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Nightfox Virtual Terrain Image Generation System for RNZAF

FEATURES: Line of Defence, April 2016

AMST Nightfox Virtual Terrain System simulation. Image courtesy AMST.AMST Nightfox Virtual Terrain System simulation. Image courtesy AMST.


Aircraft pilot systems training company AMST was recently awarded a contract to provide the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) with a training solution for night operations for its helicopter and transport aircrews. The combined tender by AMST and the Austrian manufacturers Nightfox Virtual Terrain Image Generation System (VTIGs) that engaged local support and know-how, answered the requirements of NZDF.

Established in 1943 as an aluminum production company, AMST has been in engineering and aerospace since 1978. Following privatisation in 1996, it has specialised in the field of aero-medical training equipment, civil applications, sports training facilities and engineering.

The Royal New Zealand Airforce (RNZAF) required a training solution for night operations using Night Vision Goggles (NVGs) for its helicopter and transport aircrews. Traditionally, such training is conducted via classroom lectures, which provided limited capability to demonstrate the performance of in-service NVGs. 

The RNZAF required a system that would provide a cost effective training solution possessing both flexibility and upgradability.  According to AMST’s Rainer Schluesselberger, “the system had to be multi-faceted in that it could be used for a broad spectrum of night operations”.


AMST Nightfox Virtual Terrain System terrain simulation. Image courtesy of AMST.AMST Nightfox Virtual Terrain System terrain simulation. Image courtesy of AMST.


Nightfox Virtual Terrain System

AMST’s existing global customer base were used to typical didactic teaching methods using aeromedical based lectures and static terrain models. Coupled with the Airfox Spatial Disorientation (SD) simulator, this had provided a ‘high-end’ solution for both Spatial Disorientation and NVG training, but the NZDF requirements called for a somewhat more dynamic solution: an NVG training system.

The AMST Nightfox Virtual Terrain System had been evolving for many years and this innovative, interactive training system had already attracted great interest from Air Forces in Europe.  The system proposed to the NZDF, stated Mr Schluesselberger, “was an extension to the existing system whereby the requirement had to include land-sea interfaces, mountainous terrain and barren areas of terrain”.

“The system’s features largely satisfied the requirements in terms of the New Zealand terrain, and software and database modifications were made to satisfy the Naval requirement for littoral zone and sea operations including ships and life rafts. The system is truly dynamic with movement across the terrain using a specifically developed image generator and database that covers a range of terrains from desert to mountains and large urban areas with associated street lights and building structures.

“Putting these features into perspective meant that the student could see a dynamically changing night scene at different speeds, thus catering for the speed differences between helicopters and C-130 transport aircraft. The additional features included total control of weather factors, such as different cloud densities, fog, precipitation, and total control of light levels to 2 millux (starlight conditions).”

The Night Fox’s full range of environment controls include full control of the visible and near infrared (IR) part of the electro magnetic spectrum (400nm to 850nm), control of the lunar cycle (shadowing relative to sun and moon position), weather effects – fog and visibility, ambient and cultural lighting, selective reduction in airfield lighting, weapon effects, IR lighting for covert operations, cloud density, moving vehicles, and air traffic.

Nightfox’s competitive edge

According to Mr Schluesselberger, the winning factor in AMST’s solution is “innovation and flexibility”.  It’s a claim that’s unsurprising given AMST’s average annual investment of about eight per cent of its annual revenue in research and development. The solution’s big draw card is that it is part of an integrated and readily upgradable package.

“The AMST solution is unique in that the system offered is not just a stand-alone system that is specific to NVG operations. The Nightfox family has several components of which the Nightfox VTIGs is the central component.

“The VTIGs system is remotely monitored and upgrades can be performed remotely via a modem direct to the system.  This provides an excellent interface for mission and route generations.  Additionally, the capabilities of the development team provided a convincing argument for future-proofing the system.”

 The evolved AMST Nightfox Virtual Terrain System. Image courtesy of AMST.The evolved AMST Nightfox Virtual Terrain System. Image courtesy of AMST.


Engaging with New Zealand

While AMST’s solution itself no doubt impressed, another key to its competitive edge were its local partners in New Zealand. Although its night vision training solutions were well known in Australia, India and parts of Asia, AMST had not previously supplied products or services to the NZDF.

“Strategic Sourcing Consultancy provided AMST with a link to understand the business processes involved in Government Procurement specific to New Zealand,” said Mr Schluesselberger. 

Distance was also a factor in that negotiations had to be conducted with significant time differences, along with a relatively short request for proposal process. “Additionally, through life support and local maintenance contracts had to be in place,” he said.  “I would say that Strategic Sourcing Consultancy was a significant factor to this success.”

Bernie Diver of Strategic Sourcing Consultancy said its role was to assist AMST to understand the Defence procurement process and provide advice to ensure their proposal met NZDF expectations. “The defining factor for the success of the AMST solution was that it was a next generation solution.

Strategic Sourcing Consultancy introduced AMST to engineering consultancy company BECA, which already provided a significant amount of simulation support to the RNZAF. “The concept was to combine the international original equipment manufacturer with local support capability to provide a comprehensive solution for the NZDF,” stated Mr Diver.

Having provided engineering and related consultancy services in New Zealand since 1918, BECA was a natural choice, with its many accolades including the 2012 New Zealand Minister of Defence Award of Excellence to Industry for their outstanding commitment to Defence.

“During the installation and for local support AMST teamed up with BECA, who supported the installation and start-up and was trained to support the customer in case of technical issues. The team at BECA was very competent, ensuring optimal customer support and a very short reaction time,” said Mr Schluesselberger.

AMST specialise in military and civil aircraft pilot training systems, including training and simulation products, integrated logistic support, human factors training and training support, and infrastructure and turn key solutions. For more information about their solutions, visit

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