Virtual Reality for BAE Systems Apprentices in Portsmouth
A conference paper for Sir Donald Gosling Award was entered by three apprentices at BAE Systems at Portsmouth Naval Base. It shows how virtual reality could have a practical application on the new Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers.
A computer generated simulation of a 3D environment will make it possible for users to interact physically with their environment and surroundings in real time. This technology is already being utilized by the gaming industry and now virtual reality simulations for training and for warship design has been created by BAE systems. The three major areas that will benefit from this technology are either of design services, training or business communications.
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The work is based primarily on the apprentices’ experiences of developing the support solutions for the Queen Elizabeth Class. Ross Basketter and Craig Birchmore are both in the fourth year of their Engineering Technician Apprenticeship, Abbi Fisher is in the third year of her Engineering Technician Apprenticeship, and they are all working together on the Readiness program.
The Queen Elizabeth class is a class of two aircraft carriers currently under construction for the Royal Navy. The first, HMS Queen Elizabeth, was named on 4 July 2014, with her ship commissioning planned for 2017, and an initial operating capability expected in 2020. The second, HMS Prince of Wales, is scheduled to be launched around 2017, followed by commissioning in 2020 and service thereafter. On 5 September 2014, at the NATO 2014 Wales summit, the Prime Minister announced that the second carrier will be brought into service, ending years of uncertainty surrounding its future. The contract for the vessels was announced on25 July 2007, by the then Secretary of State for Defense, Des Browne, ending several years of delay over cost issues and British naval shipbuilding restructuring. The contracts were signed one year later on 3 July 2008, after the creation of BVT Surface Fleet through the merger of BAE Systems Surface Fleet Solutions and VT Group’s VT Shipbuilding, which was a requirement of the UK Government. The vessels currently have a displacement of approximately 70,600 tonnes (69,500 long tons), but the design anticipates growth over the lifetime of the ships. The ships will be 280 meters (920 ft.) long and have a tailored air group of up to forty aircraft (though are capable of carrying up to fifty at full load). They will be the largest warships ever constructed for the Royal Navy. The projected cost of the programme is £6.2 billion.
The carriers will be completed as originally planned, in a Short Take-Off and Vertical Landing (STOVL) configuration, deploying the Lockheed Martin F-35B. Following the 2010 Strategic Defense and Security Review, the British government had intended to purchase the F-35C carrier version of this aircraft, and adopted plans for Prince of Wales to be built to a Catapult Assisted Take Off Barrier Arrested Recovery (CATOBAR) configuration. After the projected costs of the CATOBAR system rose to around twice the original estimate, the government announced that it would revert to the original design on 10 May 2012.
INEC, a major international conference for naval engineers, is an Institute of Marine Engineering, Science, and Technology (IMarEST) Learned Society event. The BAE Systems apprentices’ paper was one of 23 presented to the Sir Donald Gosling Award judging panel. John Newell, the Judging Panel Chairman, who is also Head of Queen Elizabeth Class Support at BAE Systems, said: “The sheer size and complexity of the new carriers present support staff with a challenge both in finding their way around the ship and in supporting the ship’s systems.
“This paper highlights the opportunity that virtual reality offers in building intimate knowledge of the ship from ashore, assists in designing future changes to the ships and helps with planning support activities amongst many potential benefits to improve effective and efficient delivery of support.”