Boeing, Red 6 complete first augmented reality test flight on TA-4J aircraft

Avatar for Skies MagazineBy Skies Magazine | September 13, 2023

Estimated reading time 5 minutes, 44 seconds.

Boeing and augmented reality developer Red 6 confirmed on Sept. 13 that they have successfully integrated and flown augmented reality in a TA-4J tactical aircraft. This marks a crucial step toward implementing the technology into the T-7A Red Hawk advanced trainer.

Boeing and Red 6 announced an agreement last September to integrate Red 6’s Advanced Tactical Augmented Reality System (ATARS) and Augmented Reality Command and Analytic Data Environment (ARCADE) into Boeing-built fighter aircraft, including the T-7 and potentially the new F-15EX.

Several years ago, Red 6 used an experimental piston-powered Berkut aircraft as the test platform to develop ATARS. Mike Killian Photo

The T-7 trainer was designed by Boeing in partnership with Swedish aerospace company, Saab, to train the next generation of U.S. Air Force (USAF) fighter and bomber pilots. This past June, Boeing and the USAF completed the first flight of the T-7A Red Hawk in its production form.

Boeing and Saab are also offering the T-7 for Canada’s Future Fighter Lead-In Training (FFLIT) program, which intends to replace the RCAF’s aging fleet of CT-155 Hawks with a new, advanced training platform that will prepare pilots to fly Canada’s incoming fleet of F-35A fighters.

The Boeing-Saab T-7 platform is expected to be the first aircraft in the world that is capable of entering Red 6’s augmented reality training environment. Red 6’s patented technology allows pilots to interact with virtual aircraft, targets, and threats — both on the ground and in the air — while also experiencing the cognitive challenges of physically flying the aircraft. This reduces the cost of and need for multiple platforms.

Boeing and the U.S. Air Force completed the inaugural flight of the service’s first T-7A Red Hawk on June 28, 2023. Boeing Photo

Founded in 2018, the Florida-based company’s systems represent the “first wide field-of-view, full-colour, demonstrably proven” augmented reality solutions operating in dynamic outdoor environments. According to Red 6, these systems bring virtual and constructive assets into the real world, enabling pilots and ground operators to see synthetic threats in real-time, outdoors, and in high-speed environments.

The ATARS system enables various tactical training scenarios through augmented reality, including air combat maneuvers, refueling, tactical formation, and surface-to-air weapon engagements. ARCADE enhances mission planning, briefing, and debriefing by providing real-time 3D visualizations for constructing and reconstructing sorties, Red 6 said.

“Boeing is the first company to team with Red 6 on this type of advanced training technology,” said Donn Yates, executive director of Boeing Air Force Fighters and Trainers Business Development. “The successful series of ground tests and four flight sorties illustrate our collaborative ability to rapidly integrate, deliver, and test new technology with the potential to change fighter pilot training for an entire generation.”

According to Boeing, developing testbed capabilities with “non-traditional industry partners” helps reduce risks in future aerospace programs.

ATARS allows a pilot to takeoff, look out the canopy and see an aircraft in wide field-of-view, in full colour and high resolution. Mike Killian Photo

The two companies are touting the fact that progression from the integration of the augmented reality systems to the first flight was completed in less than 12 months.

“We are very proud of our team’s efforts to go from integration into the TA-4J to successfully flying the technology in less than a year,” said Thomas “Guns” Bergeson, president of Red 6. “We remain focused on delivering a fully synthetic, outdoor training environment that will transform training for future fighter pilots. The combination of T-7 and ATARS will usher in a new paradigm in training, directly impacting readiness and lethality.”

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