B-52: new training options for an old bomber detailed at I/ITSEC 2022
For an aeroplane that first flew in 1952, what can today’s training specialists offer to improve the way pilots are trained on the venerable B-52 Stratofortress? According to Maj Mark Budgeon AFRES, the answer is VR/XR.
Historically, pilots transitioning to the B-52 at the 93rd Bomb Squadron, an Air Force Reserve unit under the 307th Bomb Wing (BW) at Barksdale AFB, the B-52 Formal Training Unit (FTU) used conventional ground school, part-task trainers (PTT) and full mission simulators (FMS).
The unit is responsible for providing the USAF with its entire cohort of B-52 pilots, electronic warfare officers and weapon systems officers. This is, ‘a critical role in keeping the nuclear-capable jet a viable deterrent to potential adversaries,’ say the air force.
‘We assessed the two groups of students in the full mission simulator after the trials,’ said Budgeon. ‘Six had undertaken the conventional ground school, PTT, FMS and the other six had bypassed the PTT and used the virtual trainer.’
King Crow Studios' VRPT virtual trainer for the B-52 is delivering results for the 307th Bomb Wing. (Image: King Crow Studios)
Budgeon said that after assessing both groups that went through an evaluation in the FMS, ‘there were fewer errors in the VR group. We found that training using VR, with instructor guidance, definitely reduces the error rate.’
Asked as to whether there were problems in terms of students transitioning from the VR/XR environment in terms of haptic feedback in the FMS, Budgeon said: ‘Proprioception within the immersive environment leads to more effective training transfer to the task than the feel of a real switch.’
As to the future, the manufacturers of the device, Baton Rouge-based King Crow Studios, are hopeful of follow-on orders. Considering 307 BW's results, the new system is better than the legacy approach and saves money.
This adoption of low-cost VR or VR/XR platforms is yet another example of technology providing the military with different ways of achieving training goals.
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