News

Army displays simulation technology

By Myles Peterson

The Australian Army is recruiting civilians to work in simulated warfare training exercises designed to improve the command skills of its officers.

The ‘Simulation Interactor’ positions are available at Puckapunyal and will aid in large operations conducted throughout the year with selection tests starting next month.

Officers from Puckapunyal’s Battle Simulation Centre gave The News a briefing this week on a variety of simulation systems used to train soldiers, from enlisted up to the rank of captain.

One software suite that might be familiar to some members of the public, dubbed Virtual Battlespace, is a close relative of Bohemia Interactive’s popular first-person war game Arma 3.

The version of VBS used by the Australian Defence Force, the US Army and many NATO allies, is designed to help train soldiers practise squad and platoon tactics under virtual conditions.

Signaller Dion Parkhurst, himself a keen gamer, said he loved his job, some of which involved mocking up scenarios in VBS for soldiers to train with.

‘‘For instance, I’ll place an IED under some rubbish for the ATV-crew to look out for,’’ he said.

A second software suite, a modified version of Steel Beasts Pro, is used to simulate and train soldiers involved in vehicle operations, such as the M1A1 Abrams tank.

But the most impressive software demonstrated can be described as a giant real-time strategy simulation, capable of tracking 100000 elements over any type of programmed terrain, with full weather conditions, day-night cycles and line-of-site restrictions.

Known as the Joint Conflict and Tactical Simulation, or JCATS, it forms the heart of the Battle Simulation Centre’s training operations and is the backbone for its largest training exercises.

When in full swing, warfare simulation exercises involving hundreds of army officers and associated staff including the civilian interactors play out mock battles designed to train commanding officers.

A demonstration showed to The News involved a recreation of the Puckapunyal base itself, but Major Mick Carroll said virtually any real-world setting could be used.

Commanding officers do not touch a keyboard, but instead relay their orders to subordinates and the interactors, who then insert the commands into the simulation.

The exercise is designed to give officers practical training in running large-scale, real-time battles.

The Australian Army has seven battle simulation sites and any two can be networked to increase the scale of the exercise further.

Actual troops can also be incorporated into the simulation.

A real-world training exercise taking place at Puckapunyal, for instance, could feed back into JCATS and itself receive feedback from the virtual battle, according to Maj Carroll.

Anyone interested in applying for a position as a simulation interactor can visit defencejobs.gov.au