U.S. Air Force Maj. Brandon Wolf, 307th Operations Support Squadron (OSS) assistant director of operations, tests air refueling training software at StrikeWerx in Bossier City, Louisiana, May 23, 2022. Airmen from the 307th Bomb Wing, 2nd Bomb Wing, and Air Force Global Strike Command are working with civilian contractors to develop a virtual reality trainer for students in the B-52 Formal Training Unit (FTU). (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Master Sgt. Ted Daigle)

By Sean Green | STRIKEWERX Marketing and Communications Director

BOSSIER CITY, La. — The delivery of software for training B-52 pilots exemplifies successful industry and government collaboration.

Specular Theory’s delivery and integration of their training software to Air Force Global Strike Command is a major milestone in the development of a new lightweight trainer for B-52 air refueling.

That trainer, which combines virtual reality and physical components in one training device, began seeking industry solutions in March 2021 and saw Specular Theory’s software delivery in May 2022. It is currently housed and being tested at STRIKEWERX in Bossier City, Louisiana.

“This delivery goes a long way to providing a full prototype in a little over a year,” noted Josh Fisher, STRIKEWERX project manager. “It is a great example of how quickly STRIKEWERX can move versus traditional acquisition methods and the quality of results we can deliver in a short amount of time.”

Ryan Pulliam, co-founder of Specular Theory, noted that this project illustrates effective collaboration between industry, government, and innovation arms.

“This will make a first-of-its-kind case study for the type of training needed, and the future of training for, the U.S. Air Force,” she said. “There’s a prestige that comes with working with the B-52 and we have a rare opportunity of being able to progress, modernize, and eventually sustain the mission of that airframe.”

Specular Theory CEO Morris May added, “It is exciting to bring this technology to the Command and help modernize the way they train. We are further honored to provide our 10-year track record of innovative technology to the U.S. Air Force.”

B-52 Air Refueling Simulator Project Champion Maj. Mark Budgeon said the collaboration with Specular Theory allowed him to inject his expertise as an instructor into the training software.

“We can take someone who has never flown before and be able to accomplish midair refueling in their first time flying, which we can’t do now,” said Budgeon. “Not only did we get this software in 14 months, but we also received something that we have never had before.”

Maj. Jordan Tackett, B-52 air refueling simulator project champion and B-52 pilot, expressed his excitement at receiving a tool that considers end users in the development process.

“To get front line pilots involved in the development of this system is amazing,” he said. “We were able to suggest edits to the software upon delivery and left with a different product in less than one day.”

Budgeon added, “Specular Theory is in the same room, and we can suggest changes that influence the product we will use for training better pilots more quickly, which has a positive long-term effect on national security.”

The process for the prototype began with the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center Simulators Innovation office efforts to build out a new realm of training devices and a “lightweight simulator” ecosystem. STRIKEWERX collaborated with AFLCMC to produce hardware for the new device with the B-52 Air Refueling Trainer Challenge.

The combined effort is market research which will inform the next generation of  immersive  trainers that are consumer-grade, high fidelity, and low-footprint.

Vendors will deliver the hardware for the B-52 air refueling trainer in August 2022 with a fly-off competition to be held at the Cyber Innovation Center in Bossier City, Louisiana.