"So it's like a video gaming system on steroids?" I asked Adam Breed, engineering project manager for Lockheed Martin's flight simulator, before agreeing to test out the platform.
Lockheed Martin's Prepar3D, pronounced "prepared," is an immersive flight simulator program that marries virtual reality headsets and aviation training scenarios.
The defense giant offers this software commercially for private pilots, organizations and hobbyists and also makes a classified version for the companies largest customer — the U.S. military.
Breed explained that while he couldn't give exact numbers of how many systems were currently in use on American military bases, he did say that the commercial community has more than 150,000 users.
The Pentagon's top weapons supplier offered reporters the rare opportunity to engage with the visual simulation platform during the company's media day Monday.
I sat down in Prepar3D's racer-style seat and was helped into the VR headset. The software allows you to fly pretty much any aircraft in any type of weather imaginable, but I opted for a U.S. Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter and clear sunny skies.
I started out at the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and flew over the Potomac river to see a few of D.C.'s monuments as well as the Pentagon.
Here's me sitting in Prepar3D and the screen on the right shows a feed from my VR handset:
As it turns out, I wasn't great behind the throttle of the Black Hawk and ended up crashing in a field near the Pentagon. Breed later told me that I was operating on the easiest mode available on the simulator.
In short, Lockheed Martin's Prepar3D is essentially a souped-up training aid that was leveraged from the "best technology from the video game industry to drive extreme affordability and innovation in the defense industry," Breed explained.