not just cannon fodder: the many uses of war

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Officers Get Sim Iraq Tours

Officers Get Sim Iraq Tours

Paul McLeary writes:Simiraq 

What do you get when you combine 3-D imaging, kick-ass computer animation and the war in Iraq? “Virtual Staff Rides,” as provided by the Combat Studies Institute at Ft. Leavenworth, Kas.

During a conference last week at Leavenworth, Lt. Col. Kevin Kennedy gave about a dozen assembled journalists and military historians a peek at the VSR’s, which CSI has been conducting since February 2005. The whole thing works just like a traditional staff ride, except instead of physically touring a Civil War battlefield, the assembled sit in a room in front of a large plasma screen and re-enact engagements from Iraq. Visuals from the “rides” are developed from 3-D satellite imagery of the battle site that can be viewed from any direction, including a bird’s eye view from above. While at this point only fights from OIF are available, including the epic Thunder Runs into Baghdad in April 2003 and the 3rd ID’s fight from Kuwait to Baghdad, they’re working on one for March 2002’s Operation Anaconda in Afghanistan.

Constructed by software developer Meta VR, the system was delivered to the CSI in February 2005, the company describes it thus:

MetaVR developed the 270 km x 200 km 3D terrain from colorized 1 meter black and white imagery and 30 meter elevation data using our terrain creation software, both our commercial products and internal tools. Within the overall terrain databases, nine built up regions were developed, each with an average of approximately 885,000 polygons per scene, including six of areas in Baghdad, two of the town of An Nasiriyah, and one of Al Aziziyah, a town about 60 km east of Baghdad. Each 6 km x 6 km area consisted of built up microterrain with geospecific cultural content and colorized imagery.

While the Army has come in for some pretty well-deserved criticism for being slow in training its officers and NCOs for fighting a counterinsurgency, the system looks to be a useful “lessons learned” tool for training warfighters for today’s battlefield. The company offers some examples of its Iraq simulations on its Web site, here.

(image credit: CSI)

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