The latest gaming program for the Army.
Marco Conners, MA 1
U.S. Army National Simulation Center, Ft. Leavenworth, KS
The Army recently launched a new version of Virtual Battlespace 3 (VBS3) flagship gaming program for training that provides a semi-immersive, visually rich gaming environment with more realistic graphics than previous versions and with many other features. The Army released the program on March 31, 2014. By April 15, units across the Army had downloaded 17,000 versions of VBS3.
Leaders and trainers can utilize VBS3 to train soldiers, squads and crews on critical task skills as well as training platoons and companies on large-scale combined-arms maneuvers (i.e., an approach to warfare which integrates different combat arms of a military to achieve mutually complementary effects, for example, using infantry and armor in an urban environment, where one supports the other, or both support each other). VBS3 supports large Army collective training events, a cumulative activity in which each phase builds on the last, on multiple types of terrains (e.g., urban, desert, arctic, woodland) while connected to other simulation environments (e.g., live, virtual, and constructive) to create the effects soldiers would experience in an expanded battlefield of at least 500 square kilometers.
VBS3 has been accredited to train more than 102 combined arms training tasks from the individual soldier level to company collective. Below are some tasks that units and leaders can perform in VBS3:
- Conduct an attack in an urban area (fight in a city)
- Integrate indirect fire support (employ artillery)
- Conduct an attack (attack enemy)
- Conduct a defense (defend a position)
- Establish an observation post (provide early warning and detection of enemy)
- Enter and clear a building (of enemy forces)
- Breach an obstacle (reduce a man-made obstacle that impedes movement)
- Conduct route reconnaissance (scout a route for enemy and suitability for movement)
- Conduct convoy security (secure a vehicle convoy from enemy attack)
- Conduct a roadblock and checkpoint (conduct to deny freedom of movement to enemy forces)
- Perform tactical air movement missions (maneuver of Army assault helicopters)
VBS3 has increased capabilities that reflect the transition of the Army back to Decisive Action operations (i.e., full-scale warfare conducted simultaneously with stability and support operations) and an expeditionary mindset. Previous versions reflected the operational environments in Iraq and Afghanistan with a counterinsurgency focus. However, as the Army transitions out of Iraq and Afghanistan, efforts are refocusing to support global contingency operations with a resultant need for simulations that have the capacity to train in all armed conflict spectrums.
While it retains its counterinsurgency capability, VBS3 provides an increased capability to replicate full-spectrum operations. Therefore, the training support packages that are available with VBS3 are being updated to reflect the tasks and scenarios soldiers and leaders might encounter in full spectrum operations.
One of the new capabilities in the program is Human Dimension Modeling which closes the gap between video games and reality (see explanatory earlier article in The Amplifier Magazine, Fall/Winter 2013-2014 and the initial article on video game education and training at the US Army National Simulation Center. This module allows users to import their individual performance data (e.g., height/weight, physical training score, weapons qualification score) which can then be used to enhance the in-game avatar’s performance. This new capability means that a soldier’s in-game avatar is now tailored to that individual soldier’s actual capabilities and more accurately replicates training performance and outcomes.
VBS3 includes a much improved scenario development tool designed for users to allow for easier preparation of training scenarios and integration into larger simulation exercises. The program helps Army training in a number of ways. VBS3 facilitates less-expensive, more-efficient live training events by allowing soldiers and leaders to train on a variety of tasks at the crawl and walk levels of proficiency, in a progressive training strategy of crawl, walk, run. Run events are conducted during live training and it is at this point in a progressive training strategy that soldiers are expected to demonstrate task proficiency. Training in VBS3 enables soldiers and leaders to enter their live training event at a higher level of readiness which reduces the resources required to achieve proficiency in a live training environment. VBS3 allows soldiers and leaders to train and rehearse operations in a simulated gaming environment before executing in a live mission, an opportunity they would not have otherwise.
Future development includes adopting the VBS3 game engine Army-wide in several manned-simulators, such as the Dismounted Soldier Training Simulation and the Close Combat Tactical Trainer in order to simplify integration of simulators and to facilitate larger exercises using multiple simulations.
The software is free to authorized users under an Army enterprise license and can be downloaded off the Milgaming website. The site requires a DOD Common Access Card and explains the minimum computer system requirements needed to download VBS3.
1 Appreciation is extended to Mary Gregerson for previewing and editing this article.