Thursday, September 10, 2009

Sharpening battle skills in a digital landscape


Report by Angelina Chung


The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) is looking to the virtual world of simulation training software and viable gaming platforms to complement field training and enhance the capabilities of its soldiers.Commercial off-the-shelf games, though fun and engaging, lack realism and cannot accurately portray the capabilities of the 3rd Generation SAF. This is where simulation software such as Virtual Battlespace 2 (VBS2) comes in.Modified by the Army to replicate and demonstrate existing and envisaged capabilities of the 3rd Generation SAF, VBS2 was showcased at the Army Open House 2009 where the inaugural Army E-Gaming Competition Finals was held on 6 Sep.

Chief Systems Integration Officer of General Staff Development Colonel (COL) Ng Kok Wan highlighted the two ways in which the VBS2 software can be used to enhance the capabilities of the 3rd Generation soldiers.In addition to experimenting with battle scenarios featuring futuristic elements, the software can be used to train soldiers in terms of battle tactics and coordination."The training value in the game comes up because the VBS2 possesses a high level of fidelity and realism. Our men can go through the battle scenario as many times as they want during the simulation and will come out with different, quality lessons each time," said COL Ng.

The game closely reflects real-world battle characteristics and each competing team was also required to field 27 members – the actual strength of a platoon. However, COL Ng emphasised that the game is not meant to take the place of actual field training."We know that soldiers cannot possibly learn everything by sitting in an air-conditioned room. The game simply complements actual field training by enabling our men to recognise visual markers in the battle field and train their cognitive capabilities," COL Ng told cyberpioneer.

From the initial 26 SAF units that slugged it out for a place in the finals, Infantry Training Institute (ITI) emerged as the eventual winner after a pulsating match with Headquarters Singapore Artillery (HQSA).ITI Platoon Commander Second Lieutenant (2LT) Tan Lan Guan said that through the game, he has a clearer understanding of how the 3rd Generation SAF functions and cited the wonders of experiencing the Advanced Combat Man System (ACMS) concept first-hand."With the ACMS, one can better communicate with his comrades in the game and better integrate individual capabilities to maximise results," he said.

"While in the game, you experience how life-like everything is. Its almost like being on the ground itself and you gets an immense shock when you witness your friend die from enemy gunfire right beside you. There is no room for mistakes."Even though his team narrowly lost out on being the champions, HQSA Platoon Commander Lieutenant (LTA) Edwin Lee said it was nonetheless an enriching and educational experience.

"There is this race to stay alive in the game and is probably similar to the survival instinct soldiers will feel when being in actual battle. Through the game, we also get a chance to apply the tactics we pick up in Basic Military Training and the Officer Cadet Course," said LTA Lee.Besides honing battle skills, the game also allowed him to get to know his team mates better as they devised strategies and fought side-by-side to overcome their "enemies"."We didn't know each other very well at first. However, with each competition we managed to learn more about each other's strengths and weaknesses and use this to our advantage," shared LTA Lee.The digital gaming competition was jointly organised by the Army Open House, Systems Integration Office and Nexus (the central co-coordinating agency for Nation Education in Singapore).

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