The 307th Operations Support Squadron tests air refueling training via the EARL simulator. (Courtesy of Lt. Col. Brandon Wolf/Specular Theory)

By Sean Green | STRIKEWERX Communications Manager

BOSSIER CITY, La. — STRIKEWERX is working with industry partner Specular Theory to help Air Force Global Strike Command (AFGSC) develop innovative training that will accelerate how B-52 pilots learn air refueling.  

Research and development efforts have shown that no current simulator adequately provides the platform for pilots to learn the fine motor skills and visual perception necessary for air-to-air refueling (AAR). 

A successful solution will enable AFGSC to reduce the amount of real-world training needed for AAR, resulting in reduced costs.  

“AAR is one of the most difficult tasks to accomplish in the B-52, meaning additional flights are needed to master the skill. Complicating that is aircraft availability, instructor availability, maintenance needs, and weather,” said Dr. Donna Senft, AFGSC chief scientist. “In addition to savings to the command, this project will demonstrate that a lightweight simulator, running on commercial grade off-the-shelf hardware, can be an adequate training resource.”  

Specular Theory will work with STRIKEWERX to continue maturing their prototype EARL solution. The company’s EARL technology is a small footprint sled design utilizing virtual reality mixed with physical hardware to simulate AAR. 

“We are incredibly excited about this new contract, which adds new features and capabilities to EARL. Our partnership with Air Force Global Strike Command has been invaluable, and we’re honored to have this continuous support and traction as we scale EARL into new capabilities to better and more quickly train pilots in air refueling. This represents a significant milestone for Specular Theory and the Air Force and proves the effectiveness of a lightweight training device for pilot training,” said Morris May, CEO and founder of Specular Theory. 

The EARL simulator was previously utilized in STRIKEWERX’s B-52 Air Refueling Trainer Challenge event. This challenge event performed market research for an AAR simulator in 2021.  

B-52 Air Refueling Trainer Project Champion Maj. Brandon Wolf said this challenge event and Specular Theory’s work were vital for informing a pathway towards a consumer-grade, high fidelity, small-footprint training simulator. 

“We were able to be involved in this process to help shape a product that will better train pilots more quickly and efficiently. This will give us the new ability to take someone who has never flown before and accomplish AAR in their first time flying, which has a positive effect on national security,” said Wolf. 

AFGSC stakeholders, including the 11th Bomb Squadron and 93rd Bomb Squadron, will test the solution for further refinement.