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An F-22 Pilot in a Real Jet Just Took on China’s J-20 in Augmented Reality

An American veteran F-22 pilot just took on a virtual representation of China’s Chengdu J-20 stealth fighter from the seat of a very real aircraft in flight. The Chinese fighter was projected on the pilot’s augmented reality helmet-mounted display, giving a real pilot in a real aircraft the opportunity to train against a seemingly real foreign opponent. According to the two firms responsible for the test, this marks the first time such an engagement with a virtual adversary has ever been achieved.

In a story first covered by Thomas Newdick at The Warzone, U.S. companies Red 6 and EpiSci announced the successful test of their augmented reality training program earlier this week. Their veteran F-22 pilot participated in the test from the stick of a Freeflight Composites Berkut 560 experimental aircraft. Inside the cockpit, he wore a helmet that included an augmented reality display that projected the image of his opponent, China’s J-20, in his field of view. The enemy aircraft was not controlled by another aviator, but was instead a reactive adversary controlled by EpiSci’s Tactical AI technology.

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New Pilot Training Plan Could Provide More F-22 Combat Power, Red Air

Air Combat Command’s new plan to reorganize fighter pilot training could generate more combat-coded F-22s for both operational and “Red Air” roles without buying any new aircraft, ACC commander Gen. James M. Holmes said June 22.

Holmes, speaking at a virtual Mitchell Institute Aerospace Nation event, explained that the Rebuilding the Forge, or Reforge, plan combines the fighter fundamentals course with the Fighter Training Unit process, eliminating at least one change of station move for fighter pilots and using new technology to accelerate their proficiency.  That would translate to fewer F-22s being needed for basic skills training and more tails available either for combat exercises or, in the case of older jets, as opponents for more upgraded versions of the Raptor.

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Despite training range flaws, Red Flag-Alaska challenged pilots, Air Force says

Despite ongoing issues with antiquated electronic warfare systems at the 67,000-square-mile Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex, Red Flag-Alaska 19-2 was able to challenge the pilots who took part, according to the Air Force. But that may have been because U.S. Air Force fifth-generation aircraft, F-22s and F-35s, were noticeably absent from the proceedings.

The two-week multinational training exercise is meant to provide realistic combat experience to pilots in a controlled environment, which increases their survivability on actual combat missions, Senior Airman Eric Fisher, with the 354th Fighter Wing Public Affairs Office at Eielson Air Force Base, said in an email.

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Mitchell Weighs In: More F-35s or New, Old F-15s?

The Air Force needs to buy more new fighter planes. The constricted size and increasing age of the Air Force?s fighter inventory is the product of long-standing deferred investment; the 2009 decision to prematurely curtail the F-22 buy at less than half its required inventory; failure to boost F-35 production to originally planned rates; and the fact that 234 of 1970?s era F-15Cs will be hitting the end of their service lives in the next decade. Maintaining the current fighter inventory size demands that the Air Force buy at least 72 fighters per year into the 2020s.

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