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B-1 FTU Becomes Test Squadron for Sim Program Office’s Automated Virtual Instructor

  • Published
  • By Maj Anthony Bunker
  • 7th Bomb Wing

There is an explosion of Virtual, Augmented, and Mixed Reality training systems being applied to aviator training. These systems are seeing tremendous success in providing experiential training as an alternative to computer or presentation based training. Through these new virtual experiences, aviators are able to master the information quicker and develop a muscle memory baseline that was not possible with passive, lecture based academics.

Dyess Air Force Base recently hosted Information Systems Laboratory as a close out to a 15 month Radio Frequency View Weapon Systems Officer trainer. The project close out represents the end of the proof-of-concept stage and opens the formal development stage. During the visit, the ISL demonstrated the value of the system to active B-1 instructor WSOs in the 7th Bomb Wing.

This prototype project was sponsored by the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center’s Simulators Division, Agile Combat Support Directorate. The Simulators Division awarded ISL a Small Business Innovative Research Phase II contract at part of the first annual Pitch Day in November 2019. ISL was attacking a problem statement sponsored by a B-1 Formal Training Unit team led by instructor Maj David Galluzzo. The team sought to prevent a problem of FTU production being limited by instructor availability. The project tested the ability of a virtual automated training system to integrate with flight software and provide realistic virtual WSO bomb run training.

Instructors spend a significant amount of time instructing the extreme basics of B-1 systems operations. As training technology advances, automated training systems can provide students step-by-step training at their own pace. Just like a video game, the system’s instruction level can be designed to range from tutorial level training through complex evaluations.

During this first stage of development, the ISL demonstrated the ability to create a high fidelity radar trainer within commercial flight training software. The system allows a WSO to manipulate the Cursor Controller and Tactical Display in order to conduct a radar targeted bomb run. This prototype has already created radar imagery that far exceeds the fidelity of any existing system. In addition to the intended capability for new trainees, the prototype has created a system for returning aircrew to build muscle memory with the recently modernized aircraft interface system.

The B-1 was the last bomber designed with a Weapons System Officer. Follow-on bombers will, in some capacity, transfer these responsibilities to pilots. Undergraduate pilots do not receive the level of radar, targeting pod, or defensive suite training as undergraduate WSOs. This system can be used to provide follow-on training for pilots in their weapons systems training. The modular design of the ISL application will readily transfer to future bomber pilot training.

Based on the success of the SBIR Phase II prototype, Simulators Division has awarded ISL a three year follow-on SBIR Phase III multi-million dollar contract. The first year will further develop WSO offensive training and the second year will expand to WSO defensive training. The third year will be used for support and also for enhancements.

The training system will target the basic mechanics of WSO training, freeing up time on the full motion simulator for other advanced training. By dividing training tasks to systems suitable for each task, training costs and schedules can be optimized, producing proficient crew members more efficiently.