A growing field in the military is the application of simulations in training. They run the spectrum from virtual environments where individuals interact directly, to high level operations where icons represent units and concepts. Their growth is fueling a new industry in the military that reduces waste, increases options and, when used correctly, can help to make better decisions necessary in war time.
The virtual environment has applications in many different environments. In a budget-constrained environment, it permits training that could not be performed. It allows service members to be introduced to situations that could cost tens of thousands of dollars to perform in the real world, and it is available on a daily basis.
Examples of virtual interactive environments include the EST 2000, which provides a virtual environment to conduct weapons training. Service members can zero, qualify, familiarize, respond to enemy threats, and conduct shoot/no shoot scenarios to determine when and how to make decisions in war that use the correct judgment. This reduces familiarization hours at the range, and can help to develop good baseline skills to reduce unnecessary ammunition wasting. This is not to say that firing live ammunition is not beneficial, but firing ammunition poorly is wasteful. Limiting consumption to accurate shooting is better. The Javelin skills trainer conducts a similar training environment and allows anti-tank soldiers to fire simulated rockets at vehicles, saving hundreds of thousands of dollars. Based on 2013 numbers, the average cost per Javelin for the latest contract comes out to more than $200,000 per launch unit and nearly $100,000 per rocket.
The military has developed a Virtual Battlefield System (VBS) version 2 and version 3. VBS 2 is a computer based system which allows service members to take over a squad in combat and work against an objective along with fellow squads. VBS 3 is a virtual reality system that includes individual soldiers putting virtual reality goggles on and conducting the operation in a closed environment. Both target different aspects of combat, and both provide a different perspective for evaluators.
As the systems get more complex and to a higher level, they provide different overviews based on echelons. Some are designed for tactical operations, and others for non-tactical purposes. All provide a digital environment to test out plans and recognize potential friction points in a computer simulation as compared to real life. When lives are on the line, it is not the time to realize that a planning misstep has occurred. By conducting war gaming in a virtual environment, leaders can create the best courses of action available given all of the information and actually fight the fight in a digital construct.
The right time to plan an exercise is early on. Leaders must recognize the benefits that can be derived and ask questions to ensure they understand what they did not know. The best way is to work with local simulation experts and design the product that fits the unit best. The results can be profound, and significantly change the way an organization plans and does business in the future.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.