Leonardo is conceptualizing training for 6th-generation fighter aircraft by reproducing a possible cockpit with its “Smart Chair” virtual / augmented reality device at its Battle Lab in Turin, Italy.
The only “physical” elements are the stick and throttle. The pilot interacts with an interface in which conventional screens and buttons disappear, then reappear in an immersive-reality projected directly into the helmet. Commands are given by simply moving the eyes – thanks to sophisticated tracking algorithms – or pressing virtual buttons and interacting with virtual touchscreen displays.
This system has a simple, intuitive layout, reducing the pilot’s workload to make it easier to handle the mission and direct all the components of the Future Combat Air System (FCAS) system. The FCAS is a highly complex system based on a piloted mothership fighter, unmanned loyal wingmen, aka “adjuncts”, and a series of capacity “effectors”.
Leonardo has created an advanced environment based on a combination of physical systems and immersive synthetic reality in which to validate new operative concepts well before a demonstrator or a flying prototype becomes available. This is said to speed up the process and reduce development risks.
The Battle Lab is organised around three components: the scenario generator, the Smart Chair, and the 6th generation Prototyping Pilot Station. The first is a large wall-mounted screen onto which a futuristic multidomain scenario is projected, along with weather conditions and a faithful reproduction of air, sea, land and electronic warfare systems with all their features. The Prototyping Pilot Station is based on a powered mock-up of the advanced M-346 jet trainer. Here, pilots can familiarise themselves with the new technologies, trying out their future role as ‘orchestra conductors’ in increasingly complex tactical missions.
The M-346 Advanced Jet Trainer aircraft is the central element of an Integrated Training System comprised of simulators and ground-based instructional devices, including an operational Live, Virtual, and Constructive (LVC) environment designed to allow student pilots to develop knowledge, skills and practices needed for effective exploitation of modern combat aircraft.
The M-346 is featured in the new International Flight Training School (IFTS), a partnership between the Italian Air Force and Leonardo in collaboration with CAE, which saw its first graduates earlier this year - two pilots of the German Air Force.
Leonardo has deployed 85 aircraft in service to Italy, Singapore, Israel, Poland, and Qatar.