On a visit to the Sheppard Air Force Base in Texas, US Air Force (USAF) under-secretary Matthew P Donovan highlighted the importance of proper training for future USAF readiness and lethality.

Donovan stressed the significance of establishing infrastructure, such as learning laboratories, pre-flight briefings, and simulation equipment at the Sheppard facility and others across the US. He also mentioned that modernising key capabilities, improving the skillset of the workforce and providing operational innovation were part of the US National Defense Strategy (NDS).

Donovan said: “With the largest technical training wing in the air force, you train those that will build, move and fix our air force so we can fight. These airmen will be key to how we face future threats to our national security.”

“Our NDS tells us that we’ve got to restore the readiness, increase the lethality of our force. It has to start right here in the training. I’m out here to take a look at the innovations that have been put into place by the AETC Commander (Lieutenant General Steven) Kwast and his two numbered air force commanders that are in charge of these wings.”

During his visit, the under-secretary observed USAF pilots-in-training using technology, such as virtual (VR), augmented (AR) and mixed realities (MR) as part of their curriculum.

For example, USAF undergraduates use Microsoft HoloLens’ MR technology to learn aircraft maintenance and civil engineering, while electrical systems apprentices train with a VR simulator to help students overcome a fear of heights and hone flying skills.

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Training with NATO allies

At the Sheppard facility, Donovan noted how the USAF has continually trained with partner nations to increase innovation within the division, such as the 82nd Training Wing’s International Military Student Organisation, and the 80th Flying Training Wing’s Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training scheme.

Speaking of its international military alliance, Donovan said: “It actually plays a very, very large role. In fact, our second Line of Effort that’s articulated in the NDS is strengthening our alliances with our partners around the globe, so this is the absolute premier place that we do that for our NATO partners.”

The NDS states that international alliances give the USAF more tools to improve readiness and force lethality while strengthening stability and promoting diplomacy over aggression.

In recent years, the USAF has suffered from a pilot shortage. Donovan said that new programmes have been put in place in an attempt to retain staff and personnel from moving from the military to the commercial piloting sector.

“We’ve put into place some increased production. You’ll probably notice that here at Sheppard Air Force Base,” said Donovan.

“We’re also looking forward to a new T-X trainer, which will replace the T-38, and that will provide the larger production capability. We’re also looking at retention incentives to try to get the pilots we have trained to stay with the air force.”