LONDON — The U.K. Royal Air Force (RAF) wants to upgrade its synthetic training for the Eurofighter Typhoon to be on a par with that expected for the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter when it arrives in 2018.

The RAF’s Typhoon force is exploring a range of options to get more out of its training and limited flying hours as it faces airspace constraints, high operational costs and the need to learn how to fly in large-scale operations.

"To go out and employ the large formations we need to train is becoming more difficult, as the aircraft and missiles become increasingly complex and demand increasing amounts of airspace to train effectively. This is why we are exporting that training into the synthetic domain," explained Air Vice Marshal Gary Waterfall, the U.K.’s Typhoon Force Commander, in an interview with Aviation Week.

"We have be going through a revolution in synthetic training and realizing that if we want to be good at our game, then a lot of the time we are going to get most benefit from flying in the simulator than in the air."

Currently front-line Typhoon squadrons do about 25% of their training in the simulator, compared to 65% of simulator time by the operational conversion unit, 29 Sqdn. But the Typhoon force wants that ratio to be closer to that of the U.K. F-35 force, which will have a 50:50 ratio of flying hours to simulator hours.

"We have done a lot work in the Typhoon force, analyzing each and every one of our military tasks and looking very surgically at whether we should do that in the air or in the sim or whether we could do either," Waterfall adds.

"We can obviously do that for some training, I can already do close air support in the simulator but then I am not training the forward air controller, so I have to get airborne to do that."

Waterfall accepts that pilots have to get airborne to train for even the most basic tasks, such as airmanship, speaking to air traffic control or experiencing g-loads, but says that some of these this training could be done in a cheaper-to-operate aircraft—such as the BAE Systems Hawk T2—in the future, as Typhoon live flying declines further.

In the meantime, the first front-line crews trained on the advanced courses using the T2 are now on front-line squadrons, and Waterfall is hopeful that the dividends of that training will begin to appear in the coming months.

"The T2 was optimized to take the strain out of Typhoon training but it is too early to realize those dividends," Waterfall says. "We are being guarded and careful to assess them as they go through the work-up, and only when they have been on the squadron 18 months will we really know how good that training package was."

The Typhoon force is looking to expand the number of simulators available to it in the coming years. Currently, there are four Typhoon simulators at Coningsby and two at Leuchars in Scotland. The two in Scotland will be moved to Lossiemouth in the near future as Leuchars is closing to become an Army base this year. All four simulators at Coningsby can be linked.

The plan is to install four more simulators, two in Scotland and two more at Coningsby, with those four linked allowing joint training to be carried out from both bases.