Virtual reality

RAF invest £53m in VR helicopter simulator

RAF investment

In an unprecedented move, the Ministry of Defense (MOD) of the UK has invested 53 million pounds in Virtual Reality simulation for helicopter training for its pilots. The decision and subsequent investment is a step forward in training pilots for future warfare using state- of- the- art equipment. The 53 million pound contract signed with Lockheed Martin UK gives the Royal Air Force (RAF) and the Royal Navy access to Chinook M6 training which also includes the use of flight simulators to train the pilots to fly in adverse conditions. These simulators will be placed in military bases at Somerset and Hampshire and will help create realistic representations of the environments the pilots will be operating in.

The use of VR software ‌in military training is not unheard of. However, a large-scale investment like this cements the fact that virtual reality is the way of the future. The installation of the simulator devices might be considered a financial burden by some but it is an effective investment by the MOD. With one of the most sophisticated fleets of helicopters at their disposal, it is essential that the pilots are well trained without any risk to life or property. The VR simulators are supposed to be uncannily accurate representations of the equipment that the pilots are supposed to handle and all sorts of weather and flight conditions can be simulated through the use of VR which will only enhance the competency of the pilots. These VR flight simulators also ensure the safety of the pilots while allowing them to repeatedly practice their flight maneuvers in a controlled environment. These simulators are tuned to represent actual flying conditions in a wide range of training scenarios and although they can never replace actual flying hours, they provide a secure training environment.

The various emergency conditions include fuel management issues, electronic failure, the impact of shrapnel and gunfire and adverse weather conditions like extreme winds, thunderstorms and extreme cold which results in icing. Prior to VR flight simulation, the procedure for dealing with these issues was completely theoretical. In emergency situations and while under enemy fire, it is difficult to stick to the protocol without experience. The idea behind this huge investment is to train soldiers and pilots for high adrenalin situations like these.

This 53 million pound investment will also help create jobs in the sites where the simulators will be placed. It is expected that about 70 jobs will be supported by the installation of the simulators. The deal gives the MOD access to six dynamic mission simulators built by the CAE. These simulators are for the Chinook, Merlin and Puma helicopters. The MOD hopes to upgrade its fleet of helicopters within the decade and this is the first step towards creating a more advanced and sophisticated Air Force.

Synthetic training through the use of simulators can be quite effective if done under the supervision of experts and the MOD is trying to inculcate it in its training process. This RAF investment of 53 million pounds is taking modern warfare to a whole new level.

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