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Fly and Fight
Falcon, the popular F-16 combat flight simulator from Spectrum HoloByte, has made it to the real time. No longer content to be merely a game, Falcon is destined to become part of the Air Force's flight trainers.
Falcon developer Sphere recently signed a seven-year agreement with Perceptronics, a company that has sold antitank-missile and tank simulators to the military. Sphere will furnish the software for the Avionics Situational Awareness Trainer (ASAT) family of F-16 trainers, which Perceptronics will manufacture.
Seven different simulators, including one called the Basic Tabletop Trainer, are planned. The trainers are not full flight simulators, but concentrate on specific parts of air combat, such as air-toair intercept training, and heads-up display familiarity.
All the ASAT models will share features ranging from full-color displays to a high tech joystick, and since the trainers are modular, more capabilities can be added. The hardware heart of the ASAT will be 80386-based MS-DOS computers; depending on the ASAT, anywhere from one to three machines will drive a trainer's various displays.
As many as a dozen ASAT trainers can be connected on a network, letting fledgling pilots fly in simulated formation and against other ground-bound pilots in imitation combat.
Low price is the main benefit gained from using nearly off-the-shelf personal computer hardware and customized software. According to Mike Adams, project manager with Perceptronics, competing flight trainers can cost from $400,000 to $500,000; an ASAT, however, is only $165,000. Not in our budget perhaps, but definitely in Uncle Sam's.
After seeing Falcon, said Adams, Perceptronics knew it had found the company to write the ASAT software. "We've been associated with Sphere over a year now, ever since we first saw Falcon. They really know how to drive an AT. This [Falcon] is the most high-powered AT performance going."
- Gregg Keizer