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Ford Offers Flight Operations Training to Sailors in VR

Virtual reality (VR) technology is being utilised to offer operational training to sailors. Putting on the VR goggles, the sailors enter an immersive experience akin to being on another world. They step into the shoes of a sailor deployed onto an aircraft carrier. The VR footage shows them jets moving about, crew members exchanging signals, and the flashing of flight indicators. It is an experience that prepares them for forthcoming operations.

Lt. Brianne Law, who was helping a junior Sailor get through a flight deck VR simulation, said that currently, the experience offers a general overview of all on-deck events. The sights that can be seen include aircraft and retract signals being communicated by professionals on board.

Sailors operating under the USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) air department started using VR for flight deck operation simulations within the Carrier-Advanced Reconfigurable Training System (C-ARTS) venue at the Naval Station Norfolk. The VR trainer lets sailors exercise real-time flight operation procedures whilst a ship is at the pier. The C-ARTS classes have been offered since December 2018, at a time when the USS Gerald R. Ford was at Huntington Ingalls Industries-Newport News Shipbuilding in Virginia’s Newport News.

Law, who is a Naval Flight Officer onboard Ford remarked that some sailors have not had managed to gather any flight deck experience yet. She acknowledged that one of the perks of the VR system is the ability to perform demonstrations. Donning the VR goggles lets the Sailors observe the exact chain of events.

The USS Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier. Image source: Militarysimulation

An aircraft carrier’s flight deck is usually quite a busy setting especially whilst flight operations are underway, due to a lot of equipment and people moving around in a frenzy. Various factors are to be taken into account for such scenarios. The ability to demonstrate simulations of these circumstances within safe environments is quite advantageous to sailors.

Law said the simulation helps in clarifying what the responses suspended signals and flight deck problems invoke. She expressed that sailors can be guided through specific scenarios and particular courses of action within a safe, simulated environment. Sailors onboard Ford are bound to expand their operational knowledge base by partaking in the VR simulation. Formulating cost-effective training methods that can be sustained throughout the year is a key goal of C-ARTS training professionals.

Elaborating further on the subject, Law said that simulators do exist for the aviation industry. She said that the simulated features being incorporated within the training syllabus facilitates cost and time savings, and enables personnel to gain additional training. Law regarded that the move was a novel idea for carriers.

Sailors are appreciating the simulated VR training sessions and finding them instrumental in enhancing mission readiness in various ways. The hands-on training aspect is also setting the stage for fruitful discussions. Seaman Matt Costin, Aviation Boatswain Mate – Handling, an elevator operator working in the air department on Ford, said that the trainees were grouped together. He compared it to a meeting where they were becoming familiarised with the air department’s equipment. The trainers are available for offering VR, augmented reality (AR) and mixed reality (MR) training. Utilising C-ARTS helped Ford comply with flight operation training requirements.

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