RAF pilots are using Thales' new training simulators to prepare for the delivery of the updated MR2 Nimrod aircraft in 2010.

The crews are using the simulators for training and familiarisation in anticipation of BAE Systems' Nimrod Maritime Reconnaissance Attack 4 (MRA4).

So far, the RAF has clocked up 120 hours of training a month using the equipment at RAF Kinloss.

The devices, which have been designed to connect to each other in any required combination entirely through software, include two dynamic front-end simulators two fixed-base flight training devices, two rear crew trainers and a part task trainer.

The dynamic simulators and training devices provide similar training for pilots in the use of avionics, engines and auxiliary power units, flight controls and communications.

The dynamic cockpit simulator provides realistic motion using hydraulic power with motion jacks that have 6º of freedom movement.

It also offers visual information as viewed from the cockpit (for example it can simulate Kinloss, the Scottish coastline and Gibraltar). It includes options to change weather and light conditions.

However, Thales emphasised that the real developments are in the back-end devices — the rear crew and part task trainers.

The tactical co-ordinators, controllers of communications, acoustics, and radar and electronic surveillance measures are based in the rear crew trainers.

During the five-hour training 'missions' the crew's activities are controlled — for example, by introducing malfunctions — and monitored by operators on equivalent system stations in the part task trainer.

Technological advancements such as Thales' ISTAR mission support system (MSS), which provides two to three gigabytes of data, not including the operational flight programme for the simulator, mean there will be smaller crews on the MRA4 (10, compared with 13 on the MR2).

Different scenarios created in the simulator use a library of 500 datasets, and software updates incorporating new situations and 'intelligence' are amended at least every 12 months.

Full-scale deployment of the MRA4 simulator for instructors and crews will start next year.