The world of military training requires a safe and controlled environment for military personnel and defence contractors to gain the first-hand experience of working in dangerous or life-threatening environments. To address this need, the later years of the 20th century and the early years of the 21st saw the widespread adoption of computer generated simulated training.
Virtual reality, a technology that has been showing tremendous promise and growth over the last decade, takes computer-generated training to the next level. The technology offers a fully immersive, multi-user experience and can emulate a variety of real-life scenarios. It goes beyond training people in a safe way – to make training incredibly realistic, intuitive, and efficient.
Military sectors across the globe have turned to Virtual Reality to train their army, navy, and air forces, notably due to its efficacy in preparing soldiers for complex combat situations in virtual environments. In fact, the industry has been the very first to adopt it, even before the commercial segment. The market size of VR military training stood at $9.33 billion in 2018, and could grow up to $10.8 billion by 2025.
Let’s begin by understanding the featured benefits that the platform offers to the military ecosystem:
- The trainees can navigate to different locations and situations, all in a safe and controlled environment. Fancy a first-hand experience of the Siachen glacier before you step your foot there? Or how about a parachute jump to gain awareness of the sensation and disorientation of jumping out of an aircraft? It is a powerful tool that can help people learn crucial skills to survive the test in high-pressure, critical environments.
- It is a platform that can roll out practical training at scale, much needed in a sector where a larger number of people must be trained at a high level
- VR can do this without the associated costs involved.
- Coordination is one of the most cardinal rules for military units. VR training allows units to train with each other. In this way, it also educates them on the importance of individual tasks and the implications their actions would have on other members.
- Now consider the added bonus that helps supervisors monitor and evaluate performances with a standardized data system.
- It is the only technology that can provide such a level of engagement and experience, in the safety net of the immersive web.
Let’s now look into the areas where Virtual Reality can be deployed:
In the past, it didn’t make practical sense to train medical doctors in a war-like setting. Virtual Reality now makes it possible to place them into practical scenarios at scale. VR’s immersive capability helps the military personnel practise critical situations such as treating life-threatening injuries/emergencies so that they could be prepared when a similar situation occurs during their service. The technology can also be used to treat PTSD or render boot camp experiences to new recruits.
The military battlefield is anything but merciful, and hence the training is understandably strenuous. Virtual Reality can create a replica of complex environments to train soldiers in a safe way and effectively handle stressful situations, improve communication skills and combat techniques, cope with external factors such as extreme weather conditions, etc.
Last year, the British Army’s Yorkshire Regiment has been trailing an immersive training program for soldiers to practise battlefield activities.
It requires extensive training to handle specialized military instruments such as ammunition and submarines. VR helps military trainees get acquainted with its usage by bridging the gap between classroom learning and simulations.
For example, the US Air Force trains its personnel using HTC VIVEs along with other equipment that can replicate a virtual cockpit.
Virtual Naval Ships
Across the world, naval institutions are using VR training to ensure that Navy officials understand the usage of complex equipment. Notably, the technology is being used as an orientation training tool by the Royal Navy Staff destined for the Queen Elizabeth Class (QEC) Aircraft Careers to help its forces understand the entire layout of a ship, which includes the identification of safety equipment, escape routes, etc. The purpose of such training programs is to train and test people’s response to emergency situations.
A Virtual Future
Global affairs and its socio-political orders are changing, posing major challenges to the military sector. It is now highly essential that we reflect on the ways army forces are trained and prepared for the highly demanding, and evolving service life. It’s true that we won’t be witnessing a complete overhaul here, but VR can play a key role in enhancing the practicality of training sessions while providing the much-needed option of scalability.