Armor: Play To Survive


April 11, 2009: Two years ago, the U.S. Army began receiving the first of  ten Stryker vehicle simulators. Costing $800,000 each, they duplicate the driver and commander stations, using several video screens to display computer supplied views of where they are. Using the same kind of 3-D graphics found in high-end video games, the Stryker simulator becomes "immersive" (the user forgets they are in a simulator.) In addition, the contains electric motors beneath, which move the cab accurately to simulate the movements of the vehicle over the ground, or even during a crash. The system was designed so that instructors could easily program the simulator for different scenarios (like failure of a vehicle component, or unexpected terrain, like mud that was deeper than looks). There is now a library of over a hundred of these scenarios. Thus, while the simulator is mainly used to prepare new drivers before they are turned loose in an actual vehicle, it can also be used to improve the abilities of existing drivers by exposing them to rare situations. The same technique is used in military and commercial flight simulators, to prepare pilots for those rare life-and-death situations where experience with the situation can be critical.

 Armored vehicle simulators have become increasingly common in the American army. One reason is cost, because for each kilometer these vehicles travel, it costs up to $25 in fuel, maintenance and spare parts. That number is pretty shocking to most people, but armored vehicles cost up to five million dollars each, and are full of complex mechanical and electronic gadgets that wear out quickly and are expensive to keep going.

The Stryker simulator allows new drivers to get lots of practice without wearing out vehicles. It also allows drivers and commanders to improve their teamwork, and to try out maneuvers that are risky, but sometimes necessary (in combat.) This also saves a lot of wear and tear, not to mention avoiding the risk of injury.

 The software includes driving simulation for a wide variety of terrain (desert, mountain, urban) and weather (Summer rains, Spring mud and Winter ice).  While all this appears like a big, expensive, game, the troops quickly realize that this game saves lives.



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