BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. –
Modernization and innovation make the Air Force always ready, but modernizing takes time and money, while innovating requires new ideas. Air Force Global Strike Command B-2 Requirements division recently expedited this process, saving millions of dollars and six years of work by using AFWERX to apply already conceptualized innovative ideas to solve an existing problem.
In 2019 and 2020, AFWERX opened a U.S. Air Force Pilot Training and Development challenge to commercial investors and industries. Multiple companies submitted commercial solution proposals they believed would improve pilot training and development. One of the solutions submitted was the T-38 Mixed Reality Training Device.
“The T-38 MRTD was proposed as a ‘prototype project’ to get a needed capability to the pilots at Whiteman,” said Francisco Webb, Deputy Chief of B-2 Requirements. “We were able to use the CSP as the proposal to the government in our contract with them for the project.”
By using an already developed proposal for the simulator and a company ready to support it, the contract was easier to create. This allowed the entire project to be completed with a savings of $4 million and the simulator was fully operational in one year instead of the expected seven.
The simulator, located at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, gives pilots the opportunity to regularly train on emergency procedures so they are prepared for in-flight emergencies. It combines virtual reality goggles and reflectors on the pilot’s fingers that overhead sensors pick up to track movement while they are sitting in a model cockpit. When the pilot flips a switch, the jet in the virtual reality responds. There is also a tablet connected so an instructor pilot can inject one of 18 emergency scenarios at any time during the simulated flight.
“It makes them better at switch memory,” said Webb. “So it’s muscle memory and almost a second nature reaction versus having to struggle through handling an actual in flight emergency. It makes them faster, but it makes them more efficient and potentially it’s going to save lives. That’s the ultimate goal.”
“AFWERX, the Air Force Research Laboratory Technology Directorate and Air Force innovation arm, accelerates agile and affordable capability transitions by teaming innovative technology developers with Airmen and Guardian talent,” according to their website.
Airmen interested in accessing ongoing and previous AFWERX challenges can go to afwerxchallenge.com.