AETC Partners for Virtual Aircraft Maintenance Hangars

5 March 2020

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Air Education and Training Command (AETC) is working to build a faster and smarter Air Force in partnership with multiple major commands to develop a competency-based virtual and augmented-reality (VR/AR) training capability for the aircraft maintenance and career enlisted aviator communities.

A completed 3D scan of a F-16C Fighting Falcon is displayed on a screen, while maintainers work on an actual F-16 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada. Maintainers showcased routine maintenance they perform on the aircraft and the best ways to recreate this using virtual reality. Image credit: U.S. Air Force photo by airman 1st Class Christopher H. Stolze.

As part of its Integrated Technology Platform initiative,virtual training hangars are being built for the classroom and flightline with3D Aircraft Mission Design Series environments for every airframe in AETCinventory, with robust augmented-reality capabilities and comprehensiveinstructor tools, with a goal to enable training anywhere and any time.

“This effort is tied to our priority to transform the way airmenlearn through the aggressive and cost-effective modernization of education andtraining,” said Masoud Rasti, AETCs chief of force development strategy andtechnical adviser. “We have to be visionary and agile when it comes to trainingtoday and the intent is to apply current and emerging technology to support thewarfighter, no matter where they might be, so they can operate within joint,all-domain environments.”

The objective of the ITP is to work collaboratively acrossAETC, as well as other MAJCOMs, to develop and execute a competency-basedlearning strategy and environment that utilizes current technology such asVR/AR, artificial intelligence, and machine learning, for officer and enlistedcareer fields.

“We are working with career field managers across multiplecommunities to steer the development of a viable occupational-competency modelthat will take us from a time-and-task-based model of the industrial age to acompetency-based model for the future, digital age,” Rasti said. “The ITP willwork to identify and utilize new technologies to teach to these occupationalcompetencies while also implementing new methodologies for training that islearner-centric.”

These technologies include blended and modularized training,as well as hands-on training like the Microsoft HoloLens 2 application, Rastisaid.

The vision for creating a collaborative ITP across the AirForce is also tied to efficiency in innovation.

“Another major reason for the ITP concept is we want toeliminate duplicative efforts on the virtual-reality front,” said RichardRobledo, AETC force development program analyst. “We want to bring the rest ofthe Air Force in on this, under one contract, to streamline the program with asimplified process so the other MAJCOMs can come in with dollars and tap intothe expertise and experience of the process that has been built up over time.”

The virtual hangar and flightline, with most commonaerospace ground equipment, that the contractor built are aircraft agnostic andthus can be used by all Air Force aircraft. This was a win for the Air Force.The virtual hangar and flightline were then complemented with the first virtualmodels for the C-5M Galaxy and C-130J Super Hercules that were created in late2019 for the students in the Career Enlisted Aviator Center of Excellence atJoint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, which graduates 2,600 studentsannually.

“The C-5M aircraft was scanned in multiple configurations,internal and exterior, for our career enlisted aviator training,” Robledo said.“These models were used initially as the shell to build instructional,interactive courseware and other training tools.”

Once the framework was established, the idea to partner withother MAJCOMs came through the sharing of the already created virtual hangarsand aircraft platform environments, which created an increased demand signal tocreate other individual and advanced 3D aspects of aircraft to meetMAJCOM-specific needs.

The partnership with other MAJCOMs started with Air MobilityCommand.

“We started with both force development and innovationfunding to get the program started,” Rasti said. “(AMC) jumped in andcontributed initially, and now we are working with Air Combat Command, AirForce Reserve Command, and, soon, Air Force Special Operations Command.”

The push to include the AR capability in addition to thevirtual environment was driven by a learner-centric, mission-focused, andcompetency-based approach to force development that is the heart of the forcedevelopment mission.

“By using the interactive courseware, airmen can learn moreabout individual problems by using the technology,” Rasti said. “Theaugmented-reality environment really adds a dimension to the training thathasn’t existed before.”

Rasti noted how vital the work done during the contractingand acquisition process, worked in conjunction with the Air Force Institute ofTechnology, has been.

The ITP process also has the capability to spread to otherAir Force career fields and training pipelines.

“We built this program with the career enlisted aviators,first and foremost, in mind, and aircraft maintenance was quickly paired withthis effort, as we were working with Lt. Col. Sean Goode and his MaintenanceNext team, and our headquarters AETC competencies division was working with the21A Maintenance officer and 2A Enlisted Aircraft Maintenance career fieldmanagers to move those groupings of Air Force Specialty Codes to anoccupational competency model,” Rasti said. “The capabilities and processes weare utilizing can be applied to almost any Air Force Specialty Code. We canapply this process to any career field as long as we know their requirementsand have the funding source to create it.”


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