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History

 

In today's world of acquisitions and consolidations, organizational history can become blurred and sometimes forgotten. At L-3 Link Simulation & Training division, however, we point with pride to a heritage that dates back to several successful organizations that in recent years have been merged into one of the world's foremost training and simulation companies. The Link name has been associated with training excellence for 80 years.

Click on the Timeline Image to left to view historical milestones and below are a few of the historical highlights of the beginning of flight simulation and the Link organization.


 

  • Aviation's Early Days and a Man Named Ed Link

    During the early part of the 20th century, modern aviation history was launched. The Wright brothers began at Kitty Hawk in 1903 and daredevil pilots in silk scarves and goggles followed, setting records for duration, speed and distance in frail biplanes made of wood and canvas.

    Ed Link was just a boy in those early days of aviation when the new and expanding technology captured his imagination. Years later this fascination would challenge his mechanical skills and eventually establish his place in aviation history.

    Ed, who as he grew older started to demonstrate an aptitude for science and mechanics, ended his formal schooling in 1927 and went to work in the family's piano and organ factory. He built pianos and tuned organs, a job that required a thorough knowledge and handling of the pumps, valves and bellows which directed the air power within these popular musical instruments of the day.

    Ed's passion, however, was his consuming interest in aviation. All his spare time and money went towards learning how to fly. But he could not afford the prohibitive costs of plane rental, fuel and lessons.

    To compensate for his lack of actual flying time, Ed would taxi a friend's plane along the Endicott, New York and Cortland, New York airport runways, learning the movements of hands and feet until they became automatic, the feel of the wings and the capabilities of the rudder.

    But Ed felt that there had to be a better solution to learn how to fly and at the age of 24 embarked on a project that would change the course of aviation. Ed began to work on building the first pilot trainer, a project that would usher in the multi-billion dollar industry of simulation.

  • The Dawn of Flight Training


     It took a year and a half for Ed to complete construction of his pilot trainer. Finally, in the early part of 1929 the trainer was ready.

    The pilot trainer resembled a toy airplane from the outside, with short wooden wings and fuselage mounted on a universal joint. Organ bellows from the Link factory, driven by an electric pump, made the trainer pitch and roll as the pilot worked the controls.

    The cockpit was equipped with standard aircraft controls and later modifications introduced radio aids and gauges to tell the pilot if he was flying level.

    During the 1930s, Ed chose to open the Link Flying School with his brother. They operated the flying school after-hours in the family plant, offering individuals a guaranteed "learn to fly" flat charge of $85. The school did well until the full force of the Depression made flying lessons an extra most people did without.

    Ed's big break, however, was soon to come.

  • Mail Call

    Ed's breakthrough in demonstrating his pilot trainer finally came when the government contracted with the Army Air Corps to start carrying the U.S. mail. This experiment unfortunately would soon meet with disaster, primarily because Army Air Corps pilots had been trained to fly by watching the ground.

    During their first week of mail service Army Air Corps pilots experienced extremely hazardous weather. Tragically, nearly a dozen pilots were killed due to the bad weather they encountered. This tragedy prompted the Army Air Corps to take a closer look at Link's invention that trained pilots to fly by instruments.

    On a foggy, misty day in 1934, a group of Army officers awaited Ed's arrival in Newark, New Jersey. Ed was flying in from Binghamton, New York. The officers, convinced that he couldn't make it in such soupy weather, were about to leave. Just as they were about to leave they could hear the sound of an approaching airplane. Within a minute's time an aircraft circled the field and touched down on the runway. It was Ed Link...he had flown in on instruments and demonstrated that effective flight was possible even during adverse weather conditions.

    The military officials were sold on the promise training to fly by instruments could offer and, shortly thereafter, the Army Air Corps ordered six of his trainers for $3,500 a piece. By the time the order was completed other orders started coming in and Link Aviation Devices, Inc. was formed to meet the increased trainer production demand.

    The company expanded rapidly, in spite of some facility setbacks in the mid 1930s, and during World War II the ANT-18 Basic Instrument Trainer, known to tens of thousands of fledging pilots as the Blue Box, was standard equipment at every air training school in the United States and Allied nations. In fact, during the war years Link produced over 10,000 Blue Boxes, turning one out every 45 minutes.

    It's from this auspicious beginning that Link launched a company that over the next several decades would come to dominate the military training and simulation industry.

  • Diversifying by Acquiring

    Diversification. Practically no other subject was as much a topic of discussion inside the board rooms of the nation's major defense-related companies during the latter half of 1980s and into the next decade.

    1988 was a time of change for the Link Flight Simulation Division, which was a part of the Singer Company. By the end of the year the organization had been acquired by CAE Electronics and renamed CAE-Link.

     The CAE-Link organization could trace its heritage back nearly 60 years and point to recent achievements including building the first AH-64 combat mission simulator, F-117A stealth fighter simulator and operating the C-130 Aircrew Training System.

    At the same time, Hughes Aircraft Company's senior management was beginning to take a look at growing the defense electronics company by expanding into new markets. A new strategy that focused on acquiring key defense contractors became a strategy that the company would exercise when the timing was right.

    The timing was right in May 1988 when Hughes Aircraft Company acquired Rediffusion Simulation Ltd., which included U.S.-based Rediffusion Simulation Incorporated, from BET for $283 million. Through this move, which represented more money than Hughes Aircraft Company had spent on all of its previous acquisitions combined since the 1930s, the diversified electronics company immediately became a major player in the training and simulation market.

    Prior to the acquisition, Hughes Aircraft Company had designed and developed advanced training equipment, including F/A-18 weapons tactics trainers and F-14 mission trainers for the U.S. Navy. But, in the scope of things, up until the acquisition Hughes Aircraft Company had been considered a niche player in the training and simulation market.

    In regard to the acquisition, Hughes Aircraft Company's Chairman and CEO Albert Wheelon was quoted as saying, "Hughes expects that simulators will be used increasingly by military customers to train pilots and operators as defense budgets flatten out." He went on to say that the "military simulator market will materially strengthen both organizations and make Hughes a major factor in the training field."

    Wheelon's optimistic view was based on the fact that Rediffusion Simulation already had a strong share of the world's military training and simulation market. But Hughes Aircraft Company wanted an even larger share of the market.

    To achieve this goal, the company chose to grow its training and simulation business by making yet another major acquisition as 1988 came to a close.

    This time Hughes Aircraft Company acquired Honeywell Inc.'s Training and Control Systems Division, one of the country's leading providers of electronic simulation-based military training systems. The Honeywell organization was an industry leader in the supply of maintenance trainers, operator trainers and flight simulators to the military in addition to other types of training systems to major U.S. aerospace companies.

    This new training and simulation powerhouse met with immediate success, capturing programs such as the U.S. Air Force's C-141 Aircrew Training System, UPS's DC-8 flight simulator, and winning visual system programs for NATO's E-3A AWACS flight simulator and U.S. Navy's S-3B weapons systems trainer.

  • A Time of Transition

    To better position itself to capture greater market share and maximize organizational synergies, Hughes Aircraft Company had to consolidate its training resources and announced in January 1991 that Hughes Training would represent its newly consolidated training operations. Unaffected by the restructuring was Hughes Aircraft Company's Rediffusion Simulation subsidiary in Crawley, England.

    The organizational move produced immediate results, with Hughes Training capturing the U.S. Navy's UH-1N, CH-46, CH-53, and Landing Craft Air Cushion simulator programs.

    In 1992, Hughes Training also chose to establish its headquarters in Arlington, Texas to centralize technical, marketing and senior management personnel.

    A shift in the training industry's military marketplace also began to occur, as the services began to re-evaluate what they wanted in a flight trainer. It was becoming evident that advances in computing technology were soon going to allow for development of low-cost, high fidelity trainers.

    The U.S. Combat Air Forces chose to head in this direction and in 1993 awarded Hughes Training a contract for the Unit Training Device (UTD) program. Tasked with developing these low-cost, high-fidelity simulators to train the nation's Combat Air Forces F-16 fighter pilots, Hughes Training worked closely with F-16 pilots to design a device that met their expectations and requirements.

    The F-16 UTD program grew substantially throughout the decade and resulted in delivery of 65 training devices to various bases supporting the Combat Air Forces.

  • Two Powerhouses Join Forces

    Hughes Training's considerable presence within the worldwide training and simulation market was bolstered even further when Hughes Electronics Corporation purchased CAE-Link from CAE Ltd. for $155 million in July, 1995. Although having long retired, CAE-Link remained Ed Link's company in spirit and innovation.

    Which is why when the acquisition was announced, Hughes Training was merged with a Link organization that could claim:

    a long history as a provider of F-16 simulators to militaries worldwide, a position as the sole provider of F-117A and B-2 aircrew training devices, world leadership in military aircrew training systems programs, and an emerging presence within interactive distance learning. Hughes Training would continue winning significant business in the next few years, including the Air Force's F-22 pilot and maintenance training programs, the Army's Fire Support Combined Arms Tactical Trainer (FSCATT) program and a number of options and modifications to fielded flight simulation systems.

    Another major change, however, was soon to be on the horizon.

  • The Raytheon Era

    In an aggressive move to become one of the world's largest defense contractors, Raytheon Company concluded a series of major acquisitions by acquiring Hughes Aircraft Company's defense electronics operation in January 1998.

    Raytheon's simulation and training services businesses continued to prosper over the next two years, garnering major domestic and international programs. The U.S. Army's Aviation Combined Arms Tactical Trainer program, Eighth U.S. Army helicopter simulator upgrade program, T-45 flight simulator production option, FSCATT artillery training system production option, and E-3 training and simulation services program were among key wins that added to business backlog.

    As the new millennium emerged, however, one more organizational change was about to take place.

     

  • The New Link

    In an effort to expand its defense product base horizontally, L-3 Communications struck a deal with Raytheon Company in February 2000 to acquire its flight simulation and training services businesses.

    Recognizing that "simulation and training continues to be a growing market," L-3 Communications Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Frank Lanza added that simulation "technology is proven to provide cost-effective operational readiness at a time when high technology weapons systems delivered by stealth aircraft, helicopters, artillery and armored vehicles are becoming increasingly more sophisticated and complicated to operate."

    Today L-3 Communications' Link Simulation & Training division is the world leader in military flight simulation. Under the L-3 banner, Link has won major programs including the U.S. Army's Flight School XXI, Canadian Air Forces' F/A-18 Advanced Distributed Combat Training System, U.S. Navy's F/A-18C Distributed Mission Training system, and U.S. Air Force's F-16 Aircrew Training Device program.

    Advanced visual, display and networked training solutions developed at Link have positioned the company to meet our military customers' growing demands for highly realistic, cost-effective training that will improve individual, team or task force performance.

    The Link name continues to be associated with the latest innovations in flight simulation as we enter our 80th year of business. At Link we remain vigilant in developing simulation and support solutions that enable military forces to train as they will fight.