by Richard Sheffield
Developing the simulated battleground for the Apache simulator posed quite a task to the design team. Providing hills, mountains, streams, roads, and an occasional target was all that had been previously required for jet simulators. Jets fly at high speed and rarely go below 500 feet, and as such, the ground design passed so fast that real detail was not needed.
The Apache, however, is designed to operate at low speeds very close to the ground, at an altitude of 10-15 feet. In order to fly in this manner, the simulation needs to provide very real clues as to altitude and ground contours. The simulator battle area is 32 X 40 kilometers. Current computer technology is not capable of presenting the necessary detail over this large an area. To compensate for this, the team built the entire operating area out of 1-kilometer-square blocks. Highly detailed blocks for nap-of-the-earth (NOE) flying were developed and linked together to form corridors for low-level flying. These were surrounded by less-detailed blocks.
These blocks are combined to form two main areas: the Airfield Area and the Tactical Area of Operations.
The Airfield Area is 12 X 27 kilometers. Located in the center is a complete model of a modern airfield. The model includes buildings, roads, telephone poles, high-power lines and towers, trees, and a nuclear power plant. This area is surrounded by mountains with two passes leading to the combat area.
The Tactical Area of Operations, or gaming area, is 27 X 27 kilometers square, and most of it is highly detailed and designed for NOE flight. Thirty-four battle positions are included; while most are on the high ground, a few are down in the valley. Enemy forces are placed in these areas at the discretion of the instructor. Visual clues are included in the scenery to aid the crews in navigation. Hills are topped with water towers and microwave links, and a complete road system is included. Hazards such as high-power lines, tall antennas, and telephone poles must be mapped and avoided.
In addition to these visual clues, a complete 1:50,000-scale topographical map has been used with a simulation for the first time. This map is as complete and accurate as any currently used in the real world. Crews will also receive preflight intelligence briefings as well as in-flight information from scout helicopters.
A great deal of time and effort went into producing an environment as similar to Central Europe as possible. All geographic and manmade obstacles likely to be encountered in a real battle were included. The outstanding result allows crews to practice day, night, and bad-weather flying, and to practice combat in a realistic environment.