Virtual and Augmented Reality Enables Convergence of Operational and Training for Warfighter Readiness


Recently at vIITSEC, industry leaders came together with military leaders to discuss the future of training on the multi-domain battlefield. With a focus on the “Future is Now,” the industry has seen a convergence of operational and training realms, which in turn has impacted the technology solutions focused on warfighter readiness.

“We’ve moved away from shiny point products and are focusing on the powerful technologies under the hood like analytics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning that enable warfighters to train as they fight,” according to Harry Buhl, Senior Program Manager for Global Training and Logistics, at Raytheon Intelligence and Space.

This new data-intense environment can take a toll on the warfighter. “There are a lot of distractions, and there are few critical data points that the soldier needs to accomplish the mission,” Buhl explained. The warfighter needs to filter to the critical data, understand it, and make decisions faster than the threat forces. To effectively do this, the training environment needs to incorporate realistic elements in a synthetic training environment.

“Leveraging the operational capabilities of all those under-the-hood technologies can train the soldiers and the unit in that data-rich, data-intense environment so that they learn to make rapid decisions in an operational setting,” Buhl explained.

To support the U.S. Army’s vision for a Synthetic Training Environment where soldiers can train together from anywhere in the world, Raytheon developed a training prototype. The Synthetic Training Environment Soldier Virtual Training (STE SVT) leverages virtual reality in a portable solution to train squads of soldiers across multiple scenarios using real and virtual weapons. It is focused on three main areas including joint fire training, weapon skills development, and use of force training.

Peter Bellows, Associate Director, Mission Systems Advance Technology at Collins Aerospace, has been focused on leveraging virtual and mixed reality for cloud-delivered simulated soldier training. In a recent conversation with us, he said, “Augmented reality displays are key to enabling training in environments that are otherwise unsafe or difficult to reproduce. We want to give [the warfighter] the sense of being present in these environments without actually putting them in danger.”

Now with warfighters training for multi-domain readiness, training environments need to simulate multi-domain effects, Bellows explained. “We are looking at ways of combining traditional digital simulation with other RF space domains. This includes both emulations of RF-domain effects, and live RF modulation of hardware-in-the-loop, to test converging effects in different operational scenarios.  This can be combined with faster-than-real-time simulations to quickly iterate through hundreds or thousands of variations in an operational analysis.”

Looking forward, Bellows predicts that virtual and mixed reality will become an even more integral part of training solutions, as customers are seeking to eliminate more expensive bespoke solutions like dome-based trainers. He noted that the IVAS program is an example of demonstrating how augmented reality capabilities are delivered on Heads-Up Display devices, which is an example of leveraging the same equipment for training in the field, at a fraction of the cost of older simulation technology. Bellows expects to see more of this in the future.  

Buhl echoed Bellows, demonstrating the overall convergence of operational and training. He noted that the future of training “will use wearable technology that the soldiers already have in the field and include a training kit that won’t add any additional weight in order to suspend disbelief” to train in the environment that they will fight. The industry continues to work together with the military to capture the realism of terrains and scenarios, delivered through high fidelity displays, to help create the required mental and physical stressors necessary to make sure that troops are ready for the very demanding rigors of combat.