The U.S. Air Force is well on its way to developing the new generation of aircraft, fighters, drones, and unmanned aircraft systems. Army Futures Command has also prioritized a new fleet of helicopters with the Future Vertical Lift cross-functional team. As these new generation of aircraft emerge, how will military leaders address the gap in preparing warfighters and pilots to fully utilize these tools?
During the 5th Annual Military Flight Training conference, hosted by IQPC and the Institute for Defense and Government Advancement (IDGA), stakeholders across the military and flight training community will come together to discuss advances in pilot training, and the latest trends and issues facing the industry.
The Modern Battlespace’s sister publication, Modern Military Training, recently sat down with the event’s program director, Jonathan Sanders of IQPC, to get a preview of the event and why the flight training community should attend. Read the full discussion below:
Editors: Tell us about the theme for this year’s Military Flight Training Conference.
Jonathan Sanders (JS): Two of the key themes I’ve identified and placed throughout the agenda are that of innovation and operational readiness. These two themes go hand-in-hand, and we have senior leaders highlighting the ongoing efforts of their command, across multiple services, as to how they can become more innovative in their training and education practices.
Whether it be the integration of next-generation technology, or a means to better foster collaboration, our speakers will detail their findings over the past year and share what direction they plan to move forward for future generations. Operational readiness also plays a massive part in our agenda, as it is imperative to be able to operate at the point of need, when the time is called, every time.
Editors: Which sessions are you most looking forward to at this year’s conference and why?
JS: I am most excited to attend the innovation panel, led by four Airmen, three of whom have the direct role to foster innovation across their commands. It will be eye-opening to learn about how some of the largest education and training arms of the Air Force are approaching innovation to include the ongoing efforts of the Pilot Training Next Program.
Editors: What are some of the current challenges that face the world of flight training and how is industry working to mitigate those challenges?
JS: One of the greatest challenges facing the flight training community is that of offloading: what happens when a pilot becomes so skilled on their simulator/non-live training tool, that it no longer offers a training benefit? This becomes even more difficult as live training hours are incredibly costly, so the non-live training piece for flight training ongoing education and training is the perfect fit for those that haven’t surpassed the system. Industry frequently collaborates with the services in order to increase the development of usable skills in non-live training opportunities, in order to reduce offloading.
Editors: Which technologies do you think are most impactful with regards to pilot training today?
JS: I feel that the headset and goggle simulation technology provides the greatest link to next-generation development for future pilots. In my research calls, those leading the training of Airmen expressed that headset and goggle AR/VR training tools make the experience of learning comparable to that of a video game. Oddly enough, the students tend to reach for these training tools more, as it offers a more immersive, gaming-driven learning experience.
Editors: How do you see flight training evolving over the next decade or so?
JS: I don’t think that we will ever completely be rid of live training hours; it’s too important to operate in the vehicle that will, in turn, be flown for operational mission sets. However, I do believe fully that simulation technology, particularly AR/VR solutions, will play a much larger role in the ongoing education and training of pilots for future air domain dominance.