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Vermont Air National Guard F-16 Simulators and Virtual Airfield

The Vermont Air National Guard (ANG) uses over 90 MetaVR™ Virtual Reality Scene Generator™ (VRSG™) licenses in their four-ship simulators at the F-16 Mission Training Center (MTC) located at the VT Air National Guard (ANG) facilities at the Burlington International Airport, Burlington, VT.

VRSG is used at the MTC in integrated training exercises to train F-16 pilots across the ANG and AFRC for their combat deployments. Exercise missions include close air support and UAS camera payload simulation with a variety of ISR sensor operators and pilots, combat controllers, and special operations forces.

One of the 4 cockpit simulators at the F-16 MTC located at the ANG base at the Burlington International Airport, Burlington, VT. The multi-channel synchronized view, driven by VRSG, is rendering the VT virtual terrain built by MetaVR. Photo courtesy of SSgt. Dan DiPietro, 158 FW, Vermont Air National Guard.
View from the cockpit of one of the F-16 simulators at the F-16 MTC, Burlington VT, using MetaVR multi-channel visual systems.

The Center's mission is to train F-16 fighter pilots from across the U.S. in a first-of-its-kind graduate-level setting. Ten pilots can be trained at a time in exercises conducted on a local network or in Distributed Mission Operations (DMO) collaboration with the Iowa Air National Guard's Distributed Training Operations Center (DTOC) in Des Moines, IA.

Inside the F-16 MTC located at the ANG base at Burlington International Airport, Burlington, VT. Photo courtesy of SSgt. Dan DiPietro, 158 FW, Vermont Air National Guard.
Real-time aerial view in MetaVR VRSG of the virtual VT ANG base and airfield.

The F-16 MTC opened in June 2010, with a ceremony that included U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, Lt. Gen. Christopher D. Miller, the Air Force's deputy chief of staff for strategic plans and programs, and top National Guard officials. As seen in the video footage of the ribbon-cutting event that was recorded by Channel 17 of Burlington, VT, MetaVR and International Simulation & Training Systems (ISTS, the subcontractor that built the simulators) were given awards for engineering excellence.

About the simulators

The site consists of 4 F-16 full mission trainers, instructor/operator stations (IOS) for each cockpit, and an after-action review capability. Each cockpit consists of a 360-degree wraparound display based on the A-10C FMT seamless M2-DART display. The original M2-DART display used one projector for each of the 8 display facets. The contractor team enhanced this design by using 2 or 3 projectors on each of the 8 display facets, for a total of 18 HD projectors.

Inside the wraparound display sets a high-fidelity cockpit with functional buttons, switches, and multi-function displays (MFDs). The MFDs can display targeting pod video in electro-optic (EO), infrared (IR), or ground-mapping radar.

An instructor/operator station (IOS) exists for each cockpit. The IOS establishes the environment the simulator will fly in, to include geographic location, weather, time-of-day. The IOS also controls the threat environment using the AFRL XCITE target generator. The IOS includes a large flat-screen TV that can simultaneously display a replica of out-the-window scene, heads-up display, and both multi-function displays.

Unique to this installation is its novel approach to night vision goggle (NVG) training. The visual system uses a stimulate approach rather than simulate approach to NVG training. The pilot wears his real NVGs while in the cockpit, so he can become accustomed to the form-factor and limited field-of-view. Using the Polhemus SCOUT tracker, the pilot is head-tracked with 6 degrees of freedom, enabling the image generator to know at any moment the exact location and viewing direction of the pilot's head. The SCOUT tracker is an AC magnetic head tracker that requires no mapping effort to run at high accuracy within the full mission simulators. The image generator renders an NVG area of interest (AOI) inside a cone visible to the goggles. Imagery rendered inside the NVG AOI is modified to stimulate NVGs and display covert lights. Imagery rendered outside the NVG AOI is rendered as normal unaided-eye, and covert lights are not visible outside the NVG AOI. This forces the pilots to look through the NVGs to be able to see the scene in sufficient detail at night for flying.

About the VT ANG database

MetaVR has built and delivered to the Vermont Air National Guard 3D terrain of the ANG base facilities and airfield at the Burlington International Airport, Burlington, VT.

Real-time aerial view in VRSG of the virtual Vermont ANG base and airfield, with Lake Champlain visible in the background.
Real-time aerial view in MetaVR VRSG of the virtual VT ANG base and airfield.

The 6-geocell Metadesic-formatted 3D terrain, built with MetaVR's Terrain Tools for ArcGIS is comprised of 47 GB of data of Vermont and upstate New York, with 60-meters post spacing, 1-meter imagery with a 0.5-meter imagery inset of the Vermont Air National Guard airfield and base facilities. The Vermont Air National Guard uses the terrain for its F-16C simulation-based training.

Real-time VRSG screen capture of a portion of the virtual terrain of the VT ANG base and airfield built by MetaVR. The building models are geospecific and the F-16 models markings match the actual airplanes allocated to this base.
MetaVR VRSG Real-time screen capture of a portion of the virtual VT ANG base and airfield.

About the models

The virtual terrain contains approximately 45 high-resolution, geolocated models of hangars, offices, storage facilities, and other buildings in the area, a high-resolution F-16C aircraft model, and the runway. In addition, the virtual terrain includes the commercial air terminal, and approximately 40 other models of elements at Burlington International Airport such as runway lights, street light, signs, and trees.

Real-time VRSG rendering of an F-16C entity taking off from the runway of the virtual Vermont ANG airfield. Click the image to swap daytime and nighttime views.
Real-time MetaVR VRSG rendering of an F-16 entity taking off on the runway of the virtual VT ANG airfield.
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All site-specific models were created with textures derived from high-resolution photographs taken at the site, at ground level, with a 10-megapixel camera. The models were built with industry standard 3D modeling tools such as Autodesk Maya and 3D Studio Max. Content from MetaVR's 3D model libraries is also used on the terrain.


VRSG real-time view from a hangar on the virtual Vermont ANG base and airfield, featuring a high-resolution F-16C aircraft model.
MetaVR VRSG real-time screen capture of the view from a hangar of the virtual VT ANG base and airfield.

For simulating night scenes, the terrain contains thousands of cultural light points of the airport and the Greater Burlington area. VRSG has an ephemeris model to predict moon position and phase, and populates the sky with a 40,000 light-point star field.


View at dusk of the hangar shown above, from across the runway.
MetaVR VRSG real-time screen capture of a view at dusk of a hangar at the virtual VT ANG base and airfield.

The cultural lights, moon disk, and star field enable trainees in the cockpit simulator to fly the area at night with accurate celestial references and provide realistic stimulation of actual night vision goggles.

Night scene of an F-16 on the runway at the virtual Burlington International Airport.
MetaVR VRSG real-time screen capture of a night view with an F-16 on the runway at the virtual Burlington International Airport.

To geolocate many of the elements on the airfield terrain to match the ones on the actual airfield itself, an interactive panoramic view was created from photos taken at the site as a reference, using photo-stitching software. The panoramic view was then mapped onto a 3D cylindrical model, resulting in a 360 degree virtual view, or model, that could be examined as a reference for placing models on the terrain.

MetaVR Terrain Tools for ESRI ArcGIS was used to create the terrain mesh, which includes a high resolution representation of the Lake Champlain coastline. At runtime, VRSG Metadesic generates multi-textured, animated, normal-mapped water surfaces in the cutout regions identified as water. The terrain tiles seamlessly match with the water tiles generated by VRSG.

Shown below is a VRSG screen capture of the terrain tiles of the Lake Champlain shoreline, which seamlessly meet water tiles generated by VRSG. VRSG generates  multi-textured, animated, normal-mapped water surfaces are in the cutout regions identified as water.

VRSG real-time aerial view of the virtual shoreline region of Lake Champlain. Click the image to swap rendered and wireframe views.
MetaVR VRSG real-time rendering of the virtual shoreline region of Lake Champlain.

Actual and simulated views of the Vermont ANG airfield and base facilities

Below is a series of images of the Vermont ANG airfield and base facilities. You can compare actual photographs of the area on the left side with the VRSG screen captures of the simulated view on the right. The models of buildings and other structures are photorealistic; the models were created from a large set of high-resolution photographs of the Vermont ANG air base and the larger Burlington International Airport area.

Photographs of the VT Air National Guard airfield and base facilities.  VRSG real-time screen captures of
 MetaVR's 3D terrain of the same area.

This terrain database of the Vermont ANG airfield and base facilities is part of the Northeast region of MetaVR’s CONUS++ 3D terrain in Metadesic format. This terrain and terrain of other CONUS++ regions are available to MetaVR customers who are on active VRSG software maintenance and are US Government or NATO agencies or contractors (for official use only).

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