WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Missouri --
Stealthwerx, the innovation office at WAFB, is working with the 13th Bomb Squadron to update Virtual Reality technology to keep pilot training costs down, and flight time up.
“Stealthwerx is teaming up with other innovation cells within Air Force Global Strike Command and the greater Air Force to increase the communication flow of ideas throughout the enterprise,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Benjamin Kram, 509th Bomb Wing Innovations Director. “We experiment with new ideas. Airmen bring their own personal ideas that could help the Air Force and we come up with a way to try them out and see if they work.”
Currently, the realism of the VR program is highly accurate. However, there is always room for improvement.
“As of right now, our VR simulator is an 80% solution in terms of realism,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Alexander Hess, 13th Bomb Squadron T-38 Virtual Reality Simulator manager. “There is a gap between VR and the real jet, which will never match the experience of actually flying, but the gap is getting smaller as we make improvements to our equipment and software.”
With current VR technology, pilots are able to gain important exposure to the aircraft through the simulation to ensure they are ready and up-to-date with training before they even fly for the first time. Although there isn’t currently a dedicated training curriculum with the technology, the exposure pilot’s gain with it allows them to experience scenarios not possible to teach through traditional pilot training. The VR simulator also allows more versatility in scheduling than the larger B-2 Spirit stealth bomber simulator which is also located on base.
“Flying hours to new students are limited, but anyone wishing to get some extra practice on a particular maneuver or just wanting to get up-to-speed on their techniques can log unlimited hours on the VR sim,” said Hess. “The VR environment also allows pilots to make and learn from mistakes in a safe environment and at a low cost.”
New updates will keep the VR program more realistic and give it the ability to expand into other forms of training, such as dedicated aircraft maintenance scenarios.
“We’re currently working on training through our VR simulator to experiment with maintenance,” said Kram. “The program allows someone with no experience to get virtual, hands-on experience for certain maintenance projects after a few run-throughs in the program and build exposure so they’ll remember the steps in the future.”
VR offers an important and innovative way to train, while advancing the technology. Whiteman continues to promote innovation in technology, resilience and systems as the world advances while saving the Air Force millions of dollars over time.
“This technology is like getting our foot in the door. It really can be a way for people to get exposure to the technology and the opportunities it offers. It’s a great jumping off point to see where people want to take the technology,” said Kram. “Virtual reality has the ability to train and expose Airmen to scenarios in cheaper and safer ways, which can improve learning, keep costs lower and preserve the lifetime of aircraft and equipment overtime.”