JUST IN: Vendors Announce Partnership to Expand AR Flight Training Tech

By Sean Carberry

Red 6 illustration

AURORA, Colorado — Lockheed Martin, Korea Aerospace Industries and Red 6 are partnering to bring Red 6’s Airborne Tactical Augmented Reality System, or ATARS, into the TF-50 jet trainer aircraft and variants so pilots can live-train against virtual adversaries.

The ATARS system — which is currently being integrated into BAE’s Hawk Advanced Jet Trainer and through collaborations with Boeing and the Air Force into the T-7, F-15EX and T-38 aircraft — is a platform-agnostic helmet and visor system that allows pilots to see virtual friendly and adversary aircraft, missiles and other threats during live flight, according to Red 6 CEO Daniel Robinson.

“We've got over 1,000 hours of test on this stuff now. And we're up there dogfighting against AR entities controlled by AI. And it's just like flying against a real airplane,” Robinson said on the sidelines of the Air & Space Forces Association’s Warfare Symposium.

Robinson, who flew Raptors in the United Kingdom and then F-22s with the U.S. Air Force, said the ATARS technology is designed to address the shortage of qualified pilots. That requires solving three problems: the production of pilots, the absorption of pilots on the front line and getting pilots enough experience.

“And this tech addresses all three of those things,” he said. “With the advanced trainers, obviously, it's heavily focused on production and producing better pilots at a fraction of the cost much faster,” and exposing them to a wider range of problem sets to expand their skill sets.

According to a Red 6 press release, the ATARS system could eventually be integrated into other Lockheed Martin platforms such as the F-16, F-22 and F-35.

Lockheed Martin and Korea Aerospace Industries are looking to move quickly on the TF-50 integration, Robinson said. “The last we heard is that there was an intention to bring two jets over here to Fort Worth in quarter 3 of this year … so we'll see but they want to go faster.”

One of the reasons they want to move quickly is because Lockheed Martin has submitted the TF-50A variant in response to the Air Force’s February 2023 request for information for the Advanced Tactical Trainer, according to a Red 6 press release.

According to the RFI, the aircraft needs to provide initial tactical training, serve as adversary — or red force — aircraft and serve as a training surrogate for current and future Air Force fighter jets. The requirements for the tactical trainer include having an airborne augmented reality component, Robinson said.

As National Defense reported on Feb. 22, Boeing is pitching a derivative of its T-7A Red Hawk as a candidate for the Advanced Tactical Trainer. That means Red 6’s ATARS technology will be an element of at least two candidates for the tactical trainer.

“They're all going after the same piece of the pie, right? So, it stands to reason that [Lockheed Martin and KAI] want it integrated in a timely fashion,” Robinson said, noting that Red 6 is a Lockheed Martin Ventures portfolio company.

Robinson added that Red 6 has been operating “openly and honestly” with the vendors it is partnering with that are competing against each other.

From the outset, Red 6 has viewed the ATARS as a technology that would be compatible with and needed by all platform providers, “because inevitably, we're all going to be operating together [with] platforms alongside each other,” he said. “And so, it stands to benefit everyone. If everyone's integrated into the same system, they can all operate together.”

The network effect and value proposition is significantly greater “if we can operate across platforms but in a common, virtual augmented world, which is central to where we're tracking towards in terms of networking all these airplanes together into one common world,” he said.


Topics: Air Power, Air Force News