The U.K.is testing a new simulator as it investigates techniques to improve the accuracy of sailors using machine guns on naval and auxiliary vessels.
Simulation specialist NSC pulled together a deactivated weapon, projectors and software and delivered the completed system to the U.K.’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL), according to NSC head of business development Steve Yates. It also built an instructor operating station that will allow DSTL to gather information from the system.
The simulator is based around the General Purpose Machine Gun (GPMG), an elderly but much-loved 7.62mm weapon used widely in the U.K. armed forces.
The GPMG is frequently shipped on simple mountings around warships and used to provide close-in fire; it was widely used in this role against attacking Argentinian aircraft during the Falklands conflict.
Like the U.S. and other western navies, the U.K. Royal Navy is concerned by the prospect of Iranian swarm attacks by small speedboats in the Arabian Gulf. The new simulator can replicating scenarios that include defending against small, fast-moving vessels, supporting anti-piracy missions, and protecting ports and vessels within them.
DSTL awarded NSC the contract to develop the new simulator for use in trials of “novel training methods” for Royal Navy and Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) personnel. The RFA is a civilian-manned fleet owned by the U.K. Ministry of Defence (MoD) that supports Royal Navy ships with fuel, ammunition and supplies.
The simulator is the first in the U.K. to use the newest version of Bohemia Interactive Simulations’ Virtual Battlespace 2. It puts users’ fingers on the trigger of a deactivated GPMG as the action unfolds on an almost seven-foot-tall, 180-degree curved screen.
Compressed air provides recoil feedback from the deactivated GPMG, while hidden electronics track the weapon’s movements, allowing operators to tackle engagements in an immersive environment.
The simulator does not include motion, but the projected image can reproduce varying factors such as sea states, solar glare, surface reflections and sea spray.
“The U.K. MoD is a big user of the earlier VBS2 1.6,” said Yates. VBS 2 2.0 had a number of improvements in visual reproduction, “particularly in areas such as reflections on the sea and visualisation of objects at long distances.”
The DSTL is collaborating with sports psychologists from Exeter University for the trials testing this method of training. In a written statement, the DSTL said that the NSC synthetic environment “provides specific performance data on the accuracy of the participants, allowing the researchers to compare two training approaches: traditional mechanical instructions, in comparison to instructions relating to the participant’s eye movements during the task.
The DSTL also noted that successful eye movement training could introduce a way of increasing skills development and reducing the time spent in synthetic environments during training, but declined to give further details.