'It Is Not A Computer Game': The Simulation Providing Army Battlefield Training

In a state of readiness for real warfighting, the whole of 4 Infantry Brigade is using virtual scenarios to stay operation-sharp.

The British Army is conducting brigade-sized virtual scenario training, to sharpen the battlefield skills of personnel at readiness.

Although computerised situations have been widely used to help individual units prepare for firefights, 4 Infantry Brigade has scaled up the method. 

The Yorkshire-based adaptable force has swapped 'boots on the ground' and unit commanding officers, for junior, non-commissioned officers and a row of laptops in a Catterick hangar. 

During the simulation, personnel act as though they are in charge of individual units - securing the theatre of battle offering support in the fight. 

Information gathered by those representing the Light Dragoons, 1 Batallion Duke of Lancaster's Regiment and 2 Batallion Yorkshire Regiment is fed through to the cell at HQ. 

Vast amounts of intel are absorbed by troops in the cell, who orchestrate movement and communicate the next move in each unit location.

Friendly and enemy forces are mapped out, as support is allocated to each unit - just as if the battle were real. 

Major Richard Griffiths, 4 Brigade Operations Officer, says the process reduces risk as well as cost.

From a row of laptops, junior non-commissioned officers acting as commanding officers of army units 'on the ground'.

"One of the great things about this system is it puts... the execute cell under a lot of pressure," he said.

"It's one way of recreating that without actually having people on the ground and sustaining real casualties."

The system being used is Unit Based Virtual Training (UBVT) - Maj Griffiths says it is keeping the cell "slick" and ready for deployment.

Major Ed Lyons, Chief of Staff at 4 Brigade, is keen to separate UBVT from gaming, which has also seen a rise within the Army. 

He says the system is used in "exactly the same" ways as a warfighting environment. 

"Exactly the same procedures are taken through - this is warfighting, the core of our business," said Maj Lyons.

"It is not a computer game."

Information is sent to the cell at headquarters, where real battles could be won or lost.

UBVT consists of four sets of kit that travels around the world, enabling simulated training for reservists and regulars. 

One man happy to see the training system taken seriously is Neville MacMillan from the UBVT team. He said:

"Since I started working in virtual training, the attitudes of the soldiers have changed."

As an entire brigade can now hone its skills without the expense of ammunition and kit callouts, Mr MacMilan says.

"There are no longer those senior NCOs and senior officers who see simulation as 'not training'," he said.

"That's completely changed now."