rain began to fall, it would not stop the small group of unwavering and faithful Airmen ready to celebrate the future first-of-its-kind Air National Guard C-130J simulator on the west coast.
The new simulator or Weapons System Trainer Reconfigurable C-130J flight simulator (also known as WST 12R) will showcase a myriad of capabilities that will separate it from other simulators across the United States, but one, if not one of the most impactful benefits for the state of California and the Air National Guard, is WST 12R's strategic placement at the Channel Islands Air National Guard Station.
According to Col. Lisa A. Nemeth, commander 146th Airlift Wing, the training opportunities gained by the addition of this simulator will be shared with the entire C-130J community, benefiting more units and providing more customizable training than any other C-130J simulator in existence.
“This is an exciting day for the 146th Airlift Wing and the state of California. Having this simulator here at Channel Islands will provide more efficient and realistic training for our aircrew, and as the C-130J Western Region simulator, it will also benefit other units from across the nation who will travel to Channel Islands for training."
Nemeth added, "WST 12R will enhance and modernize how our aircrew accomplishes its training because it’s the first configurable simulator between the "HC" and "Slick J" C-130J aircraft variations that can also be rapidly configured to facilitate training for C-130J block enhancements for 6.0 and 8.1."
The term block enhancements refer to both software and hardware capability expansions that are installed to enhance the capabilities of the aircraft.
"WST 12R's block enhancements with modular, rapidly configurable options will immediately benefit C-130J flying wings, including the aircrews from the California Air National Guard's 129th Rescue Wing at Moffett Field, which operates HC-130J Combat King II aircraft," said Nemeth.
According to Col. Christopher Dougherty, vice commander 146th Airlift Wing, there are also some cost-saving benefits with the addition of the simulator plus another WST 12R capability that improves training for the wing's aerial firefighting mission.
"Based on historical data, we predict that WST 12R will significantly reduce the travel, fuel, and training traveling costs by an estimated $6.3 million annually. In addition, we're excited to gain the first-of-its-kind MAFFS (Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System) training profile. Lastly, this simulator will virtually connect to other simulators and training locations to conduct formation airdrop training over a secure network," said Dougherty.
The MAFFS mission is a partnership and joint effort between the U.S. Forest Service and the Department of Defense that began in 1971 to produce the equipment, training, and operational procedures to integrate military air tankers into a national firefighting response.
Dougherty says WST 12R will debut as the first MAFFS virtual training simulator, affording functional training scenarios for aircrew preparing to fly the aerial wildfire suppression mission.
"These training profiles will closely simulate flight, weight, and atmospheric conditions that MAFFS aircrews encounter during wildland fire suppression efforts. The new simulator will give aircrews the skills to manage emergencies with more proficiency and success, thereby improving safety and mission accomplishment,” said Dougherty.