The Army has created a video game unit and will invest $50 million over five years on games and gaming systems designed to prepare soldiers for combat.
Lt. Col. Gary Stephens, product manager for air and ground tactical trainers at Project Executive Office — Simulation Training and Instrumentation said Thursday that the $50 million has been approved for a “games for training” program starting in 2010.
The Army already uses a commercial first-person shooter video game — “DARWARS Ambush” — to train soldiers. Since 2006, PEO-STRI has fielded more than 3,000 copies of the game to the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard and Homeland Defense, Stephens said.
However, the game is based on 20th-century gaming technology and can accommodate a limited number of players in a relatively small virtual battle space. It canÃ¯Â¿Â½t interact with the ArmyÃ¯Â¿Â½s real world computerized battle command systems and trainers canÃ¯Â¿Â½t edit terrain or change scenarios during play, he said.
The new game — dubbed “Game After Ambush” — will be an off-the-shelf commercial product that comes with tools that will allow the Army to make almost any modification necessaryto terrain, scenarios, missions, etc.
Leslie Duvow, project director for gaming at PEO-STRI, said the Army will have 70 gaming systems in 53 locations in the United States, Germany, Italy and South Korea between February and September 2009.
“Each system will consist of 52 computers with ancillary equipment including steering wheels, headsets and mice,” she said.
Soldiers will be able to drive virtual vehicles, fire virtual weapons, pilot virtual unmanned aerial vehicles and do “most anything a soldier does” in a virtual battle space as large as 100 kilometers by 100 kilometers, she said.
The new game will also be able to interact with the ArmyÃ¯Â¿Â½s battle command systems that soldiers use in the real world to track equipment, enemy and friendly forces using computerized maps, he said.
The systems will be built to train a single platoon of soldiers at a time, but they could be linked over the Internet to train even more soldiers, he said.
Another program being developed by the Army for fielding in 2009 — called “dismounted soldier” — allows personnel to don virtual-reality goggles and walk around virtual battle space carrying a “weapon” that allows them to shoot at virtual targets, Stephens said.
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