The UK’s Ministry of Defence has purchased Virtual Reality Parachute Trainers (VRPT) for the Parachute Training School at RAF Brize Norton, Oxfordshire. The contract with Gloucestershire-based Pennant Training Systems Limited is for the design, manufacture, and installation of eight Virtual Trainers.

Suspended from a metal frame, students are equipped with virtual reality goggles that simulate a variety of locations, conditions, and contingencies. Instructors can adjust the time of day, the weather, and choose from among three environments, including a village, a wooded area and water.

If they want to challenge the students, instructors can alter the wind speed and direction, or simulate an emergency scenario.

A computer-generated image of the new Virtual Reality Parachute Trainers.

The VRPT can accurately recreate a free-fall or static line jump, and students can jump as individuals or as part of a “stick” (about 12 paratroopers). With static line jumps, the parachute is linked to the airplane, and deploys immediately after egress. The technique is used primarily for low-altitude jumps (the jumps in Band of Brothers were all static line). With free-fall jumps, the person deploys their own parachute after a specified period of time—this varies based on mission requirements. Free-fall encompasses the familiar HAHO (High Altitude High Opening) and HALO (High Altitude Low Opening) terminology.

According to Squadron Leader Alistair Hunt, of the Parachute Training School, “Whilst the trainer will not replace live descents for the trainee parachutists, the opportunity to repeatedly practise drills and react to emergency situations in a safe and, importantly, realistic virtual environment, is invaluable and will greatly enhance training delivery and ultimately safety.”

The Virtual Reality Parachute Trainers will be available later this year.