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Naval Aviation Training Next – Project Hellcat graduates first class of student aviators

23 February 2022

From Anne Owens, Chief of Naval Air Training

The first class of eight student naval aviators (SNA) completed Naval Aviation Training Next (NATN) – Project Hellcat at Training Air Wing 4, Naval Air Station (NAS) Corpus Christi, Feb. 14.Project Hellcat is Chief of Naval Air Training’s (CNATRA) prototype intermediate flight training syllabus for students selected for the tactical jet pipeline.

Student Naval Aviators (SNA) enrolled in Naval Aviation Training Next-Project Hellcat plan to conduct a formation flight.
Student Naval Aviators (SNA) enrolled in Naval Aviation Training Next-Project Hellcat plan to conduct a formation flight. Project Hellcat is a prototype intermediate flight training syllabus designed to train SNAs to a greater level or proficiency in a shorter period of time than the traditional syllabus to increase fleet aviator availability.
Student Naval Aviators (SNA) enrolled in Naval Aviation Training Next-Project Hellcat plan to conduct a formation flight.
220223-N-CV000-006
Student Naval Aviators (SNA) enrolled in Naval Aviation Training Next-Project Hellcat plan to conduct a formation flight. Project Hellcat is a prototype intermediate flight training syllabus designed to train SNAs to a greater level or proficiency in a shorter period of time than the traditional syllabus to increase fleet aviator availability.
Photo By: Lt.Cmdr. Michael Larson
VIRIN: 220223-N-CV000-006

The first class of eight student naval aviators (SNA) completed Naval Aviation Training Next (NATN) – Project Hellcat at Training Air Wing 4, Naval Air Station (NAS) Corpus Christi, Feb. 14.

Project Hellcat is Chief of Naval Air Training’s (CNATRA) prototype intermediate flight training syllabus for students selected for the tactical jet pipeline. Traditionally, the pipeline only included a primary and advanced phase, but Project Hellcat introduces an intermediate phase to teach more foundational principles earlier reducing training time in the advanced phase. The class included students who completed Project Avenger, the most recent update to CNATRA’s primary flight training syllabus. Project Hellcat seeks to develop a more capable, self-sufficient tactical jet aviator, proficient in a dynamic and fluid environment to better prepare them for advanced training.

“Project Hellcat continues the innovation of Naval aviation’s undergraduate flight training,” said Chief of Naval Air Training Rear Adm. Robert Westendorff. “Hellcat introduces an intermediate phase into our curriculum, which leverages successful concepts from our recently-redesigned primary flight training program, Project Avenger. Our innovative team developed, refined, and implemented this new program to teach foundational tactical flight concepts more efficiently, producing a more competent strike-fighter pilot who is better prepared to succeed in follow-on training.”

CNATRA is currently testing Project Hellcat as a T-6B Texan II flight training syllabus before tactical jet students step into a T-45C Goshawk, the aircraft used in advanced training to teach jet carrier aviation and tactical strike missions. T-45C Goshawk instructor pilots from Training Air Wing (TW) 2 in Kingsville, Texas, worked with the NATN team to design training events to increase students’ procedural familiarity in the aircraft and expose them to situations they will encounter as they head into advanced training.

“Hellcat takes foundational, instructional principles that students would traditionally receive weeks later in the T-45 syllabus and brings it forward into the T-6 syllabus immediately after students select jets,” said Cmdr. Drew Corey, NATN expansion lead. “We cultivate a detachment mentality, with smaller student-instructor groups, increased use of technology, competency-based training and a spiral curriculum, so students revisit early skill-sets and build on them continually.”

With foundational T-45C principles being taught immediately after primary training in an intermediate phase using the T-6B, Project Hellcat combined with Project Avenger can help reduce the overall completion time to train naval aviators. Training is specific to each student’s needs and focuses on real-world experiences to increase proficiency. All student naval aviators, whether in the traditional syllabus or those under Naval Aviation Training Next, are required to meet the same standards of performance in order to progress to the next level of training.

“Competency-based training is a major tenant of Project Hellcat,” said Cmdr. Kevin Friel, CNATRA NATN director. “As students are introduced to the advanced training skill sets in the T-6B, they are exposed to these competencies in a higher-capable but lower-cost aircraft. This ultimately will foster an environment where Hellcat graduates understand skillsets faster in the T-45.”

Friel noted that while CNATRA is analyzing the data on the effectiveness of this new syllabus, the focus remains on sending high quality students to the advanced T-45 syllabus.

Lt. j.g. Anthony Janssen is an SNA from Forest Lake, Minnesota, and enjoyed the student-instructor relationship that developed throughout Project Hellcat.

“The instructor pilot mentor and detachment mentality is what I appreciated most about Project Hellcat,” Janssen said. “Students got to work together on challenging topics and it was a great space to build a sense of unity as a class, which only makes training more enjoyable.”

Project Hellcat students have access to 4-6 dedicated instructor pilots in their training spaces every day in a detachment environment. They are issued a digital tablet with on-demand, 24-hour access to aviation-specific apps and pre-loaded course content, eliminating the need for stacks of physical publications and books. Students use tablets for flight planning, briefing, and in-flight navigation. Virtual reality (VR), mixed-reality trainers, and 360-degree videos allow students to witness real-world flight training events, such as cruise formation, field carrier landing practice and synchronizing pattern procedures in real-time with students connected in VR to one another.

“The virtual reality sleds were particularly useful for Hellcat,” Jannsen said. “They provided a means to practice tactical formation and flight techniques prior to ever flying an actual event in the aircraft. When we got to the plane, we knew what to expect and could demonstrate a higher level of initial proficiency than without the use of those virtual reality sleds.”

For Ensign Gunnar Jongebloed, an SNA from Menlo Park, California, who previously graduated Project Avenger, found that Project Hellcat was a good complement to his previous training.

“Project Hellcat expected students to retain the skills we developed in Avenger, placing the emphasis on tactical formation flying,” Jongebloed said. “Hellcat events were flown with higher expectations of precision. The syllabus flow felt natural and the detachment mentality promotes higher rates of cooperation among students as well as more opportunities for instructor pilots to make learning interventions, those light switch moments when concepts finally click.

“Having additional T-6 flights granted me a feeling of proficiency in the aircraft and formation flying that eclipsed similar impressions I had towards the end of primary,” Jongebloed continued. “Throughout the program, students and instructor pilots shared a refreshing level of excitement for each event.”

This graduating class will continue to NATN’s advanced flight training syllabus called Project Corsair, an updated advanced strike T-45C Goshawk syllabus, with classes set to begin at TW-1 in Meridian, Mississippi, Mar. 1, and at TW-2 in Kingsville, Texas, Apr. 4.
Project Hellcat is named after the Grumman F6F Hellcat, a U.S. Navy carrier-based fighter plane during World War II.

CNATRA’s mission is to safely train the world’s finest combat quality naval aviation professionals, delivering them to our naval forces at the right time in the right quantity with the right skills at the right cost. Headquartered at NAS Corpus Christi, CNATRA comprises five training air wings in Florida, Mississippi, and Texas, which are home to 17 training squadrons. In addition, CNATRA oversees the Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron the Blue Angels and the training curriculum for all fleet replacement squadrons.

 

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