A year ago, in the margins of Defence iQ’s Military Flight Training conference, MS&T’s Andy Fawkes and Dim Jones spoke with Daniel Robinson, Co-Founder and CEO of Red 6. At this year’s event, we linked up again with him to find out what he and the company have been doing in the past twelve months.

If you are not familiar with Red 6 and the Advanced Tactical Augmented Reality System (ATARS) technology, an unexpurgated resume is at: An Interview With Red 6 CEO Daniel Robinson | Halldale Group. Briefly, however, ATARS seeks to solve the conundrum of displaying a synthetic image in a live visual environment where, unlike in a simulator, the primary obstacles are: tracking (you can have sensors outside a simulator, but not outside an airborne aircraft); and display (AR headsets don’t work outdoors, for reasons of brightness, resolution and Field of View (FoV), and existing HMDs are nowhere near the standard required for ATARS). ATARS is designed to be helmet-agnostic, and is aligned with next-generation helmets.

Red 6 has formed partnerships and signed Memoranda of Understanding (MOU) with several leading aircraft companies – Boeing, Lockheed Martin, BAE Systems and KAI among them - to integrate ATARS in T-7A Red Hawk, T-50 and Hawk T2, and is in talks with Leonardo regarding M-346. The 5-year development contract with the USAF, issued in 2021, continues, with another $10m of funding recently added; Red 6 has also won a Strategic Funding Increase (STRATFI) award from the USAF, worth a further $15M. Dan is happy that, at current scale, this means that work can progress at best rate; to meet increased demand, the Red 6 workforce has expanded, and now numbers 102.

ATARS has been integrated and flown in two military aircraft types: 41 sorties in the T-38 and 11 sorties in TA-4J, the latter with a view to integration in the T-7A. This year, Red 6 is working with Air Combat Command (ACC) to equip a 4-ship of aircraft for dual-cockpit multi-ship networked operations. The company is continuing T-38 work with ACC, Air Education & Training Command (AETC) and Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC), and also with AFSOC on MC-130, which will bring the additional challenges of a multi-place aircraft, where the aircrew will have different visual perspectives, and may not all be on the flight deck – a gunner could be in the fuselage! Initial simulator integration with LM and KAI on T-50 has been successful, and work with BAE Systems on Hawk T-2 continues, with a view to a first flight this summer. The open mission systems architecture of the T-7A simplifies integration and, this year, work on the TA-4J surrogate will be applied as a de-risking step for T-7A integration in 2025.

On the day we met with Dan, Red 6 had just signed an MOU with Aeralis, designers of a future modular suite of training, light combat and support aircraft (Idea… to Reality? Aeralis at Stage 3 | Halldale Group). This opens the prospect of integrating with an aircraft in development rather than production, and will make integration with mission systems relatively straightforward: Aeralis is building significant latent capability and computing power into the aircraft. Software updates can be downloaded from ATARS, and only the changes need to be certified: Red 6 technology will be available to all Aeralis variants. The two companies will conduct workshops this year; the first was scheduled in April, the second is planned for July.    

Dan reports that, although there have been teething troubles, they have presented no greater problems than expected, and the performance of the system is now unrecognisable from when he started flying with it; mission complexity has now progressed to ACM and dogfights with live or virtual wingman against a synthetic adversary of choice. He was also enthusiastic about integrating ATARS on ground-based simulators, giving pilots a similar experience and supporting a true LVC-based approach which he saw as the future for pilot training.

We await reports of continued progress with keen anticipation.