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Aechelon flight simulation

A Quantum Leap in XR Simulation: How Aechelon and Varjo Are Shaping the Future of Fighter Jet Pilot Training

Aechelon Technology creates high fidelity, geo-specific representations of the real world, powering the world’s most advanced applications for simulated training.

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Aechelon recently achieved a contract by SAIC to provide pC-Nova Nucleus™ Image Generators with Varjo XR-4 mixed reality, multi-projector dome support, and databases for the CNATRA at NAS Kingsville, NAS Meridian, and NAS Pensacola.

Leading the Charge in Advanced Simulation

Aechelon Technology, headquartered in South San Francisco, CA, is a leader in real-time computer graphics for training, simulation, and entertainment. With 26 years in the industry, the company specializes in high-resolution, multi-channel, geo-specific image generators and sensor simulation technologies, delivering over 1000 simulators for top-tier platforms like the F-35 and F-22.

Aechelon is at the forefront of transforming fighter jet pilot training, serving as a key vendor for highest-end mission rehearsal and flight simulations for the U.S. government and allied nations.

Transforming Defence Training with Immersive Technologies

Aechelon provides a full breadth of visualization simulation applications for training, ranging from large-scale physical simulators to more lightweight and portable virtual or mixed reality solutions. Recently, the adoption of VR and XR technologies in the defense sector has seen a significant upsurge.

To date, Aechelon has delivered over 200 systems that incorporate augmented, virtual, or mixed reality, predominantly designed for multi-sensor operations.

The most advanced XR simulations offer true-to-life immersion and resolution high enough to enable numerous mission-essential training tasks to be completed in headset-based simulators. These portable and highly scalable XR-based solutions can be inserted into the flight training curriculum to supplement and, in some cases, replace the existing coursework and exercises as well as being used as Deployable Mission Reharshal Systems (DMRTs).

A great example of DMRT is the full production version of the U.S. Marine Corps Mixed Reality Image Generators for AH-1Z Viper and UH-1Y Venom Deployable Mission Rehearsal Trainers (DMRT), enabling full multi-spectral sensor cockpit configurations and associated hardware, software, and DoD Global Databases.

More Pilots, Less Cost, Better Outcomes

There are a multitude of benefits in using XR-based devices for pilot training and other cockpit-based use cases. Firstly, immersive technologies drive cost efficiencies by reducing the need for expensive dome-based full-mission simulators. They also enable the utilization of existing simulation assets, as well as accommodate new training modules and updates to existing programs without substantial additional investment. The portability of the devices unlocks opportunities for on-site training, thereby eliminating the need for travel and reducing associated costs.

An additional benefit is the replacement and virtualization of Night Vission Goggles and sensor fusion advanced Head Mounted Cueing Systems (HMICS), enabling the closer-to-reality simulation of all current and future helmets.

Moreover, the easy-access nature of these training tools enables trainees to undertake additional practice sessions and gain skill mastery through increased repetitions. When training programs successfully implement VR/XR solutions, they will train more pilots faster and provide more flexibly in the training with less cost than ever before, ensuring safety, security readiness and mission rehearsal success.

Shaping the Industry’s Future—Together

Aechelon simulated training

The teams at Varjo and Aechelon have forged a strong partnership in their joint goal of developing industry leading XR solutions for mission-critical work. Over the past year, engineering teams from both companies have collaborated intensively between Finland and the United States on the new Varjo XR-4 Series, iterating on several prototypes to ensure alignment for both companies’ solutions. The goal was simple yet ambitious: maximizing precision and performance while meeting the demanding requirements of government clientele.

“Varjo’s world-class team of high technology expertise is a perfect match with our company values for serving our most demanding government customers. We both seek the highest quality without compromise, and we really care about our customers and these life-saving technologies,” says Javier Castellar, Chief Strategy Officer at Aechelon Technology. “We take it very seriously and have a similar culture of always pushing the envelope.”

“During the collaboration with Varjo, the most satisfying moment for me was the first time that I tried the XR-4 Series. In that very moment, I knew that this was it for the simulation and training market.”

Javier Castellar - Chief Strategy Officer, Aechelon Technology

Meeting Diverse Demands for Advanced Training

The Varjo XR-4 Series, consisting of the standard Varjo XR-4, XR-4 Focal Edition optimized for XR simulation, and TAA-compliant XR-4 Secure Edition tailor-made for secure environments, is designed to meet diverse operational demands.

For Aechelon, Varjo’s range ensures the technology compatibility with existing training frameworks and ongoing government programs versions.

“We see a peaceful coexistence and complementarity of XR-4 with classic display systems such as domes, by increasing the government return of investment by reuse of the same unmodified geospatial databases, host computers, avionics and cockpit development as we have seen in the recently announced SAIC T-45 program,” says Javier Castellar.

The XR-4 Focal Edition meets the clientele’s critical requirement for high-resolution detail with its advanced passthrough and autofocus camera system. Conversely, the XR-4 Secure Edition units are assembled securely in Finland and run completely offline, ensuring they are suitable for exceptionally high-confidentiality and closed-loop network environments.

“Varjo’s responsiveness allows for solutions uniquely tailored to user needs, which are often quite specific,” says Castellar. “A fundamental strategy was the reliance on the combined large volume production of both commercial and secure TAA-compliant variants to the wide market while ensuring particular needs of the Image and Sensor generators with the XR-4 Series for the highest end U.S. Government and Allied Forces’ needs.”

Varjo XR-4 for flight training

Setting New Standards in Simulation Immersion

A key design principle of the XR-4 Series is its uncompromised resolution and bandwidth, which utilizes the maximum capability of current and next-generation graphics cards. This high level of performance is achieved through a direct PC tether to the device, bypassing the need for compressors—an essential requirement for preserving the high fidelity demanded by pro-grade simulators. “Our goal is to provide, in a very compact footprint, even better resolution that we can do today on large domes,” Castellar explains.

The XR-4 headsets’ wide field of view is crucial in cockpit simulations, as it caters to a pilot’s reliance on peripheral vision. By eliminating resolution limitations, even at high angles of vision, the XR-4 enables pilots to maintain a scanning pattern that closely resembles real-world operations.

“XR-4 has finally solved key aspects in terms of field of view and resolution that enable us to elevate the training experience in applications that before were just simply impossible,” Castellar praises.

Varjo and Aechelon simulation

“XR-4 truly has superlative resolution and immersion level that we have never seen before. It’s absolutely clear that Varjo is in a different league.”

Javier Castellar - Chief Strategy Officer, Aechelon Technology
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