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Luke Air Force Base installs night vision goggle simulation system

August 16, 2005 (by Lieven Dewitte) - Silicon Graphics today announced that a high-fidelity Night Vision Goggle (NVG) simulation system has been successfully developed and fielded at Luke AFB, Ariz., a U.S. Air Force Air Education and Training Command facility.
The NVG simulation system, powered by an SGI(R) visualization system, has been integrated into existing F-16 flight simulators that are also powered by SGI.

The Air Education and Training Command identified NVG training as a high priority for pilots who fly the Air Force's primary fighter aircraft, the F-16 Fighting Falcon. To address this urgent training requirement, SGI teamed with Lockheed Martin Services Inc. and MultiGen-Paradigm to provide the F-16 Networked Training Center at Luke Air Force Base with a high-fidelity NVG training capability that realistically and precisely simulates what F-16 pilots actually see through night-vision goggles when they fly nighttime missions.

"The seamless integration of the high-fidelity NVG simulation system with our existing F-16 flight simulators has greatly increased the flight safety and mission effectiveness of F-16 pilots. This provides us with the highest fidelity F-16 full-mission training system for day, night, and all-weather operations," said Major Jonathan Beasley, program manager, Networked Training Center -- Luke (NTC-L) at Luke Air Force Base.

Luke Air Force Base, which is located about 20 miles northwest of Phoenix, is the primary U.S. Air Force training facility for F-16 fighter pilots, who now regularly train to use night-vision goggles, which have been utilized in recent conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. However, flying with night-vision goggles is no easy task for F-16 pilots. A pilot's depth perception suffers when they wear night-vision goggles because there is no peripheral vision and the goggles have a 40-degree circular field of vision. Consequently, pilots have to continually turn their heads to see to the sides. Night vision goggles, which are sensitive to the slightest amount of light, work off ambient light from the moon, stars and city lights, while excessive light can blind a pilot.

"This new NVG simulation system simultaneously processes 3D graphics, 2D imagery and even subtle visual effects such as lunar shading," said Major Beasley. "Thus far, the system has demonstrated world-class performance and is currently being integrated into our training syllabi. We are very excited about this new technology; it gives our pilots the ability to train realistically for nighttime missions and enhances safety by allowing new students to see visual illusions inherent to NVG operations prior to getting into the jet."

To prepare F-16 pilots for the challenges of NVG flight, they go through an intensive training program at Luke Air Force Base in which they train solely on the night vision goggles for three to four weeks, immersing themselves in academics, simulators and actual flight sorties using the goggles. The F-16 flight simulators, powered by Silicon Graphics(R) Onyx(R) family of graphics supercomputers, are a critical part of the NVG training program, providing a safe and cost-effective virtual environment for pilots to hone their goggle skills before flying an F-16 using NVGs.