The SA National Defence Force’s (SANDF) just about to be taken into service parachute training simulation system at 44 Parachute Regiment in Bloemfontein represents the first real change in parachute training since the 1960s.
That was when the use of parachutes was first introduced to the then SA Defence Force and prospective parabats had to undergo the “joys” of the “kas”, among others, if they hoped to pass muster and wear the prized wings and maroon beret.
This will also pass into the history of the parabats in the SANDF next week when the simulation system becomes operational following final training and acceptance of the system that started mid-August.
An SANDF statement has it that the parachute simulator is “the first introduction of technology into the training cycle of paratroopers” in the South African military sector.
“The challenge with high risk military techniques such as parachute jumping is the training and rehearsal of emergency techniques.
“The use of a simulator in a virtual/visual environment will allow paratroopers to be exposed to all possible malfunctions and emergencies. The SANDF has become the proud owner of the newest and one of the most advanced parachute training simulators in the world.
“Even though simulated training never will replace real training, the cost saving aspects of simulator training is one of its major advantages. Training and retraining can be done irrespective of weather or the availability of aircraft. Individual training can be focussed on students needing follow-on training and the system can also be used to rehearse specific operations, if need over and over again.”
The simulator acquired by the South African military is the Sokol Next Generation, developed by German company e.sigma Systems. It offers multi-stage and comprehensive parachute training for paratroopers, Special Forces and aircrews making safe and low-cost parachute training a reality.
The complete system was supplied to the SANDF by Lelebotse Projects and engineering in conjunction with UNISIM.
As with other Sokol simulator products the one now at 44 Parachute Regiment has realistic representation of the environment, horizon and downward movement as part of its photo realistic, geo-specific database including typical landing zones. Battlefield scenarios can also be simulated for mission training using dynamic vehicles, flares and smoke. Several simulators can be networked for team training, controlled from an exercise instructor station.
The new acquisition is equipped with a force feedback system allowing paratroopers the opportunity to learn to judge and control forces acting on them.
“With the simulated dynamic free fall, which makes it possible for the jumper to have control in a horizontal position, jumpers can train in both co-ordination and orientation in free fall, for group and tandem jumps. For paragliding, one can train in targeted landing using a compass and GPS course. Thanks to the 3D visualisation with the latest goggles, an extensive database for different landscapes, various tactical scenarios and the use of original equipment it is possible to have training that can otherwise only be practiced in a real jump,” the statement said.
Sokol combines 3D virtual reality with realistic parachute dynamics allowing jumpers to practice large number of possible malfunctions, including drogue chute ones. Weather conditions ranging from wind turbulence, night sight and mist are also built into the simulator.
All exercise data is recorded and available for exercise debriefing and evaluation.