US Air Force B-1B Lancer Pilots Test Airborne Tactical Augmented Reality System (ATARS) in Air
US Air Force B-1B Lancer Pilots Test Airborne Tactical Augmented Reality System (ATARS) in Air

US Air Force B-1B Lancer Pilots Test Airborne Tactical Augmented Reality System (ATARS) in Air


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).

Glenn Snyder, Red 6 hardware developer, center, describes the hardware used for their augmented reality headsets in Santa Monica, Calif., April 13, 2021. Unlike the normal simulators or utilizing virtual reality, the 7th Bomb Wing is looking to train its pilots with new augmented reality technology. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Mercedes Porter)

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.

Glenn Snyder, Red 6 hardware developer, right, explains the inner workings of the Berkut’s cockpit to U.S. Air Force personnel in Santa Monica, Calif., April 13, 2021. Before taking off, the pilot crews were are able to view the hardware needed to utilize the augmented reality headsets. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Mercedes Porter)

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.

U.S. Air Force Capt. Garrett Gamble, 7th Operational Support Squadron current operations flight commander, climbs into a Berkut at Santa Monica, Calif., April 14, 2021. The Airborne Tactical Augmented Reality System works outdoors and in high speed, dynamic environments that the B-1B Lancers operate in and will allow the pilots to ‘load in’ the refueling tanker for real-time training. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Mercedes Porter)

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.

A Berkut takes off from the runway in Santa Monica, Calif., April 14, 2021. During the flight, pilots testing the Airborne Tactical Augmented Reality System were able to view virtual artificial intelligent aircraft in order to provide feedback to the Red 6 team. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Mercedes Porter)