Watch First of its kind Aircraft carrier flight deck simulator in action.
The US Navy’s Office of Naval Research has developed a virtual trainer that will allow aircraft carrier flight deck crews to prepare for the job without having to be on an actual carrier at sea.
The new technology is called Flight Deck Crew Refresher Training Expansion Packs (TEPs) and is an expandable framework of game-based immersive 3D technologies that allows for individual, team or multi-team training events. The video games first time allows flight controllers, supervisors, catapult crews, and watch stations to train together without the need for an actual ship.
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.
The first three TEPs will help a carrier’s Primary Flight Control team; the Landing Signal Officer (LSO) team; and the Catapult Launch Team.
“There are so many risks on the flight deck. 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,” said Cmdr. Mehdi Akacem, Air Boss aboard the Navy’s newest aircraft carrier, USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78).
“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.”
They say that there’s no substitute for experience, but there are some situations where simulations are extremely desirable. One example is the flight deck of a strike carrier with its hectic, seemingly chaotic rush of high-tech fighter aircraft and helicopters taking off and landing at all hours of the day and night.
If you’ve never seen an aircraft carrier in the middle of a full-on flight operation, there aren’t many things in the world that seem less coordinated. Like a small army of seagoing ants, sailors, marines, and air crews appear to be rushing about in a complete panic as aircraft worth hundreds of millions of dollars rocket off deck or come crashing to a jarring halt as they land – all without killing anyone on a regular basis.
It may seem like luck, but it’s actually the result of intense, detailed, and rigorous training where everyone knows their job so well that they can do them by pure reflex on the run under even the most difficult conditions. This level of finely-honed training is what sets the major naval air powers well apart from the second tiers, but such training is incredibly expensive and nearly as dangerous as actual combat.
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To cut costs and improve training, the ONR Global TechSolutions project in cooperation with the Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems Division (NAWCTSD) has created the Flight Deck Crew Refresher Training Expansion Packs (TEPs). These provide controllers and deck crews with the same kind of simulators that the pilots use for practicing carrier take offs and landings. This means more training hours without tying up an entire carrier.
The simulation uses screens and VR headsets as well as ship’s systems, computer-generated characters, and live players. These allow the system to not only simulate normal operations, but also a range of real-life emergency scenarios.