Augmented reality will revolutionize fighter pilot training

US Air Force aviators will soon train in the air against virtual enemies, generated by an augmented reality display in their visor. Called Airborne Tactical Augmented Reality System, this device will equip the T-38, before being implemented on the F-16.

How do fighter pilots train before their often very dangerous missions? Currently, there are two solutions. Either they practice in the sky on an authentic plane with training partners, which can be planes piloted by an AI, or they use a ground simulator with virtual enemies.

At Red 6, we decided to offer a mix of both solutions with the arrival of augmented reality with the Airborne Tactical Augmented Reality System (Atars). What is behind this name? Simply a helmet that allows you to see the real world, but also images embedded inside the visor.

Beyond putting enemies on radar, it’s mostly about allowing the pilot to see them. “Much of our work as combat pilots takes place beyond visual range, which is a distance at which aircraft sensors can see threats, but the pilot is not able to physically see them with his or her eyes,” recalls Daniel Robinson, a former F-22 Raptor pilot and founder of Red 6. “At about 10 nautical miles, a pilot is able to see a real aircraft outside of his or her aircraft. But if those opponents are virtual, and simulated only on radar, the pilot obviously has nothing to see ahead of him.”

The US Air Force has just signed a $70 million contract with this Florida-based startup. Red 6

Soon on the F-16

The solution is to use augmented reality in the pilot’s field of vision to allow him to see the outside world, but also images of virtual aircraft that are not really in the sky. These synthetic planes are piloted either by an artificial intelligence or by a real pilot on the ground.

Before considering equipping the mythical F-16, the first aircraft compatible with this system will be a T-38, used by the US Air Force and NASA, and the objective is not only to train against enemies, since it is also designed to intercept an aircraft, or carry out a refueling. And there are scenarios where the pilot has to combine several different missions, and augmented reality obviously helps to simplify his tasks, while avoiding additional costs.