The US Department of Defense announced the award of a $90m contract to HTX Labs on 1 September, for the delivery of Virtual Reality (VR) content to be used by the US Air Force for training purposes. 

The work will be performed at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, home of the 82nd Training Wing and the 80th Flying Training Wing, and is expected to be completed by the end of September, 2026. Funding will be given in Fiscal Year 2023 from the operations and maintenance account.

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In addition to virtual reality content creation and training, the contract provides for assessment tools, as well as rapid content creation, playback, and analytics.

The news follows from a decision in July to grant Empact, HTX’s VR training programme, full Authorisation to Operate on the US Air Force Network at an Impact Level 4 security level, allowing the store and distribution of Controlled Unclassified Information. 

An earlier decision in December 2022 gave Empact an Impact Level 2 security level and made Empact the first VR training system within the Air Education and Training Command to run on certain Air Force secure networks, namely AFNET and NIPERNet.

Airmen, including students, instructors, curriculum developers, instructional designers, and developers, have the flexibility to quickly and easily produce and distribute immersive courses, 3D models, and digital assets on the EMPACT Platform. Chris Verret, HTX Labs President said the the company’s work with the Air Force would “modernise critical training and reduce the barrier to scaling and sustaining immersive content for Airmen across the USAF has been a huge success…creating and delivering a game-changing immersive learning platform.”

In a recent statement, Verret expressed great satisfaction with the successful outcome of HTX’s collaboration with 2nd Air Force. “Our partnership with 2nd Air Force to modernise training, improve cost savings, and reduce barriers to scaling immersive training has been a huge success. Empact not only empowers Airmen to ‘own their future’ by enabling them to create and sustain immersive training programs at scale through its secure, centralised platform but also reduces duplicative development efforts to maximise operational efficiency and readiness.” 

Airforces around the world have been making investments in simulation training for fighter pilots, with advances coming steadily in both VR and Augmented Reality (AR). In June it was announced that Red 6, a specialist company in fighter pilot training through AR, had signed agreements with the Royal Airforce and the UK National Strategic Investment Fund to supply technology to the UK Military flight ecosystem.