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MetaVR Visuals in ANG Aerial Refueling Training Programs

In spring 2015, MetaVR completed delivery of 112 Virtual Reality Scene Generator (VRSG) real-time licenses to FAAC Inc. over the two-year production of KC-135R Air National Guard (ANG) Boom Operator Simulator Systems (BOSS).

BOSS has been recently certified by the U.S. Air Force for boom operator training missions in lieu of actual flight time. Training systems have been delivered to 11 of the 16 Air National Guard Refueling Wings with the remaining systems expected to be completed by mid-2016.

BOSS at the 155th Air Refueling Wing, Lincoln, Nebraska, with MetaVR visuals.
BOSS at the 155th Air Refueling Wing, Lincoln, Nebraska. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Mary Thach/Released)

BOSS at the 155th Air Refueling Wing, Lincoln, Nebraska, with MetaVR visuals.BOSS at the 155th Air Refueling Wing, Lincoln, Nebraska. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Mary Thach/Released)

In November 2103, the first 14 VRSG licenses were delivered to FAAC, part of Arotech Corporation's Training and Simulation Division. FAAC's total BOSS production run for the ANG consisted of 16 simulators, each with 7 MetaVR software licenses for a total of 112 licenses over the aerial refueling simulator's two-year production period.


Inside the boom pod of the KC-135R Air National Guard (ANG) Boom Operator Simulator System (BOSS) with MetaVR visuals. Photo courtesy of FAAC Inc.

ANG BOSS refueling simulator

The fully immersive Distributed Mission Operations (DMO)-capable refueling boom operator trainer is a high-fidelity replica of a KC-135R Block 40 boom pod.

The BOSS environment emulates the actual aircraft boom controls and includes associated operating systems, 4-channel image generation and projection systems, instructor operator station, physics-based tanker and receiver models, threat environment generation station, and ARCNet Gateway. Other technologies include head-tracking, voice recognition and synthetic response, and a recording/debriefing capability. The compact size of the BOSS (22' x 21') allows it to fit within a 27' x 30' room with 12' ceilings.


KC-135R ANG Boom Operator Simulator System (BOSS). Photo courtesy of FAAC Inc.

The BOSS is intended for squadron-level training to be co-located with operational KC-135 air refueling wings. The ANG will field the 17 BOSS systems at locations across the US where fully qualified boom operators at the ANG KC-135R flying units will use the BOSS for a complete training curriculum: initial qualification, difference qualification, certification, requalification, mission certification, and instructor upgrade training, and meet Aerial Refueling Airplane Simulator Qualification (ARASQ) standards. Mission-rehearsal DMO training will be through the ANG Distributed Training Operations Center (DTOC).

As part of the delivery, MetaVR provided 4-meter CONUS++ 3D terrain enhanced with cultural lighting for all of the CONUS area. The terrain features cultural lights points that are geospecific to actual road networks.

MetaVR VRSG screen capture of a simulated aerial refueling scene: the simulated boom operator view of a KC-135R aircraft refueling an A-10C on the 400 NS aerial refueling track area of MetaVR's virtual North America terrain.
Real-time VRSG screen capture of the simulated boom operator view of a KC-135R aircraft refueling an A-10C on the 400 NS aerial refueling track area of MetaVR's virtual CONUS++ terrain.

In the last few years, MetaVR has also delivered multiple VRSG licenses and visual systems to another ANG aerial refueling training program: QuantaDyn’s MicroBOSS.

MicroBOSS desktop refueling simulator

QuantaDyn is using 25 MetaVR visual systems (game-level ruggedized rackmount PCs loaded with VRSG licenses) in its production Micro Boom Operator Simulation System (MicroBOSS) for training KC-135R boom operators at 17 ANG sites.

The MicroBOSS is a desktop training system which uses a computer-generated receiver aircraft to train boom operators in refuel procedures.  The VRSG systems replace Quantum3D visual systems that have been used up to now in the boom operator trainer prototype.

The MicroBOSS incorporates software features and capabilities of the ANG BOSS (described above) as well as the Air Education Training Command (AETC) Boom Operator Weapon System Trainer (BOWST). This desktop system uses selective-fidelity concepts in the hardware design to provide a realistic and cost-effective training environment. Through the use of photo-realistic graphical displays, touch screens, an aural cueing system, a high-definition out-the-window display, and representative joystick controls, the MicroBOSS provides the functional equivalent of a complete KC-135R boom pod station.  

MetaVR VRSG screen capture of a simulated aerial refueling scene: the simulated boom operator view of a simulated KC-135R aircraft refueling an A-10C during night operations on the 400 NS aerial refueling track area of MetaVR's virtual North America terrain.
Real-time VRSG screen capture of the simulated boom operator view of a simulated KC-135R aircraft refueling an A-10C during night operations on the 400 NS aerial refueling track area of MetaVR's virtual CONUS++ terrain. The scene features the shadows cast by the KC-135R's tail-mounted flood light illuminating the A-10C, and the cultural lights of Amarillio, TX.

Using highly detailed visual models, the MicroBOSS can provide training on Air Force, Navy, and NATO receiver aircraft. Training personnel can adapt MicroBOSS scenarios to support each unit's unique mission profiles, or concentrate on high-interest training times from operational lessons learned. Mission preparation for air refueling profiles, including the Boom Drogue Adapter (BDA), enables the aircrew to be mission ready.


MetaVR visuals used in the MicroBOSS. Photo courtesy of QuantaDyn.

The initial sale was for 17 MicroBOSS systems, with an option for additional systems to be purchased later so each ANG unit will have a MicroBOSS. The 17 ANG units receiving MicroBOSS systems are:

  Bangor, ME Rickenbacker, OH Milwaukee, WI Salt Lake City, UT
  Pease, NH McGhee Tyson, TN Sioux City, IA Fairchild, WA
  McGuire, NJ Tinker, OK Forbes Field, KS Hickam, HI
  Selfridge, MI Phoenix, AZ Scott, IL Eielson, AK
  Pittsburgh, PA Birmingham, AL Lincoln, NE  

According to QuantaDyn, MetaVR VRSG was chosen for this program for several reasons. From a boom operator's perspective, VRSG's high-fidelity graphical environment, atmospheric conditions, cultural lighting, and realistic precise shadow and lighting are very important components for providing realistic refueling training. The detailed ground representation of high-resolution terrain (such as MetaVR's Afghanistan virtual terrain) is important for identifying location; in daytime from the imagery on the ground, and at night, from the cultural lighting. The variety of sky models and cloud models and the ability to modify cloud effects and other environmental characteristics are all critical for maintaining situational awareness in the refueling operations, and provide the opportunity to train under adverse conditions. The high-resolution receiver models contain details useful in training. The shadowing of the boom on the receptor aircraft is fast and precise, which is important for replicating exactly what a boom operator sees while refueling the receiver aircraft. The external light profile, which enables one to adjust the lighting as a rheostat rather than having to use a step illumination, is a distinctive benefit.

Receiver aerial refueling pilot simulator

AVT Simulation uses VRSG in its Receiver Aerial Refueling (RAR) Part-Task Trainer developed under the U.S. Navy's SBIR program. The simulator uses a head-tracked stereo head mounted display (HMD) with MetaVR visuals to provide the pilot a truly realistic view of the tanker and its refueling equipment.

In the simulator, the pilot can focus on formation flight realism and the final up-close refueling approach, making contact and maintaining contact during fuel transfer. Head tracking allows the pilot to see everything including the full interior and exterior of the aircraft which provides visual cues for aligning with the visual cues from the tanker aircraft equipment. The RAR features a small footprint and is built in a self-contained shipping container. 

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