RMO rolls out moving target

  • Published
  • By Teresa Walker
  • 56th Fighter Wing Range Management Office
Everybody knows it's harder to hit a moving target than one standing still. That's as true for the F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot as for any other skilled marksman. And, since practice makes perfect, the 56th Fighter Wing Range Management Office responded to the ever-changing nature of warfare by adding a moving target to the Barry M. Goldwater Range. 

For current combat operations, hitting a moving target is a mission that combat aircrews must be ready to execute at any given moment. While some ranges can employ against a moving target, generally, training opportunities are limited. Recognizing aircrews must be exposed to challenging targeting scenarios that demand getting it right the first time, RMO provided an additional training opportunity that enables Luke Air Force Base pilots to become even more lethal in their skills. 

The moving target trainer on the Goldwater Range is essential to the B-course syllabus, according to Lt. Col. Pete Bilodeau, 309th Fighter Squadron commander, who recently returned from an overseas deployment. He also recently engaged the moving target on the range. 

"This trainer is invaluable for preparing warfighters," Colonel Bilodeau said. "Traditional battlefield lines are moving, targets are moving and the requirement to have proficiency in attacking a mover is realistic and essential. You may be presented with a dynamic and fluid attack window and need to engage a mover who is fleeing the scene using the skill sets you practice on the range with either bombing or strafing maneuvers." 

The basic concept is a remotely operated SUV towing an expendable target using a cable several hundred feet long. The driverless tow vehicle is controlled by a computer regulator using GPS, operated by RMO's air combat training systems personnel located at Luke. Vehicle operators monitor and control the moving target, select speeds and provide clearance to fire and cease fire directives to aircrews. 

The moving target was a priority requirement for the RMO, according to Chuck Gutierrez, 56th RMO project officer. 

"We knew we needed one for a long time - five years we've talked about it," he said. "Wing leadership made it more of a priority when they asked for every group to provide goals and it became the number one goal in fiscal 2008." 

It took about a year and a half of aggressive research, including visiting other ranges to see what was already being used. Some of the variations of moving targets are tanks, others are operators in close proximity controlling vehicles and some have basic rudimentary setups of vehicles on a pulley system. The need for the Goldwater Range was something in between. 

"Most of what we found at other ranges was not designed for routine training like we have here," Mr. Gutierrez said. "We wanted to make it the most realistic, a highly sustainable training asset and as versatile as possible." 

The moving target SUV tow vehicle will be on display during the Luke Days 2009 Open House and Air Show March 21 and 22.