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0 UK Soldiers train with only the best gaming software, minus the civilian casualty's

Simulation Specialists Help Troops Stay Ahead of the Game, Surrey-based company enlists gaming technology

Members of the British Army’s PlayStation generation will head to Helmand province next month having honed their soldiering skills in virtual combat. As part of their year-long preparations for a winter tour of Afghanistan, troops from 20th Armoured Brigade have been immersed in a succession of cutting-edge simulation serials tailored to replicate real-life threats in theatre.

The digital deployment – delivered by leading training and simulation company NSC – saw each of the formation’s battlegroups plugged into JCOVE (Joint Combat Operations Virtual Environment).

Originally introduced to British Service personnel in 2007 as a means of training troops in vehicle convoy drills, JCOVE has been developed to emulate and test soldiers’ reactions to foot patrols, Taliban ambushes and the ever-present threat of improvised explosive devices.

Utilising military simulator Virtual Battlespace 2, a spin-off from commercial game engines, the training is run on a network of laptop computers with those taking part able to communicate via headsets. It boasts console-quality aesthetics and features authentic weaponry, vehicles and Afghan-style terrain.

NSC has already rolled-out digital duplicates of Mastiff and Jackal – two recent arrivals in the Army’s armoured vehicle arsenal – and virtual versions of the Ridgback and Husky are revving up for action. The Service’s new multi-terrain pattern camouflage will also be added to the war-game’s wardrobe in the coming weeks.

“This sort of training has its limitations but soldiers, particularly those using JCOVE, really get involved with it and don’t just sit there thinking ‘I’m playing a computer game’,” Chris Williams, project group manager of virtual training and simulation systems at the Surrey-based company, said. “It is far more realistic than any game on the market and is not there for entertainment – it is there for training and troops see and treat it differently.

“A game only has to have enough code behind it to make the on-screen soldiers and enemies do the things necessary for the title’s storyline; a training system has to be able to do anything,” he added. “Our ‘soldiers’ are at the will of the operator and consequently you can’t have any areas of the map which are off limits.

“We also have to make sure that the software’s weapons systems are realistic – in a simulation you can’t suddenly acquire a super weapon that can take out all of the enemy in one shot.”

Williams said that the realism brought to the pre-deployment mix by NSC, which also develops and delivers strategic and operational war-gaming solutions for the UK Joint Services Command and Staff College and Land Warfare Centre, complemented traditional training methods.

“With an exercise on Salisbury Plain it can be raining and muddy, the soldiers all wear green and they’ve got Afghans driving about in brand new 4x4s – so much so that it doesn’t look authentic,” he added. “Put the training on a computer screen and these things do look real: the scenery looks real, the Afghans look real and there are beaten-up cars instead of shiny vehicles. 


 Gulf War syndrome, suicide wait, alcoholism, and no retirement pension!! are paid for add-ons apparently....

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