February 6, 2010:
The Spanish Army is buying two Indian simulators, in order to train troops for UN peacekeeping missions. Indias' Indra Simulation Group has created the simulators, following the lead of American firms that pioneered the technology six years ago. Back then, the U.S. Army received sixteen new combat simulators to train troops in Iraq on how best to deal with ambushes and roadside bombs.
In 2003, the army began looking into getting a rush order of new combat simulators. It normally takes several years to get a new simulator designed, tested and delivered to the troops. The new ambush simulators were done in less than six months. Using existing simulator technology, two different ambush simulator designs were created. Eight simulators were based on large video screens, that surround the trainees and replicate the sights and sounds of an attack. Weapons equipped with special sensors allow the troops to shoot back from mockups of vehicles, and they also receive feedback if they are hit. These simulators cost $1.2 million each and could be run 20 hours a day, or more (needing only occasional downtime for maintenance.) These simulators could be moved by air and truck to anywhere they were needed. Another eight simulators, costing $700,000 each, used helmets fitted with video visors. Cheaper, and more portable, this relatively new technology has been used before, but not as much as the older, big screen versions (which are based on the much older air force flight simulators.) Both simulator designs used images from the routes and neighborhoods that American troops drove through, so that troops training on the devices also became familiar with some of the actual territory they will be moving through.
There followed simulators for troops manning road blocks in hostile territory. The heavy use of PC based video technology meant it was easy to quickly add new video and new scenarios to the trainers. These simulators were built into a shipping container, enabling them to be used as soon as the container has power connected (for the computers, projectors and air conditioning to keep the equipment (not the trainees) cool.
The Indian firm is building on all this technology, and Indian software firms have actually created some of the software and design concepts, as subcontractors to American simulation manufacturers, for the earlier U.S. devices. The Indian companies can produce many of these simulators at lower cost, and still be able to provide a well earned reputation for reliability and experience in software development. Indian troops also comprise a disproportionately large portion of peacekeepers deployed, providing plenty of locally available peacekeeping veterans to help Indian firms keep the simulation accurate.