US Airforce First Weather Group Tests VR Training with NextGen Environmental Weather Training System

The US Air Force’s 1st Weather Group (1st WXG) is testing virtual reality training with the NextGen Environmental Weather Training System. The system simulates setting up and assembling a tactical meteorological observation system, the TMQ-53 – a portable, automated weather station.

The TMQ-53 kit ships in approximately 80 separate pieces, making correct and quick setups challenging. Trainees using the headset can experience the setup process of every component of the TMQ-53, be trained by the software in correct equipment placement, resolve issues caused by inclement weather and equipment problems, and either guide the trainee as a tutorial or test their system knowledge.

“The realism of the VR was incredible,” said Capt. Matthew Perkins, 1st WXG science officer. “I could make out tiny labels and serial numbers on equipment and aircraft even flew overhead during the simulation. Virtual reality brings unprecedented realism to our training ability when the physical equipment is unavailable. Our deployed Airmen will have greater familiarity with these tools than ever before.”

The VR system will be used for refresher training and familiarization, reducing the need for the purchase of additional equipment, eliminating some temporary duty travel, and lowering the potential for equipment breakage.

“Saving costs is what everyone wants to hear, but opportunity cost is today’s enemy, particularly time,” Tech. Sgt. Robert Thomas, 1st WXG systems and training noncommissioned officer in charge, said. “A trainee can be immersed and familiarize him or herself without ever seeing the equipment and a member already certified can use it towards refresher training.”

The TMQ-53 simulation complements other weather virtual reality training products currently in development by the 3rd Weather Squadron at Fort Hood, TX; the 18th WS at Fort Bragg, NC; and the 93rd Air-Ground Operations Wing at Moody Air Force Base, GA.