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Last Updated: Friday, 18 May 2007, 14:03 GMT 15:03 UK
Simulator 'may cut friendly fire'
RAF Typhoon
RAF Typhoon aircraft are among those simulated by the system
A new network of flight simulators for UK and US pilots could help reduce the risk of "friendly fire" deaths, it has been suggested.

The system allows crews from both sides of the Atlantic to take part in virtual missions without leaving their bases.

Trials of the network follow widespread anger about a series of incidents where coalition forces have been killed by their own side.

Capt Iain Richmond said: "This could aid our training with the allies."

'Very enthusiastic'

He added: "To what extent that may go towards aiding our force integration training and battlefield identification, it's far too early to speculate."

It gives crews the opportunity to train in a full motion environment without risking aircraft or crews
Wing Cdr Mike Dobson

Lance Corporal of Horse Matty Hull, 25, of Windsor, Berkshire, died when his tank came under fire from a US plane in March 2003.

As the "distributed simulation demonstrator" was unveiled at RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire, the MoD insisted minimising "blue-on-blue" attacks was just part of its function.

One hangar at the airbase has been fitted with Typhoon, Tornado GR4 and Awacs cockpit simulators, with a giant screen showing pilots computer-generated battle scenes.

It is still in an experimental phase but Capt Richmond said Royal Air Force personnel who had tested it had been "very enthusiastic".

It is connected via a secure system to simulators at the US Air Force Research Laboratory at Mesa, Arizona.

'Informed decisions'

The missions last between one and two hours, and a joint debriefing using video conferencing can be taken on both sides of the Atlantic.

Wing Cdr Mike Dobson, of HQ Air Command, said: "It gives crews the opportunity to train in a full motion environment without risking aircraft or crews."

The simulators have been devised by QinetiQ and Boeing as part of a 7.8m project.

Tony Jones, of Boeing, said: "In the contemporary operating environment, joint and coalition operations are crucial."

A QinetiQ spokesman said: "This will enable them to make informed decisions about what they want to do."

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