Looking for ways to build virtual environments that would allow Forward Air Controller trainees to practice tactics, techniques and procedures not easily replicable in real environments and save on training costs, the Scuola di Aerocooperazione (Italian Joint Air Operation School) located in Guidonia, Italy, developed a training program and simulator system using VBS2, together with VBS2Fires and VBS2Strike in 2013.
The training program was formally accredited by the NATO FAC Standardization team in February 2013 and the FAC Simulator was formally accredited in December 2014. VBS2, VBS2 Fires and VBS2Strike are used to train FACs to plan, prepare and virtually execute simple and complex Close Air Support missions, using and simultaneously coordinating artillery, mortars and naval gun assets.
The Scuola di Aerocooperazione, established in 1951, oversee the FACs' certification and qualification. The institution is responsible for training Officers and NCOs of the Italian Armed Forces and designated personnel in the fields of “Air to Ground Operations” and “Satellite Imagery.”
“Before the VBS2 implementation, FAC trainees were initially trained in CAS TTPs utilizing sand tables and practical exercises,” said Maj. Sergio Vincenti. “Complex scenarios were planned and executed exclusively employing a great variety of air assets in different military ranges and dedicated training areas, with the correlated costs.”
Today, according to Vincenti, VBS2 is used primarily as a task trainer during certification to reduce student burnout before a live training is conducted. In addition, the accredited FAC Simulator, in accordance with NATO standards, can be used to replace a certain number of live controls for FAC qualification and currency training.
“It’s evident that the FAC Simulator employment is helping in optimizing human and financial resources,” added Vincenti.
The Scuola di Aerocooperazione intends in the future to increase the use of virtual tools so they can conduct effective virtual joint distributed training.