iPad proving invaluable for Marine Corps aviators
USMC aviators in Afghanistan are using iPads loaded up with maps of the southern regions of the country to reduce their workload in the cockpit.
Since November last year, marine pilots have been using iPads and more recently iPad 2s with digital maps, which allow the crews to search out locations in the region at the tap of the screen rather than flicking through map packs that are heavy and take up room in the cramped cockpits of aircraft such as the AH-1W Cobra and the F/A-18 Hornet.
The idea was developed by an enterprising Cobra pilot from one of the deployed HMLA squadrons, and has spread rapidly through the deployed squadrons.
Because of the nature of international operations in Afghanistan, crews have to carry a vast range of maps covering the country to be able to work with troops on the ground. Across the region, ground forces use a numbering system for the compounds located within a particular grid reference.
Often it's difficult to be sure which compound is which, but the map removes much of the guesswork, particularly for those on fixed-wing types which get an almost top-down view of the region. Identifying compounds from helicopters that fly at lower levels is trickier but has been made significantly easier.
'It's a game changer,' said Capt John Belsha, one of the sensor operators on the KC-130J Harvest Hawk, which is also making use of the iPads in the close air support role.
'In the past we have had to carry all the paper charts and the grid reference graphics we use as a reference for the ground forces in the area. If we had to carry every single one of them – we could on the Hercules, we have the room – but if you have a small cockpit like on the Cobra it's not feasible.'
Work is now ongoing to get the iPads equipped on aircraft based in the US, so they can be used in training.
'It's all about sharing situational awareness and using the iPad is much better than using a paper chart,' Belsha said.
'It takes five minutes to teach someone how to use the thing – it’s so intuitive and easy, you don't really have to think about it.’
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