The ship is real enough, but the attacking boats the sailor is defending against are nothing but sights and sounds.
The office of Naval Research and the Fleet Integrated Synthetic Training/Testing Facility (FIST2FAC) on Ford Island aboard Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii are blending real naval platforms with cutting-edge virtual reality technology and software to train for the fight more realistically than ever before.
In a recent event hosted by FIST2FAC, the bridge of the guided-missile destroyer USS Michael Murphy, at Pearl Harbor, was outfitted with equipment to simulate virtual combat scenarios, according to a release from ONR.
According to the release, intricate details added to the realism, replicating even the frustrations and confusion of fighting a real battle.
Sailors manned a 50-caliber machine gun aboard the Michael Murphy while wearing augmented-reality glasses. Through them, they saw a virtual attack: enemy fighters superimposed over the real maritime landscape in front of them. The notional enemy accosted the troops in broken English and an unidentified foreign language, ONR officials said.
And on Ford Island, other exercise participants were on the receiving end of a virtual comms attack: they had to contend with degraded radar, video streaming and other communications, just as they would have to if an enemy was jamming their signals, according to the release.
“This is the future of training for the Navy,” Dr. Terry Allard, head of the Warfighter Performance Department at ONR, said in a release. “With simulation, you can explore endless possibilities without the expense and logistical challenges of putting hundreds of ships at sea and aircraft in the sky.”
The software that creates such realism is reusable and customizable, ONR officials said. By comparison, they said, is can cost $6 million in fuel alone to put a strike group out to sea for training for a week — $250,000 just to get the carrier alone out on the water.
Developers are hoping to modify a version of FIST2FAC to send out with ships for training underway.