There is no set-in-stone future for Air Force ranges, but some pilots, range managers and planners have a vision for the way ahead.
One potential future for Air Force ranges combines the capabilities of live, virtual and constructive elements to seamlessly create an immersive training experience. Live aircraft will fly in actual airspace boundaries while the pilot sees digitally created enemies on the aircraft’s instruments.
These digital enemies will not be constrained to the physical boundaries of the range, and can be engaged by the actual aircraft which are restricted to that airspace—in effect expanding the training area for pilots.
Simulators will be data-linked to actual aircraft and the pilots in the air will see these simulator pilots, as friendly forces, on their instruments—all of this will be synced to other simulators across the globe. This means squadrons can train at their home station while participating in training exercises with pilots who are on temporary duty assignment at an actual range.
Likewise, joint tactical air controllers may utilize simulators which integrate the JTACs into a 360-degree world where they can see the range and all of its elements, both virtual and live, in their own simulated environment.
All of these options add to a range’s capacity for supporting fifth-generation fighters and beyond. These aircraft fly faster, have weapons systems that require larger safety buffers, and have other abilities that can only be utilized in multi-domain environments.
The technological future of ranges may not be written yet, but the Air Force is working to ensure the best possible solutions are being brought to the table to fulfill present and future mission needs.