GREENVILLE, S.C.—Lockheed Martin [LMT] is using an upgraded variant of Microsoft’s [MSFT] classic Flight Simulator software as part of its Air Force Advanced Pilot Training (APT) or T-X, offering’s ground-based training system (GBST).
The upgraded variant is known as Prepar3D, an enhanced version of the Microsoft Flight Simulator Enterprise Simulation Platform (ESP) that Lockheed Martin sells commercially. Prepar3D is a visual simulation platform launched in 2010 that allows users to create training scenarios across aviation, maritime and ground domains. Users can train anywhere in the virtual world, from underwater to suborbital space.
Built on the core technology behind Flight Simulator X, originally released in October 2006, Microsoft ESP is a visual simulation platform that brings immersive games-based technology to training and learning, decision support and research and development (R&D) modeling for government and commercial organizations, according to Microsoft. Lockheed Martin bought the rights to ESP in perpetuity in 2009 for use in everything but entertainment, Brett Vonsik, chief engineer for the innovation demonstration center at Lockheed Martin, told Defense Daily in a Feb. 22 interview.
Lockheed Martin spokesman Gregory Lester said Tuesday a key piece of Prepar3D’s modernization of Flight Simulator X was the upgrade of the core rendering engine to Microsoft DirectX 11. This update, he said, allowed the simulation to take full advantage of modern day graphics cards, which leads to increased performance and realism and also offers the full control over what is displayed to the user.
Lester said other visual improvements in Prepar3D include dynamic shadow system, including internal virtual cockpit shadows, terrain and cloud shadows; a high-dynamic range (HDR) lighting system that brings increased immersion when training in all times of day. Other improvements from Flight Simulator X include volumetric fog and increased fidelity of clouds and weather and high-quality graphics that support texture limits as high as 4096×4096 resolution to better support ultra-high definition (UHD) and 4k displays.
Lester said Prepar3D is a key component of Lockheed Martin’s F-35 training and is also used by the Royal Australian Air Force and by Singapore in its basic wings course. These other programs, Lester said, also use Prepar3D as part of Lockheed Martin’s SciosReady turn-key training product line, which he said allows the company to produce fully-trained, mission-ready warfighters. Air Force spokesman Mark Locken confirmed that the F-35 program uses Prepar3D as part of its F-35 training.
Lockheed Martin, Lester said, continues to reinvest in Prepar3D to add new capabilities and features. He said a new major release is expected this year, welcoming further enhancements to better train student pilots.
Lockheed Martin gave Defense Daily a demonstration of its APT T-50A ground based training system in its facility here Feb. 22. Lester said this system was built using the courseware and design from SciosReady with its Prepar3D simulation software.
There are a number of teams bidding for T-X. This includes Lockheed Martin teaming with Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) to offer KAI’s T-50. Lockheed Martin and KAI believe their low-cost, in-production and flight ready offering will win the competition.
Also bidding is Boeing [BA] and Sweden’s Saab AB offering a clean sheet jet. They believe their custom offering will win the competition. Boeing declined to say what software the company was using as part of its T-X offering.
Also bidding for T-X include Italy’s Leonardo, formerly known as Finmeccanica. Raytheon [RTN] was part of this team but dropped out in 2016. Leonardo did not respond to a request for comment by press time Tuesday. Little known Stavatti Aerospace is also bidding for T-X with Javelin.
Vonsik said Lockheed Martin first bought ESP eight years ago when the company needed a solution for a C-130J part task trainer for Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC). Lockheed Martin, he said, also had a situation where the F-35 program was using a different set of software that came from an international source, but the federal government told the company this software’s learning management system was forbidden from touching Pentagon information technology (IT) networks, thus spurring its licensing of ESP. Lockheed Martin is the prime contractor for F-35.
The Orion space capsule program has approached the innovation demonstration center about using Prepar3D for training as Prepar3d currently goes up to 18,000 miles. Vonsik said the 64-bit version of Prepar3D will allow even higher simulation.
Vonsik said Lockheed Martin developed a MC- and a HC-130 variant of Prepar3D.