Led by QinetiQ Training and Simulation, VRLT2 leverages technology from Bohemia Interactive Simulations
In the cavernous space of a Dalton Barracks hangar, dozens of British Army soldiers wearing VR headsets quietly wage war in virtual reality. Their mission: to take back the village of Copehill Down on the Salisbury Plain Training Area from AI-controlled enemy forces. The quiet of the hangar underscores the intense immersion that soldiers experience when training in VR as part of the British Army’s Virtual Reality in Land Training (VRLT).
“VR is giving soldiers a more immersive simulation training experience,” says Rusty Orwin, BISim’s Head of Sales - UK and Ireland and a former British Army Infantry Major. “Soldiers in VR are more engaged, taking training seriously but also clearly enjoying it more too, and they are more focused during training, which should better prepare them for live training.”
Delivering New Training Capabilities
Bohemia Interactive Simulations is continuing to work with the British Army to help provide collective training using VR through Virtual Reality In-Land Training (VRLT), a pathfinder project for the Collective Training Transformation Programme (CTTP).
Soldiers in VR are more engaged, taking training seriously but also clearly enjoying it more too, and they are more focused during training, which should better prepare them for live training.
Building on the award-winning VRLT1 pilot from 2019, BISim is now helping deliver VRLT2 as the technology partner with QinetiQ Training and Simulation as the prime contractor and training delivery partner. The team is using VBS4, BISim’s easy-to-use, whole-earth virtual and constructive simulation, to deliver innovative technology and new training capabilities through Virtual Reality (VR).
VRLT2 is on an entirely different scale of ambition from any of the Army’s CTTP informing activities for training audience, scale and technologies used. Because BISim’s fully featured software is already fielded extensively in the UK and elsewhere, VRLT2 is able to not just demonstrate the art of the possible but also demonstrate actual training of soldiers at the Company level.
During VRLT2 exercises, VBS4 is regularly being used to train 40+ military personnel and can scale for 90 trainees using BISim technology and VR headsets. On these exercises, the soldiers use VBS4’s fully integrated support for VR interaction for player movement, including weapon control, handling, player stance, and full-finger tracking to enhance gesturing and complex hand signals.
Training at Scale and to the Point of Need
One of the strengths of VBS4, according to Rusty, is that it enables training in VR not just at the individual, platoon and company level, but also allows soldiers to train in VR integrated in formations up to brigade level with thousands of units (both friendly and enemy). This creates a complex training environment with simulation of artillery, close air support and even naval gunfire to further immerse trainees.
Unlike many commercial game engines, which are limited to small terrain areas for virtual training, the VBS4 whole-earth terrain database allows users to train in VR anywhere on the planet.
“Unlike many commercial game engines, which are limited to small terrain areas for virtual training, the VBS4 whole-earth terrain database allows users to train in VR anywhere on the planet,” Rusty says. “So, for the British Army partnering with many nations around the globe, soldiers can get a look and feel for where they might go or, actually, where they are right now.”
BISim’s technology is being used from the individual level to the sub-unit level and on terrain sizes that a Battlegroup would operate in on live operations. “This enables soldiers to train alongside equipment not normally possible in live exercises, in a simulation environment made more immersive by VR,” Rusty adds.
Over the last two years, BISim’s technology has been significantly enhanced for VR and has helped train hundreds of soldiers ranging from Cavalry, Infantry, Logistics, Army Air Corps and Royal Artillery. BISim’s software has been combined with partner technologies to simulate a broad range of systems including instrumented Light Guns, AFC control systems, simulated CR2 turret trainers and synthetic wrap-style ISTAR feeds. It is also integrated with Cervus Defence and Security’s Hive Engine for training data exploitation.
“VRLT2 is one of the world’s largest governmentsponsored evaluations of the benefits of VR and its potential for military collective training,” Rusty says. “It is providing the Army with valuable insights for CTTP and showing where the Army can rapidly incorporate VR into training exercises to provide increased capabilities, better experiences and troop readiness.”
The VRLT pilot was led by BISim and delivered a series of 26 innovations over the course of the pilot study in 2019. Innovations included a high-fidelity 3D model of the Warrior IFV for VR, an automated system for monitoring individual performance, and the use of mixed reality to allow users to take notes and annotate maps during exercises or display battlespace management applications without breaking immersion.
VRLT2 is providing the Army with valuable insights for CTTP and showing where the Army can rapidly incorporate VR into training exercises to provide increased capabilities, better experiences and troop readiness.
Founded in 2001, Bohemia Interactive Simulations (BISim) is a global software company at the forefront of simulation and training solutions for defense and civilian organizations. BISim utilizes the latest game-based technology and a 200-strong, in-house team of engineers to develop high-fidelity, cost-effective training and simulation software products and components for defense applications.
Globally, more than 500,000 military personnel are trained every year using VBS software products. More than 60 NATO and NATO-friendly countries and over 250 integrators/prime contractors use VBS technology, many making significant funding commitments to extend VBS product capabilities. Customers include the U.S. Army, U.S. Marine Corps, Australian Defence Force, Swedish Armed Forces, French MoD and UK MoD and most major integrators. VBS products have become, by far, the world’s most widely used COTS product range in the military-simulation sector, supporting hundreds of military use cases and vastly greater military exploitation than any comparable products.