Virtual reality has made headway in the Air Force as new innovative ways to train Airmen have been continuously highlighted in the media, but have you heard about augmented reality? Unlike VR that immerses the user into a technologically imagined world, AR users view their physical environment with artificial objects overlaying the scene. This can become a beneficial way to train pilots and get the full effects of flying in the process, which is exactly what the team at Red 6 has achieved with their Airborne Tactical Augmented Reality System (ATARS).
Maj. Scott Thorup, Air Combat Command Training Support Squadron Detachment 14 commander, and Capt. Garrett Gamble, 7th Operational Support Squadron current operations flight commander, alongside F-15E Strike Eagle pilots assigned to the 4th Fighter Wing, were able to experience ATARS in Santa Monica, California, April 13-14, 2021. Originally, ATARS was designed to assist in fighter pilot training to allow them to test their air to air combat capabilities in a ‘red airspace’ or enemy airspace, but the team has opened its capabilities to include air refueling. There is also potential to add more to the program as Red 6’s technology advances.
With many B-1 pilots needing to stay current in their trainings, ATARS could potentially become the solution to keep them mission ready. The headset’s system works outdoors and in high speed, dynamic environments that the B-1s operate in and will allow the pilots to ‘load in’ the refueling tanker for real-time training; all while the visor tracks the motions of the pilots’ heads and the position of the airframe to determine how the virtual tanker is viewed and its compared to the piloted aircraft.
Although ATARS is still in the works of developing its final product, the B-1 crews have high hopes for the technology and training the Air Force could potentially obtain from it and the possible thousands of dollars and man hours it could save. Red 6 has developed Airborne Tactical Augmented Reality System (ATARS) a revolutionary approach to Augmented Reality (AR) that now enables it to work outdoors and critically, in high speed, dynamic environments. This reduces the training burden on squadron personnel and aircraft, and allows finite resources to be focused on executing the mission at hand.