Why the Marine Corps is eyeing new virtual reality flight simulators for recruiting events
A U.S. Marine tests a new virtual reality system during the Marine South Expo on Camp Lejeune, N.C., April 11, 2018. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Michaela R. Gregory)
The Marine Corps is searching for new virtual reality flight simulators to bring more pilots into the service amid a pilot shortage.
Virtual reality technology is evolving quickly and these simulators can provide a “strikingly realistic experience” to potential applications that currently isn’t available in traditional recruiting settings, according to Maj. Brian Spooner, an aviation assistant for officer procurement with the Marine’s Western Recruiting Region.
That's why Marine Corps Recruiting Command is looking to procure at least six virtual reality flight simulators the Marine Corps Flight Orientation Program could share with applicants at recruiting events, per a request for information the service issued in May.
Spooner said AAOPs have been eyeing updated simulators for roughly two years and that he had the opportunity to learn more about how the service could incorporate them into the Marine Corps Flight Orientation Program at the Interservice/Industry Training Simulation and Education Conference in 2019.
“All of the AAOPs in Marine Corps Recruit Command felt the VR platforms would allow us to travel easier, spend less money, offer a more reliable recruiting platform, and have the ability to upgrade the technology over time,” Spooner said in an email to Marine Corps Times.
Spooner said that the Marine Corps already has multiple virtual simulators in its arsenal used while visiting campuses, career events, and airshows, including six Redbird F-35 simulators and 26 Eleetus simulators that can replicate flights for MV-22 Ospreys tilt rotor aircraft, AH-1Z Viper helicopters and F/A-18 Super Hornet fighters.
The Navy announced in January 2019 that it would purchase an additional 25 AH-1Z Vipers from Bell Helicopter, after already issuing a contract in August 2018 for 29 AH-1Z Vipers to replace the AH-1 SuperCobra.
Spooner said the service is aiming for the new simulators to accommodate the F-35B/C Lightning II fighters, and the Vipers or Ospreys.