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Leonardo explores 6th-generation combat aircraft simulation at I/ITSEC 2022

8th December 2022 - 11:00 GMT | by Norbert Neumann in London

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Leonardo has created an advanced environment based on a combination of physical systems and immersive synthetic reality. (Photo: Leonardo)

Leonardo is developing the Smart Chair system in its Battle Lab that allows for advanced pilot training for multi-domain scenarios and can potentially 'replicate a sixth-generation fighter jet cockpit'.

Leonardo introduced its Smart Chair simulation-based pilot training technology at I/ITSEC 2022 in Orlando.

A Leonardo spokesperson told Shephard the company’s M-346 jet training system continues to move ahead and that the new Smart Chair is capable of ‘reproducing a possible cockpit for a sixth-generation fighter, in which the only physical elements are the stick and the throttle'.

Everything else appears in a virtual and augmented reality, the spokesperson said. ‘The pilot interacts with an interface in which conventional screens and buttons disappear, only to reappear in an immersive reality projected directly into the helmet,’ he added.

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The system allows for advanced pilot training for multi-domain scenarios. Leonardo claims the Smart Chair can emulate human-machine interfaces of the latest and even next-generation frontline aircraft. The system has built-in AI, eye tracking and a virtual instructor.

Leonardo said the Smart Chair is currently in its Battle Lab where the company is experimenting with it and other FCAS capabilities. (Video: Leonardo) 

‘Commands are given by simply moving the eyes – thanks to sophisticated tracking algorithms – or pressing virtual buttons and interacting with virtual touchscreen displays,’ the Leonardo representative said.

‘This system has a simple, intuitive layout, reducing the pilot’s workload to make it easier to handle the mission and direct all the components of the FCAS [Future Combat Air System], beginning with the adjuncts/wingmen that will accompany the sixth-generation fighter.’

All these components are transferred to a Prototyping Pilot Station based on a powered mock-up of the M-346 jet trainer.

Shephard Defence Analyst Giovanni Rasio said according to an Italian Air Force pilot: 'Although the M-346 was developed with fourth-generation aircraft training requirements in mind, it can serve as an excellent platform for fifth- and sixth-generation aicraft training.' 

Leonardo said the Smart Chair is currently in its Battle Lab where the company is experimenting with it alongside other FCAS capabilities which are ‘destined to radically change the way to handle controls on a fighter plane.’

Leonardo joined the UK’s FCAS/Tempest programme in 2018 to develop a sixth-generation air capability. (Photo: UK MoD/Crown Copyright)

To do this, Leonardo has created an advanced environment based on a combination of physical systems and immersive synthetic reality in which to validate new operative concepts well before a demonstrator or a flying prototype becomes available.

Leonardo joined the UK’s FCAS/Tempest programme in 2018 to develop a sixth-generation air capability to operate from 2035 onwards. We also know that BAE Systems is exploring avenues to create a switchless cockpit for the next-generation fighter.

The programme is, however, in such early stages that assessing training requirements to a reliable extent is challenging at this point.

It is also important to mention that Leonardo is responsible for the operation of International Flight Training School in Decimoammu, Sardinia, which is based on the M-346, Rasio said.

He added: 'Japan is about to become a TIER I partner of the programme, and synergies may arise in training procedures as well, given that Japanese pilots are already being trained in Sardinia.'

Currently, CAE is the preferred simulation provider for the M-346 advanced jet trainer and is developing a range of systems for customers who have selected this aircraft.

The company has designed and manufactured an M-346 full-mission simulator and an M-346 part-task trainer as part of the M-346 Ground-Based Training System (GBTS) for the Italian Air Force.

CAE is also a partner in the IFTS initiative through a Joint Venture with Leonardo.

Shephard's I/ITSEC 2022 coverage is sponsored by:

Norbert Neumann

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Norbert Neumann


Norbert is the Military Training & Simulation reporter at Shephard Media. Before joining Shephard in …

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