Virtual Battlespace Training Helps Prepare Counter Terror Personnel for the Unexpected

The attack began with just a few loud pops. Smoke rose near a trash can. Injured travelers yell and others start running. Pushing. Racing to leave. The security patrol quickly scans the crowded, chaotic train station to quickly triage victims of the IED attack while another group of officers directs tourists and commuters to quickly and safely exit the station.

The training administrator pauses the virtual scenario, praising the security team’s response but then loads the after action review recording on Virtual Battlespace 3 (VBS3) to point out that just before the IED went off near the trashcan, one security officer had observed a traveler set a bulky backpack near a trashcan and walk away. Trainees monitoring simulated close circuit televisions in the station had missed this individual too. The training administrator leads a short discussion on lessons learned and then the security team runs the train station scenario again -- this time injecting new challenges in real time to keep them engaged.

Simulated training scenarios, like the one above, have become a frequent and accepted part of training and mission rehearsal in militaries and defense organizations around the world. They offer trainees an immersive training environment where they can safely make and learn from mistakes before live training and field exercises. They also allow personnel to not disrupt civilian activities, or unnecessarily reveal tactics to the public, while training.

VBS3 from Bohemia Interactive Simulations is used by more than 50 military and defense organizations worldwide, including branches of the U.S. military, UK MOD, French MOD, Bundeswehr, Dutch military and many others. Founded in 2001, Bohemia Interactive Simulations (BISim) is a global software company at the forefront of simulation training solutions for defense and civilian organizations. With origins in the commercial video game industry, BISim utilizes the latest game-based technology and a large, experienced in-house team of engineers to develop high-fidelity, cost-effective training and simulation software products and components for defense applications.

The company’s flagship product, VBS3, simulates all aspects of the modern battlespace to help trainees learn techniques and procedures, and develop communication and decision-making skills. The comprehensive software package and training development platform comes ready to use, complete with offline and real-time mission editors, a massive model content library, developer tools, voice communication system and after-action review. With roughly 10,000 accurate 3D models of military and civilian vehicles, weapons, and characters, VBS3 reduces development and deployment costs associated with deploying training solutions. VBS3 comes with geo-typical virtual terrains, and tools and services are available to generate geo-specific virtual environments.

“Many competing technologies have a primary focus on the commercial videogame space. BISim is unique in being a videogame technology based company which focuses on the defense industry first,” said BISim Co-CEO Pete Morrison. “BISim products capture expertise from hundreds of defense training subject matter experts, and reflect 15 years and tens of millions of dollars of continuous improvements aimed at advancing the effectiveness and immersiveness of specific training use cases.”

Finding and Countering IEDs

From the battlefields of Afghanistan to the Boston Marathon bombings, improvised explosive devices have been used by enemy combatants and terrorists with often devastating impact. VBS3 simulates a wide variety of these devices for training purposes, from Vehicle Born (VBIED) and Personnel Born (PBIED) to roadside bombs and even soda cans packed with explosive.

VBS3 supports the ability to counter IEDs with the use of bomb dogs, Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) technicians as well as EOD robots, and Counter Radio Controlled Improvised Explosive Device Electronic Warfare (CREW) devices. Bomb dogs will alert their handler if they detect nearby explosives by sitting and barking while facing the explosive. The EOD technician entity has the special ability to disarm IEDs if the given IED objects are able to be disarmed.

CREW devices, both mounted and dismounted versions, work as they do in the real world by jamming radio controlled IEDs when the CREW device is within range of a radio controlled IED. Line of Sight (LOS) also affects the range of CREW devices, due to simulated radio interference from objects in the environment (such as buildings).

Adding City Life to Simulations

As part of contracted work for a large military customer looking to train, BISim recently created new artificial intelligence behaviors for civilians that the military customer can use to patrol heavily populated areas, such as an airport or train station. The core of the project was to create a convincing civilian crowd to accurately represent the challenge of finding suspicious items or people in an urban environment.

The new behaviors will be available as an additional add-on purchase to VBS3. They include actions such as using cell phones, throwing items into garbage bins, buying train tickets or visiting the restroom. And, of course, the new behaviors include civilian reactions to gunfire for training personnel to react to terrorist attacks.

“BISim is leveraging this technology through funded development work for customers who request new AI behaviors, but we’ll soon be able to offer this toolkit to integrators who want to build AI behaviors for VBS3 from the ground up,” Morrison explained.

Going Remote

VBS3 simulates a wide range of airborne and ground-based unmanned vehicles, providing a generic user interface for operating cameras, sensors and onboard weapons for unmanned vehicles. Users can move unmanned ground vehicles through virtual terrains up and down stairs, operate multiple cameras mounted on robotic booms or arms, and even disarm IEDs in VBS3.

Similarly, UAV camera feeds are available and UAVs can be directly flown or allocated waypoints in the scenario in real-time during training scenarios. Within the VBS3 simulation environment, UAVs can be represented at a purely visual level and operated by keyboard functions or operated via an actual UAV controller outside of the virtual environment. In addition, simulated images can be fed from VBS3 to real and operational UAVs to provide operators with practice responding to virtual assets during flight training.

With VBS3 model development tools and interoperability capabilities, developers and integrators can do the following:

  • Create 3D models of any autonomous system in VBS3
  • Connect VBS3 to existing UAS hardware and equipment to create realistic simulators
  • Integrate existing UAS simulation software across platforms
  • Feed simulated, real-time imagery to operational ground control stations and equipment

Preparing for Other Dangers

VBS3 also supports a variety of other features and capabilities relevant to counter-terror training. This includes training for chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) defense training. For instance, all Swedish units can be outfitted with CBRN protective gear, appropriate to the conditions, and perform animations for procedural training for applying this type of gear in VBS3. Specific U.S. Marine Corps units have suits protective gear for CBRN training. In addition, VBS3 includes M9 chemical detection paper that turns red in-game in the presence of Sarin gas. All of these features can be extended as part of a custom development contract with BISim.

VBS3 also features support for riot control training. For example, USMC units are equipped with riot protective gear like batons, pads and shields. VBS3 also includes riot control agents and equipment such as tear gas grenades, M84 Stun Grenades and non-lethal shotguns. USMC units also use a functioning search mirror that can be used to examine vehicles at checkpoints.

Always Advancing, Always Innovating

BISim is at the forefront of understanding new relevant technologies from outside our core defense space and demonstrating how these technologies can be used to improve training capability and reduce costs and time-to-complete.

We have introduced several new technologies that will underpin the future VBS product range and increase the potential of VBS3. One of these new technologies is VBS Blue, our round-earth rendering technology that serves as a state-of-the-art scene manager that allows easy importing of geo-specific data sources. VBS Blue will allow users to train anytime, anywhere in the world and simulate civilian pattern-of-life and traffic at mega-city scale. Along with this technology, BISim continues to integrate new Virtual Reality hardware like the Oculus Rift CV1 and HTC Vive for new ways to immerse trainees in high fidelity 3D environments.

Learn more about Bohemia Interactive Simulations and its technologies on our website.

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Contact us by email to speak with a sales representative and arrange a product demonstration.

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Me and You Education

Me and You Education is a collaboration between two companies with divergent backgrounds that provides deep insights into the murky and complex world of Counter Terrorism.