US virtual air combat training firm Red 6 was awarded a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase III contract with the United States Air Force (USAF) on Wednesday, valued up to $70 million over the next five years, to commercialise its augmented reality (AR) platform.The Orlando and Santa Monica-based company has built the AR warfighter training solution to allow trainee pilots to interact with virtual combatants projected onto flight helmet visors.In a recent statement with Epic Games, the 3D content creating giant whose Unreal Engine powers Red 6’s AR solution, Nick Bićanić, Founder and Chief Science Officer at Red 6, explained typical military heads-up displays (HUDs) had a very narrow field-of-view, one colour for each eye, and were unable to simulate real situations.Speaking further on the system, he added:
“When pilots go up there and see a 105-or-more-degrees field of view, full color, daylight-visible binocular system, and the aircraft that they’re seeing synthetically isn’t actually there, but it feels like it is and it’s behaving like it is, they come down and they go, ‘That was amazing. I want this yesterday. How soon can we have it?’”
Daniel Robinson, Founder and Chief Executive of Red 6, said in a statement the award indicated his company’s commitment to delivering training solutions to the defence community.He continued, stating:
“We owe it to them to continue to innovate so they remain the best trained and best equipped warfighters in the world”
He added that his venture would usher in a “new era of training” and that the USAF’s support would help Red 6 deliver a major “increase to readiness, proficiency, training capacity, and capability.”
Robinson concluded he was excited for future warfighters and the adoption of Red 6 technologies would “dramatically” improve training quality for USAF pilots.Such immersive learning systems would increase the USAF’s skills to “fly, fight and win” with simulations aimed at training warfighters for greater efficiency, the company said.Dr Winston Bennet, Airman Systems Directorate for the Warfighter Interactions and Readiness Division at the USAF, said:
“Innovation within training is needed now more than ever to remain competitive with our adversaries. Red 6 is delivering a solution to current pain points in training, that if fixed, could solve several national security issues we face today”
The comments come amid developments from several firms designing extended reality (XR) training programmes for the US military and other national defence forces in recent months.Bohemia Interactive Solutions (BISim) signed a contract with Cole Engineering Services (CESI) to launch a new XR training course for the US Army aimed at boosting global combat readiness. The solutions come as the US Army aims to boost its combat training efficiency with XR solutions by 2025.The USAF also recently awarded King Crow Studios an SBIR Phase III contract up to 2025, valued at $6.5 million, to instruct B-52 pilots with the company’s Virtual Reality Procedures Trainer (VRPT).In Europe, Swedish aerospace and defence giant Saab partnered with Finnish VR firm Varjo Technologies to build an XR solution to train Gripen E/F warfighters, which would reduce the need for larger immersive training facilities, lower costs, and operate on smaller, more mobile gaming computers.