For the first time, China’s five-year plan for social and economic development calls for virtual reality tools in training its combat and supporting forces like maintenance crews and technicians. A logistics support unit affiliated with the PLA Northern Theater Command Navy carried out a wartime fuel support drill. Unlike the traditional maneuvers, the training took place within a simulated environment. China’s Global Times quoted military experts on this: “The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has started to use virtual reality (VR) technologies as it allows officers and soldiers to gain enhanced combat capability more efficiently.”
Chinese military publications have consistently proclaimed that virtual reality technology will provide the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) with a distinctive edge in combat readiness, vehicle and weapons lifecycle, personnel management, and even information warfare. More significant investment by the government in a range of VR and AR applications risks positioning Beijing as a leader in this foundational technology at the expense of the European and the US national security and the security of the neighboring countries.
Overcoming the defense challenges with VR
Virtual military training occurs within a fully simulated environment experienced through a trainee’s VR helmet and responsive haptic gloves, sensors, arms, and suits. Today, it is a reality for several global military services and is an integral part of new weapons platforms’ life cycles.
Gaining skills faster and retaining them longer with military VR training
VR allows receiving hands-on experience repairing systems, vehicles, aircraft, and even ammunition. Technicians learn the specific drills and get a very distinct understanding of what would happen if they mix it up. It results in up to 3 times reduction in study hours with up to 80% higher retention rates than traditional practices offer.
A great example is the United States employing VR in their Pilot Training Next (PTN) program to cut the shortage of qualified pilots. The program is also expected to take on board virtual aircraft maintenance training shortly.
OTR witnessed similar results for their virtual maintenance simulations. Our blended virtual flying classroom for the flight academy showed an outstanding 40% boost in the pilots’ preparation, helping the air force to overcome the long-lasting pilot shortage.
Muscle memory out of harm’s way in virtual reality training for the defense
Virtual students see nothing but the VR environment enveloping them and hear only the sounds pumped into their ears. This makes it easier for “suspension of disbelief” to take hold, and the students’ brains start to react as if they were actually within the danger zone, yet no real risks are emerging.
Simulated environments, such as VR, are increasingly gaining momentum as they help learners develop “muscle memory” for real-world situations, including the most hazardous applications like ammo transportation and repair. All with zero casualties/zero damage rates, making it a valued addition to any defense classroom. E.g., last September, Australia’s government awarded a contract to a local company for a mobile training simulator intending to boost precision while reducing possible risk count.
More accurate feedback when it’s required
During any virtual training, all actions are recorded for further review and evaluation. What’s more, VR students wear special sensors that measure heart rate, breathing rate, pulse, and stress levels to see how well they’re responding to a task.
VR military training can be more effective at scale
Defense VR was too challenging to deploy in the past. Today, using genuine parts, ammo, and vehicles is much more costly, dangerous, and limited than what the tech offers. A virtual trainer is deployed within a small area, and lets practice every failure mode within any environment type that’s possible. At OTR, we researched around 3,000 learners, finding out that VR was 52% more effective in terms of time and cost than the traditional classroom.
Elevating maintenance practices with live AR tools
Using virtual objects does not end in the classroom. Integrated with the soldiers’ helmets, AR glasses are widely used to control mechanics and servicers’ performance and aid them any time they come across a new task. Unlike VR, augmented reality tools don’t block the real world from view but instead display digital instructions or checklists on top of it. I.e., Boeing uses AR to give technicians hands-free 3D wiring diagrams to follow reportedly, improving the speed and accuracy of wiring by an impressive 30%, saving tens of hours per jet.
The AR technology is already in service in the US army, recently reported to sign an additional $21 billion contract with Microsoft for their HoloLens helmets to “improve their decision-making in various scenarios.”
Virtual reality maintenance training can make personnel preparation a faster and much easier task for the military, combatting professionals’ gaps and providing them with reliable live instructions and post-control. What’s more, both virtual and augmented reality is much harder to intercept or disrupt by a malicious actor. It’s the testing environment of tomorrow’s war, and today’s battle actors cannot afford a wait-and-see approach to its adoption.
With years of experience working with the defense and security forces, OTR is ready to evaluate your maintenance training practices to find the necessary improvement points, ensuring top security across the entire project. We not just build precisely simulated solutions but deliver complete service packages, from requirements identification to tutor consulting and support.
OTR is ready to cooperate with any participant of the military-industrial complex, including the armed forces, defense contractors, and export/import agencies. Our team of experts knows how to apply their distributed expertise to deliver goal-oriented, efficiency-improving, and future-ready VR training solutions.