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Navy taps into virtual reality to train for flight deck ops

New mobile classrooms help sailors learn the skills needed to launch and recover aircraft.

NORFOLK, Va. — The Navy is embracing modern technology to train aircraft carrier sailors of tomorrow, today.

It's called "C-ARTS" or "Carrier-Advanced Reconfigurable Training System." The  55-foot-long, 1,000-square-foot classrooms on wheels supply what the Navy describes as "high-velocity" learning.

By donning virtual reality goggles, a student enters the alternative, yet, practically authentic world of an operational 100,000-ton aircraft carrier at-sea

It's designed to meet the instructional needs, expectations, and skillsets of tech-savvy young sailors who grew up on XBox and Wii.

"This is their world, this is the iPhone on steroids," said Command Master Chief Thaddeus Wright of the future USS John F. Kennedy. "This is their environment. This is what they grew up with, so they're going to be very familiar with it."

Using state-of-the-art animation, along with augmented, virtual, and mixed reality learning tools, C-ARTS allows sailors to practice and perfect the flight deck operations they'll perform for real when they deploy.

"It's very realistic, other than the fact you're in a controlled environment here in a trailer," said RADM James Downey, Program Executive Officer, Aircraft Carriers.

Leaders cut the ribbon Friday on two trailers set up near the carrier piers at Naval Station Norfolk, where USS Gerald R. Ford personnel can go to hone their skills.

Two more mobile labs are in place at Newport News Shipbuilding for the Kennedy sailors to use.

"Now we've brought the training to them, so the opportunity for them to step off the ship, come over here, get the training and get right back, it's so convenient," said RADM Roy Kelley, Commander, Naval Air Force Atlantic.

It's a classic win-win.

The sailors get all the simulated hands-on training they need, at a fraction of the cost of actual underway operations, all from the comparative safety and comfort of being on dry land.