F-35 maintenance team explores VR, AR for training needs
By Maj. Dacia Sexton, 412th Test Wing Hustle Squad Innovation Team
/ Published December 20, 2018
EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. --
Leveraging new technologies is at the heart of innovation. For one Airman, leveraging an interactive virtual, augmented reality capability at the F-35 Integrated Test Force could help operators conduct maintenance-related training and proficiency in the digital realm without diverting real-world assets from missions, increasing readiness for all.
The beauty of VR, said Tech. Sgt. Jeremy Neilson, is its ability to transform a high risk or potentially fatal situation into an immersive interactive experience in a safe environment. The opportunity to rehearse actions in a VR environment that simulates exposure to high risk situations can enhance an individual’s readiness to perform intuitive responses without risk of harm to personnel.
Neilson pitched this idea to the 412th Test Wing’s innovation team, XCITE, and it was selected for funding. His leadership as project manager for the effort resulted in his recognition as the 412th Test Wing Innovator of the Quarter for the first quarter of 2018.
“In the evolving dynamic of military operations, supplementing captured individual career experiences/lessons using virtual/augmented reality has vast potential to invest in tomorrow’s Airmen through experience-based training, not simply knowledge and inconsistent career exposure,” said Neilson. “The initial investment in augmented/virtual reality has reached a point technologically that potentially justifies long-term utility that will make current methods of training obsolete.”
Virtual and augmented reality training can be very cost effective. It can enable dislocated qualification sessions using schoolhouse instructors without sending members traveling. Reducing temporary duty time enhances the work/life balance for Airmen.
It also has the potential to simplify many training burdens. Initial and remedial training sessions can be accomplished and recorded within the device. Proficiency training can be elevated in realism and scope allowing for training on tasks that are conducted infrequently due to lack of available training aids. Readiness-related operations could be rehearsed and refined without subjecting members to austere conditions due to geographic constraints. Finally, VR environments can be varied for complexity, realism and even lethality to simulate operations in virtually any conditions.
One of the keys to advancing a culture of innovation across the wing is promoting a mindset that encourages the workforce to embrace new technologies that satisfy the Air Force’s emerging needs. The XCITE team works to support the innovation mindset across the spectrum.