Modern flight simulators - not the recreational kind, the actual kind used to train pilots - are enormous, expensive things. They're impressive, sure, but their cost and size mean they can't exactly be used every day. That's why a company has been given money by the US Air Force to develop something a little more accessible.
GameSim, a studio that's worked with EA Sports and BioWare in the past, won the grant to develop something called TTRE, or Tactical Training Rehearsal Environment. "We designed TTRE to run on laptops for Air Force pilots", GameSim's Stephen Eckman tells me, "and it is designed to be portable so we didn't want to have large external displays."
While the "game-like" platform can be adjusted for any combat aircraft, right now it's being lined up as an F-35 simulator, as the USAF's newest jet needs what Eckman calls "5th Gen thinking". Because of its extensive use of computer aids and advanced sensors, pilots have to learn not just how to fly it, but how to adjust their thinking to do everything else they need to do while flying.
What I find neat about the project is that it's the opposite of what we normally envision for a military flight sim. Indeed, it's almost an example on how to go about getting the most bang for your buck as a civilian flight enthusiast. TTRE in its current form uses consumer gear you can buy yourself right now, from the glasses it's employing (Vuzix Wrap 1200DX) as a cheaper form of VR to the joystick and throttle (the Saitek X52 Pro).
It's around $US1000 for both of those, plus the laptop/desktop you'd need. That isn't cheap by game console standards, or even PC gaming standards, but by military flight simulator standards, it's insane.