US Navy test pilot school receives new flying classroom

ASTARS III arrives at Naval Air Station Patuxent River. The custom C-26A Metroliner is equipped with subsystems and has a matching simulation lab. Photo: US Navy

The United States Naval Test Pilot School (USNTPS) received the new Airborne Systems Training and Research Support (ASTARS) III aircraft at Naval Air Station Patuxent River on June 29.

ASTARS III is the third, and newest, generation of flying classroom for the USNTPS curriculum.

The aircraft is a custom tailored C-26A Metroliner equipped with military equipment and subsystems.

A custom simulation lab was also built in conjunction with the aircraft to have matching crew stations. The ASTARS objective is for students to familiarize themselves with the aircraft and its systems in a simulation lab before flying airborne for the first time which increases the efficiency of flight time spent with instructors in the air.

USNTPS’ original ASTARS is a divested P-3; ASTARS II is a leased modified Saab 340 and the contract will end in fall 2018.

“The amount of proactive collaboration on this project is unprecedented,” said Jerry Swift, director of NAWCAD’s AIRWorks, the systems integration office that cultivates the command’s organic capability to develop rapid warfighter solutions.

In fall 2015, the US government gave the C-26A to the USNTPS after it retired from conducting counter narcotics missions along the Mexican border.

The aircraft’s upgrade was a group effort between a number of organizations: USNTPS, AIRWorks, the Tactical Airlift, Adversary and Support Aircraft program office (PMA-207), and M7 Aerospace, a subsidiary of Elbit Systems of America.

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