understanding that if one soldier becomes tired and takes
a knee, it affects the whole group. In the game, if an avatar
is pushed beyond its physical limits, it will sit or even lie
down until it is rested. Leaders also can see what happens in
situations such as if a team member picks up a sniper rifle
but has no experience with it. The system responds to lack
of experience with lack of accuracy. No one is an expert
simply because of access to a weapon. This allows leaders to
put the right people in the right roles.
In addition to Conners’ organization, other groups played
a role in creating the game. They include the Army’s Program
Executive Office for Simulation, Training and Instrumentation (PEO STRI) and prime contractor Calytrix with its team
members Bohemia Interactive Simulations, SimCentric and
Alelo. The validation process includes subject matter experts
from each of the Army’s centers of excellence (COEs). “By
doing that, we ensure that the behavior in the simulation
matches what the COE expects it to be,” Conners says.
Another improvement in the game involves ambience. The
training tool creates crowd and insurgent ambiance in a way
that more accurately resembles how humans behave in masses,
allowing soldiers to develop better the skills necessary in such
a situation. Crowd avatars do not walk around randomly or
come stare at a user’s face, then wander away. Also included in
the upgrades is a digital chalkboard/digital mission rehearsal
tool. Conners likens this to a digital sand table. It has generic
terrain and geospecific terrain options, the latter built for units’
areas of operation or training ranges.
Three other major enhancements also are included. The
scenario tool allows planners to prepare for large live, virtual
and constructive exercises. They can import battle system files
that provide continuity across all three environments. The
last two upgrades are call for fires and fires advanced field
artillery tactical data system, both of which improve firing
capabilities. When Virtual Battle Space (VBS) 2 was under
development in 2008, Conners said project personnel had 33
requirements. For VBS 3, they had 148 requirements. “We
looked for something that was much more robust,” he explains.
Offering upgrades often and taking advantage of the com-
mercial sector allow the virtual training to keep pace with a
multibillion-dollar industry that advances rapidly.
VBS 3 requires a suite of 53 computers, and distribution of
the system occurs in several ways. In some cases, the Army
fields all the hardware and software to locations. But if a location has the hardware and needs the program, the staff can
download it online or request it to be sent on seven discs. The
download takes a long time and requires large pipes, so many
organizations prefer the other mode, which also serves as a
backup in case a problem occurs.
Use of VBS 3 is not limited to the Army. The U.S. Marine
Corps and foreign militaries also employ it, enabling the development of more capabilities and interactions.
Military users can add their own capabilities
and then share them. Common Access Card
holders can log on to the MilGaming website to share what they have created and take
advantage of what others have made available. Experts at PEO STRI say the site has
more than 40,000 registered users. The site
additionally includes forums so visitors can
share ideas and ask questions; visitors also
can access other training simulations.
VBS 3 team members give units ideas to
consider and make sure they have controls
and training objectives. Without those, “it’s
nothing but a game,” Conners says. Usage
should not be chaotic. “We’re not playing,”
he states. “We’re training.” The robust nature
of the simulations means that they are applicable to almost all situations. “You’re limited
by your imagination” is a mantra repeated
by Conners, PEO STRI personnel and users. Conners adds,
“Whatever scenario you can dream up, you can probably
execute in VBS 3.” Though company and below units are
the primary users, units at battalion and above employ it for
mission planning and rehearsal, to train fires at the battalion
Users of VBS 3 can create and add items to the simulation system,
then share them with others through the MilGaming platform.
VBS 3 offers a large inventory of
platforms and other equipment that
troops can employ to customize their
training for their particular needs.