The U.S. Army has purchased its first immersive, virtual simulation training system for dismounted soldiers. Intelligent Decisions, Ashburn, Va., was awarded a $57 million contract to develop a Dismounted Soldier Training System for the U.S. Army Program Executive Office of Simulation, Training and Instrumentation (PEO STRI).
"There's never really been a system fielded by the Army that really is focused on the dismounted soldier's training in the virtual environment," said John Foster, assistant project manager at PEO STRI for the Close Combat Tactical Trainer, which dismounted soldier will fall under, along with the Reconfigurable Vehicle Tactical Trainer. The three systems can be networked and are part of the Army's overall live, virtual, constructive integrated training environment, he said.
The man-wearable dismounted soldier system includes the helmet-mounted display, a ruggedized laptop worn on the soldier's back to perform computations, run the game engine and display visuals, and sensors on the body that provide motion tracking while allowing for 360-degrees of movement.
The system uses CryENGINE commercial off-the-shelf game engine technology, which displays the immersive environment using photorealistic graphics. Soldiers stand in a 10-by-10 area with a mat below them to provide haptic feedback for safety, and can control their locomotion in the virtual world via a joystick on their weapon.
The system stands out because of the ability to link an entire squad, Foster said. The Army intends to use the system to augment live training and fill a gap by stressing soldiers mentally, he said. "The Army has shoot houses that can do things to a point, but due to safety concerns, you can't be shot back at or have artillery dropped on you," he said. "There are a lot of things you can do in the virtual world that would bring in that realism."
The Army intends to purchase 102 dismounted soldier suites over the course of four option years, to be distributed to 51 locations for the Army, Army Reserve and National Guard, Foster said. Each suite can equip up to nine soldiers, and includes an after-action review station, an exercise control station and five desktop workstations for adjacent units augmenting the immersive squad.
"We don't know what every single facility is like, so we're providing a portable, flexible layout and set up," said Floyd West, the program manager for dismounted soldier with the Orlando-based training and simulation division of Intelligent Decisions. The system can be installed in a fixed or mobile facility in less than four hours.
Intelligent Decisions plans to deliver the first suites to Fort Benning, Ga., and Fort Bragg, N.C., in January for user assessment. Advanced Simulation Research, AVT Simulation, L-3 Link and RealTime Immersive have partnered with Intelligent Decisions to develop the system.
— Kristin Quinn