The Future of Air Crew Mission Debriefing Systems

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Tim Strusz
  • 98th Operations Support Squadron
Operated by the 98th Operations Support Squadron here, the Range Integration Instrumentation System and the PC Integrated Tactics Assessment System represents an $80 million investment in combat air forces aircrew training systems and is the future of aircrew mission debriefing systems. 

The web based RIIS and PC ITAS are government owned, non-proprietary systems, providing aircrew the capability to train at any location in the world using global positioning system-based instrumentation. The system provides high fidelity full three-dimensional debriefings for any air, land or sea based player participating in all types of training missions. 

The PC ITAS has the capability to import custom 3D maps and imagery from Falconview, Joint Mission Planning System and United States Geological Survey. The system collects, processes and integrates aircraft data to provide aircrew a rangeless, untethered, deployable sortie reconstruction tool. The accurate truth data/feedback is critical element when debriefing aircrew threat reactions, weapon deliveries, and navigation procedures. The core software is free, unclassified and available for download by aircrew.

The idea for RIIS was conceived in 1986 to support the Strategic Air Command's requirement to train bomber aircrew while in the midst of the "Cold War." SAC warriors in B-52G, B-52H and B-1B bombers were training to penetrate enemy airspace alone and unsupported on a mission with very little chance of return while carrying some of our Nations most powerful weapons. 

The USSR was a vast and forbidding territory saturated with a sophisticated, integrated network of surface to air missiles, anti-aircraft artillery and fighter interceptors. MiG pilots and radar operators stood watch 24/7 waiting for the chance to engage SAC long-range bombers if "Mutually Assured Destruction" diplomacy ever failed. SAC realized to keep their edge, bomber aircrew needed to be challenged in training by realistic, sophisticated, target and threat environments. More importantly, SAC aircrew would need to be able to capture mission data and debrief their missions to maintain a tactical advantage over the enemy. It took seven years research and development by the scientific and engineering staff at GTE to put together the first working RIIS prototype. 

The RIIS took form on the cold wind-swept plains of the Dakotas at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S. D., and was the cornerstone of the Strategic Training Range Complex, the SAC "Nuclear Red Flag." The STRC airspace covered most of Nebraska, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota. The expansive operation was necessary to simulate the long-range missions bomber aircrew would undertake if called upon. History would prove that long duration bomber missions would be a key component in the Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns. The B-2 Spirit currently holds the long duration air combat mission record of 44 hours. 

The RIIS has continuously evolved since it entered initial operation in March 1993. It now supports weapons employment and composite force mission debriefings for all CAF aircraft. In 1996, Air Combat Command decided to move the RIIS system from Ellsworth to Nellis to take advantage of the synergy created by combining the capabilities of the Nellis Air Combat Training System and RIIS. The latest web based version of the RIIS and PC ITAS went operational in March 2007 and will truly prove to be the future of aircrew mission debriefing systems.