LAUGHLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Texas --
Inside the network communications building of the 47th Communications Squadron at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas, all sorts of technical projects and doodads are either being created for the first time or fixed to working order.
Parked in the corner of one of their work centers, however, lies a virtual reality headset and a single computer molded into the barebones frame of a cockpit. It’s the product of the work of Senior Airman Brian Bernardoni and Airman Zachery Simpson, two client systems technicians at the 47th CS, and they believe it’s the future of aircraft simulation for Laughlin’s specialized undergraduate pilot training program.
“We originally went TDY (temporary duty) to Randolph Air Force Base to get training and to learn how to use this new system,” Bernardoni said. “Once we came back, we coordinated with the 47th Operations Group to start up the program, and we’ve been working on it ever since.”
The new virtual reality system builds off a new, proprietary platform, and is being billeted as an overall upgrade to many solutions on the market, including Laughlin’s own simulators currently in use.
“These new machines are a lot cheaper, and they are significantly faster to startup and maintain,” Simpson said. “The learning curve for these new machines starts slower, but more people can utilize them, and they can really enhance our training capabilities.”
To help Laughlin’s future warfighters train more effectively the new systems are also connected over a local network. Together, student pilots can train in dogfights and formation flights together, and they also allow for one instructor pilot to teach multiple student pilots at the same time.
“Pilots can get experience flying with each other early on, as compared to flying together for the first time when they’re in the actual aircraft,” Simpson said.
The 47th OG currently has 12 of the new units operational, with a goal of having approximately 60 set up soon. This new VR system and its enhanced capabilities coincides with the increase in student pilots entering the 47th Flying Training Wing’s pilot training mission.
“Laughlin is going to save a lot of money and train a whole lot of pilots,” Bernardoni said. “We’re really excited to see where this platform goes.”