Virtual training for carrier flight deck crews (ONR/YouTube)

Virtual training for carrier flight deck crews

To keep aircraft carrier flight deck crews safe and up to speed on the latest technologies, the Office of Naval Research has developed a game-based, immersive 3D virtual environment for individuals or teams training to launch and land aircraft.

Previously, flight deck crews received refresher and readiness training in the classroom or on carriers already underway, which meant they were often not training with the equipment and teammates they would encounter on their own ships. The new prototype technology -- called Flight Deck Crew Refresher Training Expansion Packs -- will deliver cutting-edge training to up to 100 members of a carrier’s primary flight control team, the landing signal officer team and the catapult launch team.

The expansion packs use immersive technologies such as speech recognition, touchscreens, virtual reality, tactical simulated hardware and gesture recognition. Crews can train on both legacy and new aircraft launch and recovery equipment for a specific aircraft carrier.  The systems enable training for both normal operations and emergency conditions.

“There are so many risks on the flight deck. There are so many things that have to be second nature -- that have to be ingrained in every individual sailor that's operating on the flight deck," said Cmdr. Mehdi Akacem, Air Boss aboard the Navy’s newest aircraft carrier, USS Gerald R. Ford. "Having a simulator that allows us to tie the full flight deck team with all the key decision-makers, supervisors, catapult crew and watch stations together-- and train in a virtual environment -- is just fantastic,”

"The flight deck crew training expansion pack system is built to be an expandable framework of trainers that allow each team to be built and added on so there's no stovepipe training," Courntey McNamara, Advanced Gaming Interactive Learning Environment Team lead at the Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems Division, said in a video describing the technology.   

The system was developed through a collaborative effort between the Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems Division and ONR Global TechSolutions, a rapid-response science and technology program that develops prototypes that address problems voiced by fleet or force members, usually within 12 months , ONR officials said.

"This is the first simulator of this kind. We've never been able to integrate so many different aspects of the flight deck together and be able to do work-ups," said Lt. Cmdr. Kristin Acton, a former catapult officer. "Being able to send people periodically [for immersive training] before going out to sea is going to make us so much safer and get refreshed and actually be proficient and current before we actually launch real aircraft."

About the Author

Susan Miller is executive editor at GCN.

Over a career spent in tech media, Miller has worked in editorial, print production and online, starting on the copy desk at IDG’s ComputerWorld, moving to print production for Federal Computer Week and later helping launch websites and email newsletter delivery for FCW. After a turn at Virginia’s Center for Innovative Technology, where she worked to promote technology-based economic development, she rejoined what was to become 1105 Media in 2004, eventually managing content and production for all the company's government-focused websites. Miller shifted back to editorial in 2012, when she began working with GCN.

Miller has a BA from West Chester University and an MA in English from the University of Delaware.

Connect with Susan at smiller@gcn.com or @sjaymiller.

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