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Air Force anticipates virtual reality trainer for B-52 pilots

July 14 (UPI) — The Air Force hopes to adopt a virtual reality trainer to help B-52 Stratofortress student-pilots train for combat.

The Virtual Reality Procedures Trainer, developed by Maj. Mark Budgeon of Air Force Global Strike Command, Maj. Brandon Wolf, 307th Operations Support Squadron, and Maj. Justin Stephenson, 11th Bomb Squadron chief pilot and chief of innovations, along with King Crow Studios, was released earlier in July at StrikeWerx in Bossier City, La.

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A prototype is expected later this year.

“Our adversaries are getting much better, much faster,” Budgeon said. “This system has the potential to revolutionize the entire training process and make our student graduates better.”

The VPRT is intended to reduce human bias in instruction, provide better access to training for student pilots and give students immediate feedback — reducing their chances of developing poor habits early in training.

It would also be accessible to students all the time, Wolf said, allowing more time for instruction and practice before getting in the cockpit.

“Its operating system is intuitive, so all we have to do is hand it to them and say ‘go’,” Budgeon said.

“We can do anything in this environment,” said Cody Louviere, King Crowe Studios’ founder. “We are here at the right time because technology is advancing exponentially.”

The military is increasingly embracing virtual reality as a training tool.

In June Marine Corps Times reported that the Marine Corps is looking to procure at least six virtual reality flight simulators to share with applicants at recruiting events to address a pilot shortage in the service.

And in January the Air Force announced that airmen at Dyess Air Force Base in Texas C-130J Super Hercules to learn and practice aircraft maintenance to circumvent the traditional process of requiring a C-130 for maintenance, which can take weeks.

“We request an aircraft to be down three days a week in order to train our students,” said Master Sgt. Nicholas Massingill, 19th Maintenance Group development and instructor section chief.. “When we do that, we are taking aircraft away from the mission. While VR will never replace hands-on training, it will help bring familiarization to the task, so the instructors can speed up the process when conducting hands-on training.”

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