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CNATRA sings a new tune with Project Corsair

30th March 2022 - 09:30 GMT | by Trevor Nash in Holsworthy


Like the Avenger and Hellcat programmes, Project Corsair makes use of VR trainers. (Photo: DVIDS)

The USN is embarking on the final step of its revolutionary pilot training syllabus with the launch of Project Corsair.

The USN Chief of Naval Air Training (CNATRA), RAdm Robert Westendorff on 25 February officially launched Project Corsair, the Naval Aviation Training Next’s (NATN) prototype flight training syllabus for advanced tactical jet pipeline students at NAS Meridian in Mississippi.

Westendorff joined Commodore Training Air Wing 1 (TW-1) Capt Robert Lanane, TW-1 Innovation Project Lead, CDR Michael Saylor, and special guest, Barbara DeBlanc Romero cut a ceremonial ribbon officially dedicating the Project Corsair facility at TW-1.

Project Corsair focuses on fast-jet training in the T-45C Goshawk and follows Projects Avenger and Hellcat for primary and intermediate training on the T-6C. All these programmes have been designed to reduce the time it takes to train a Student Naval Aviator (SNA).

The USN said that ‘Project Corsair replaces the traditional T-45C Goshawk strike training syllabus and introduces advanced concepts that SNAs would typically learn in their fleet replacement squadron (FRS),’ the latter’s role being to convert pilots to type-specific strike aircraft. In effect, Corsair downloads some of the more complex training undertaken at the FRS into the advanced-jet training syllabus.

This new training syllabus focuses, ‘on skill-based progression instead of flight-hour quantity-based progression, thus minimizing time-to-train and cost,’ said CNATRA.

The aim of Corsair is to download training from the FRS to the T-45C. (Photo: DVIDS)

Like Projects Avenger and Hellcat, Corsair has moved away from the traditional training structure and has been designed to promote, ‘proficiency-based training and a detachment mentality. A core group of Instructor Pilots (IP) is assigned to each new class of SNAs to work through the syllabus with them. Instead of using total hours and total sorties to determine completion, it uses each SNA’s proficiency to determine successful completion for each block.’

The concept behind the programme sees students advance from one section, or block, of the syllabus to the next after demonstrating proficiency that is then validated.

‘The end state of Project Corsair is to provide the FRS with the most capable SNAs leveraging every capability and process available,’ explained Saylor. ‘I personally feel Project Corsair’s ability to leverage new training technologies, steady-state scheduling [flying every day], early exposure to fleet-level tactics, and the ability to proficiency advancing students that are able to demonstrate high levels of performance and retention when and where applicable will result in a higher-quality SNA in reduced time-to-train.’

Corsair uses VR technologies, pre-recorded fleet-style briefs, 360° flight videos and digital flight debrief capabilities to speed up training. The addition of two new phases of training, Target Area Mechanics (TAM) and Fighter Intercepts (FTX) will expose SNAs to more advanced air-to-ground and air-to-air fighter tactics prior to reaching the FRS.

According to CDR Drew Corey, CNATRA NATN expansion lead, ‘Project Corsair tailors instruction with VR devices and then has students validate the knowledge they’ve obtained in Operational Flight Trainers or aircraft to ensure they’ve reached the competency requirements to move forward with training.’

‘The use of technology allows this syllabus to teach advanced concepts earlier on,’ said CDR Kevin Friel, CNATRA NATN director. ‘We can sync two devices for students to practise dogfighting fundamentals with two IPs and learn those principles. It may not feel completely like the aircraft, but is an excellent procedural trainer, and will help teach higher-level concepts much earlier. Theoretically, when they get to a more advanced aircraft, they won’t need as much instruction to advance through that skillset.’

Project Corsair expects to graduate its first class in March 2023.

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