Virtual reality (VR) is now reshaping the training environment for Australia’s F-35, enabling improved aircraft familiarisation and task training for Air Force ground crews prior to the wide-spread roll out of the fifth-generation platform.
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KBRwyle has developed training programs for pilots and maintainers for the F-35 Program as part of the Northrop Grumman-managed global training and courseware development capability since 2005.
Since its inception, the courseware and training program included six organisations, of which KBRwyle was the only one outside the US. As the F-35 program has matured and the number of organisations providing these services has reduced, KBRwyle has continued to provide training and courseware services for the program.
"Leveraging over a decade’s experience developing F-35 courseware, for the international JSF community, KBRwyle has created virtual reality demonstrators for the platform. These include a ‘familiarisation’ component, that could be used for those working ‘around’ the F-35. It helps to understand scale, size and the features of the aircraft," Michael Hardy, general manager – modelling, simulation and training at KBRwyle, explained.
"A ‘virtual part-task trainer’ has also been developed to demonstrate how VR can be used to create a highly immersive training environment and experience. This is a fifth-generation training capability for a fifth-generation platform."
The virtual reality course ware is broken up into two unique aspects with specialised focuses supporting the long-term role of Air Force support crew, including:
F-35 aircraft familiarisation:
- Aircraft safety: Focuses on improving aircraft safety, enabling the user to move around the aircraft and interact with the various areas on the aircraft. The VR system also enables the user to familiarise themselves with the danger zones associated with the F-35 platform and obtain additional system information within the VR environment.
F-35 part task trainer:
- Standard - aircraft operation: Enables the user to work around the aircraft and directly interact with aircraft systems. Crew not proficient in system operation are stepped through the process and instructed through all the warnings, safety precautions and procedures required. For crew who are are proficient, the system access short cuts are provided through the interactive VR environment.
- Advanced - aircraft examination: Users can examine the aircraft, its individual systems, system operation and components using different menu functions and interactions within the VR environment. This is accomplished by modifying the VR environment. This allows detailed examination of the aircraft and its individual systems using rotation, slice, exploded views, cross sections and ghosting tools.
"The VR demonstrator, like the courseware, was developed in Australia by the Australian team at KBRwyle’s Canberra facility. This is also the Augmented and Virtual Reality Centre of Excellence for KBR, globally, across multiple sectors including defence, infrastructure and resources," Hardy said.
F-35 original equipment manufacturer (OEM) Lockheed Martin has also seen other aspects of KBRwyle's training capability through the development of the F-35 Maintainer Virtual Reality Demonstrator, which has been demonstrated to Lockheed Martin Rotary and Mission Systems in Orlando, Lockheed Martin Aerospace in Fort Worth and Lockheed Martin Australia in Canberra.
KBRwyle developed the VR prototype to support higher capacity training of F-35 support crew. The prototype was developed in less than a month using the company's Canberra-based technical team, demonstrating the depth of expertise in its Australian capability.
Hardy went further, saying, "The Australian KBRwyle team also runs the global Community of Practice for those VR technologies, drawing in experiences from across the world."
The global nature of the F-35 program has enabled KBR's training capability to help transform Australian industry through the global collaboration used to support the training program developed by KBRwyle. The company has been committed to the F-35 program since joining in 2005, and sent its staff to the US to attend the program’s familiarisation course in 2008 and again in 2015.
KBRwyle brought this knowledge back to Australia and has utilised it to further enhance its delivery to the F-35 program. This has also enabled KBRwyle to expand its training offerings for other ADF programs, including:
- Training design, development and delivery for acquisition and sustainment of the ARH Tiger helicopter;
- Development of the ARH Virtual Avionics Systems Trainer;
- Development of the MRH-90 Virtual Systems Trainer;
- Development of the Landing Helicopter Dock Ship Walk-Through Computer Model; and
- The development of LHD training and the ongoing delivery.
"KBRwyle creates virtual training systems for clients. Increasingly, those solutions include augmented and virtual realities. There is potential for the F-35 VR Demonstrator to become part of the Joint Program Office’s range of fifth-generation training products," said Hardy.