Virtual Battlefield: How Reservists Have Kept Training During Lockdown

The newest combat unit in the British Army has been conducting virtual training during the coronavirus lockdown.

With all non-essential reservists training suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic, troops from the Scottish and North Irish Yeomanry have sharpened their skills using a digital battlefield on the VBS3 simulator.

Personnel from the unit usually meet twice a month to train together - while that is unable to currently take place, technology allows personnel to practise key elements of light cavalry soldiering, with the software able to simulate an accurate battlespace, featuring a variety of vehicles and weapons.

Other aspects included in the virtual training are working with multinational forces, calling in artillery and air support while moving around a battlefield, and using vehicles, including the Jackal, the Scottish and North Irish Yeomanry's primary platform.

Captain Gregor Deeming, Scottish and North Irish Yeomanry, said: “It’s very realistic, it won’t ever replace being in the field, but it's a good compliment to fields training.

“There [are] things that we can do within the system that we can’t do easily within the field.

"One of the biggest things is Artillery Target Indication.

Virtual training E Squadron Scottish and North Irish Yeomanry
'Virtual' training has allowed military personnel to practice their skills despite the coronavirus pandemic (Picture: MOD).

"It’s very difficult to organise a gunline to turn up to your training evenings, but with this, the admin can actually put a gunline in, they can call in close air support [and] they can add in every vehicle that’s within the Army’s inventory," he said.

Trooper Jacob Hunt, Scottish and North Irish Yeomanry, said: "It enables you to have a practical training instantly after a theory lesson, which I think is brilliant.

"Sometimes, that gap that you get between a theory lesson and putting it into practice doesn’t necessarily help in terms of skill fade, so on that part it’s been pretty good."

The unit says it plans to continue using the virtual software even after the coronavirus lockdown ends, with the digital training the next best thing to the real thing, according to personnel.

A recommencement of training for the Scottish and North Irish Yeomanry is planned for when restrictions are lifted.

The virtual training simulates an accurate battle space, along with weapons and military vehicles, including the Jackal.
The virtual training simulates an accurate battle space, along with weapons and military vehicles, including the Jackal (Picture: MOD).

Given its success, the unit plans to create a digital training suite at their base in Redford Barracks, Edinburgh, after lockdown ends.

"The models are very accurate and the range of models is huge, allowing us to effectively go in and learn to work with other multinational forces or do training tasks like vehicle recognition," said Capt Deeming.

"It allows you to do things in training you can’t do regularly in live training like having interaction directly with artillery or close air support.

"We can’t replicate that on a regular training night.

"It also allows the troops to see the effects of a fire mission.

"It’s a very good complement to live field training and for reservists with limited time."

Digital training carried out by E Squadron Scottish and North Irish Yeomanry
The virtual training system can add in different vehicles in the Army's inventory (Picture: MOD).

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