14:11 GMT31 October 2020
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    Earlier this week, the Pentagon announced a bonanza of $600 million in contracts for large-scale testing of a variety of 5G-enabled dual-use applications, including augmented/virtual reality for mission planning and training, 5G ‘smart warehouses’, and the evaluation of technologies to improve command and control.

    The United States Air Force recently dropped $38 million into a new Virtual Test and Training Center at the Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, enabling pilots operating warplanes ranging from the F-15E and the F-16 to the F-22 and F-35 to practise advanced combat tactics against "near-peer" and other adversaries using virtual and augmented reality.

    Although the Air Force has joined other branches of the military in using VR and AR for training, it has up till now been reluctant fully to embrace the concept, preferring real-world training instead, according to National Interest contributor Peter Suciu.

    “Despite some previous investment by the USAF and other federal agencies into virtual reality and augmented reality, there has been limited practical uptake of these technologies,” William Davies, a defence analyst at London-based analytics firm GlobalData told the outlet.

    “However, the pandemic has accelerated spending on the technology, as well as the amount of training that takes place using it. An increase in US defence spending on VR and AR, and contracts will help to maintain training schedules and push pilot training,” Davies added.

    The Nevada-based training centre isn’t the only one used by the Air Force. In July, the military unveiled a new "Virtual Reality Procedures Trainer" for B-52 Stratofortress pilots-in-training.

    As Sputnik has reported, the Pentagon is falling behind on training new pilots, and the military has said that both Air Force and Navy aviators are 10% down on what they should be - a shortfall of 2,100 personnel from the 21,000 who are estimated to be needed to implement the National Defence Strategy in the event of war.

    According to Davies, as well as removing the obstacle of observing coronavirus-related precautions, AR/VR training should have the added benefit of being both faster and cheaper than the $40,000-per-hour price tag of real-life flight training in the US military.

    This week, the Pentagon announced $600 million in awards to create 5G-enabled technologies, including AR and VR training, with major US and global companies including Nokia, Ericsson, AT&T, General Electric and General Dynamics cashing in on the contracts.

    in 2019, the US Army announced plans to outfit multiple nex-gen systems with AR and VR, including hardware and software mounted directly inside the combat vehicles themselves. However, John Ferrell, director of simulation at the US Army’s Aviation Center of Excellence at Fort Rucker, Alabama, has said that virtual training isn’t everything, and that although simulations “do get better and better every year,” they remain limited, and commanders and trainers need to understand these limitations.

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