The new High-G training facility at RAF Cranwell will help RAF and Royal Navy fighter jet pilots gain a more realistic experience of the effects of High-G on the brain and body within a simulator environment.

The £44m facility replicates conditions within the cockpit of fast jet fighter aircraft such as the F-35, Hawk and Typhoon. The human centrifuge simulator will put pilots in test situations which can help them learn how to operate a combat aircraft in conditions of up to nine times the earth’s gravitational pull (9G). The Centre has been created through a partnership with the MoD, Royal Air Force, Thales and industrial partners AMST of Austria.

Simulator will help pilots recognise G-induced loss of consciousness

David Head, Head of Customer Marketing, Fixed and Rotary Wing, at Thales explained: “The most important thing is not necessarily that the height of the G, but it’s the rate of onset of that G, so it’ll go from 0-1G to 9G in about 15 seconds. Therefore, what that means is the pilot has to cope very, very quickly to recognise that he’s starting to have what’s called G-induced loss of consciousness and that is where the blood will drain from your vital organs, particularly your brain down to the lower parts of your body. Therefore, you need to ensure that that doesn’t go there and keeps them the higher echelons of your body to keep your vital organs going, and most importantly, your cognitive skills in your brain.”

The simulator will be used for initial assessment of students suitability and for different stages of pilot training, with each pilot learning to experience High-G situations in an environment that is similar to that in a real aircraft.

Centre will help with assessment as well as training

Head added: “The system is used, not necessarily just for combat pilots now, but it’s used to assess students as well to test the ones that will be susceptible to G-induced loss of consciousness. So very early on in their training, will they learn to cope with the G forces, and so everything from, somebody just coming in off the street to join the Royal Airforce, they will start to be tested in those circumstances, and then all the way through their leading fighter training all the way up to operational status.”

End to ‘sit and be squeezed’ devices

The new system, based at RAF Cranwell, will replace the RAF’s outdated systems and will operate with three aircraft types which are attached to the arm of the human centrifuge – modules are based on the Hawk, Typhoon and F35. David explained: “They are basically ‘sit and be squeezed’ devices so that the crew have no interaction with the device, they simply sit there learn to experience the G and can do nothing about it. What this system does, it allows them to fly the centrifuge, so they’re controlling the aircraft as they would in the real world when they pull back on the stick, and they increase the G and the centrifuge increases its speed. So it’s a far more interactive experience for them. And therefore they can start to recognize when the G’s coming on at what point they’re using the control.”