Battlespace Tech

Marines conduct first live-fire augmented reality training

ONR Marines AITT augmented reality

A Marine is equipped with AITT's helmet-mounted display.


Marines recently tested augmented reality technology in a live-fire training exercise for the first time.  Developed by the Office of Naval Research, the Augmented Immersive Team Trainer (AITT) system consists of a laptop, software and battery pack, and a helmet-mounted display. It supports live, virtual and cutting-edge training scenarios. 

The system combines the physical domain with the virtual by superimposing objects into a real environment. 

“This affordable lightweight system can be taken anywhere—turning any environment into a training ground—and could be used to prepare Marines for real-world situations and environments they will face,” Brig. Gen. Julian Alford, vice chief of naval research and commanding general of the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory, said in an ONR release.

The recent live-fire tests followed the first fielding of AITT at the Marine Corps Base Quantico in May, in which Marines could train on a golf course while AITT supplied virtual tanks, mortar fire and smoke from explosions. 

An additional benefit of the augmented system is that it negates challenges such as competing for range time or having to deal with inclement weather. It also saves money over using physical equipment munitions in many cases.

“The system makes the training easier and eliminates the maintenance issues or weather-related restrictions that can pare down or cancel training,” Maj. George Flynn, director of the Infantry Officer Course, said. “For instance, this system can use virtual air support, so even if it’s raining, the students can still be training, getting confidence and learning the points of employing aviation assets.”

Virtual training overall is becoming a popular model that allows soldiers to connect with others around the globe and work together regardless of physical location. Augmented reality is just another iteration that enables soldiers to conduct training in complex scenarios regardless of additional physical limitations.

And it has proved to be effective. A study by the Marine Corps Systems Command found that training on a simulated M1A1 tanks translated to improved performance once crews moved to live-fire tests.

“Rather than having the instructor paint a picture to the student without anything happening, now the student can get a visual of the aircraft they’ve been controlling in support of a maneuver on the deck,” Flynn said of the recent training at Quantico. “[A]s part of a company training event, a rifle platoon could be conducting a live-fire attack on a range at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, while the Fire Support Team could be on the hill practicing employing fires in support of maneuver, using virtual effects.”

About the Author

Mark Pomerleau is a former editorial fellow with GCN and Defense Systems.

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