Christie DLP projection is at the centre of a new visual simulation environment for training Tornado F3 squadrons at RAF Leuchars in Fife.
Home to 3 Tornado F3 fighter squadrons, Leuchars is currently the busiest Air Defence station in the Royal Air Force, providing aircraft and crews to a variety of operations and training exercises worldwide. The Tornado F3 synthetic training service at Leuchars is provided by Thales UK.
The fit-out was unusual in that while a simulation environment has been in place for 15 years at RAF Leuchars it has been without any system of visual projection and the integration brings visual referencing to the facility for the first time. Thales UK tasked Christie with integrating a visual system on to the existing simulator.
A 3-channel solution was selected, based around 3 Christie DS+25 SXGA+ single-chip projectors, purpose made for this market and a 2.7m radius cylindrical screen. Ultra-compact, the DS+25 is the smallest high resolution DLP projector available today, using the latest technology to generate 2500 lumens brightness, 2500:1 contrast ratio with deep black and sharp whites for pure image clarity.
The projectors were equipped with ChristieNET CCM's to enable remote functionality, control and monitoring of the devices. The design brief itself called for a free-standing and self-supporting projection system that enclosed the crew in the light-controlled, blacked-out environment - to enhance the 'immersive' properties and simulation experience.
According to Thales UK training manager, David McCallum, who was involved in assembling the specification to desktop size, "Technology has moved on to the extent that we can now project simulator-quality graphics from very compact projectors. Using equipment that has a technology overlap with commercial desktop projectors derives benefits other than scale - we should benefit from greater spares availability and reduced life-cycle costs due to the consumables being common to a greater number of projectors. Until recently, the products required for simulator projection were simulator specific, with associated high spares costs."
The DS+25's are used in conjunction with Folsom Research technology to display the pilot's Heads-Up Display (or HUD). The field of view from the pilot's eye point is 180 x 44 degrees, with the HUD being mixed into the centre channel's projected imagery using the Folsom box.
The control room also includes three TFT screens positioned on top of the instructors' control units to mimic the three projection channels. The Thales UK training service at RAF Leuchars uses two 3280 computers running proprietary software and three powerful Evans & Sutherland image generators for the visual system.
The application thus provides a realistic flying experience and utilises a ThalesView high-definition visual database. Allied to the 'as aircraft' cockpit and systems performance, the visual system has improved the overall realism of training - a crucial test in deriving the best training from such equipment.
"Like most simulators the facility is not used so much for routine flying as for dealing with emergency situations - but these can certainly be improved by using the visual system," says David McCallum. "This has been a good project; despite the minimal space available in the simulator room we have been able to install a system that radically increases the scope of the training available; it has made it more realistic and increased customer satisfaction."
For Christie, the commissioning process involved installing the structure, the mounting points for the projectors, the light-tight cloth and also setting up the display, blending, image warping and the usual colour balancing.
As a result, the RAF's busiest Air Defence station will continue to enjoy increased training realism. The facility will only be replaced when the Eurofighter Typhoon is eventually deployed to Leuchars