Navy taps into Microsoft's popular Flight Simulator product

Armchair jet jockeys play Microsoft Corp.'s Flight Simulator on their PCs to capture a bit of the thrill of the real thing, which replicates an actual flight experience closely enough that this week the Navy made its customized version of Flight Simulator standard issue for all student naval aviators.

The Navy built a software shell that enabled it to configure Flight Simulator for its T-34C training aircraft. The new CD-ROM-based Naval Micro-Simulator Training Aid features the instrument panel from the T-34C as well as a display, which includes scenery from areas surrounding naval aviation training bases in Corpus Christi, Texas, and Pensacola, Fla.

Cadets who used the Navy version of Flight Simulator in a test run this summer "had significantly higher flight scores...and fewer below average unsatisfactory flight scores," according to Scott Dunlap, head of the Assessment Project Office for the Chief of Naval Education and Training. Dunlap emphasized that the Navy views the PC-based simulator as an adjunct to, not a replacement for, more complex full-motion flight simulators. Besides student aviators, the Navy plans to issue the CD-ROM to students at the 69 colleges and universities that host Navy Reserve Officer Training Corps units.

The Navy micro-simulator CD-ROM also includes a simulation of a nuclear attack submarine distributed by Electronic Arts Inc. that Dunlap said would provide submarine junior officers the ability "to think about the ship as a whole, as part of a total weapons system" rather than focusing on the narrow concerns of their specific specialties or assignments.

For more information about the micro-simulator program, visit www.cnet.navy.mil/microsim.

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