Augmented reality training on the horizon to give Soldiers edge in combat

By Joe LacdanMay 16, 2019

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FORT MEADE, Md. -- The Army's new battlefield heads-up display, the Integrated Visual Augmentation System, will revolutionize the way Soldiers prepare for future conflicts, the Army's vice chief of staff told lawmakers May 9.

"This is cutting-edge technology," Gen. James C. McConville said before the House Armed Services Committee's subcommittee on readiness. "It is going to transform the way we train Soldiers and the way Soldiers operate in combat. We're excited about it."

As the Army looks to further modernize its force, it has focused on synthetic training environments to boost Soldier readiness and lethality. IVAS is a single platform that Soldiers and Marines use to fight, rehearse, and train. The Soldier Lethality Cross-Functional Team identified technology that makes it possible to deliver a single system across the force. Similar technology has been used by the Navy and Air Force, which have used it to train fighter pilots.

The IVAS system features advanced eyewear that places simulated images in a Soldier's view of real-world environments. The eyewear is connected to a small computer on the Soldier's body. The IVAS system is first and foremost a combat system that will increase Soldier situational awareness during missions, officials say.

Using 3-D mapping data and training management tools, users can build a virtual combat environment, allowing Soldiers to train in realistic combat scenarios. Soldiers can use their IVAS and other combat equipment to take part in many repetitions of simulated missions, McConville said, providing a greater range of training options than current testing and training ranges.

The Army plans to field the system by the end of fiscal year 2021.

"What it's going to allow our Soldiers to do is to go into (augmented) reality and train on a mission they're about ready to accomplish," McConville said. "It's real. They can practice. They can rehearse, they can hit the sled a whole bunch of times and they can actually take the equipment that we're developing and go and execute the mission."

Similar to the Enhanced Night Vision Goggle-Binocular, or ENVG-B, the IVAS system will use thermal imaging without the green tint seen in the Army's current night vision goggles.

The IVAS system is just one of several measures the Army has taken to increase readiness in its formations. The service plans to raise its fitness standards by making the new Army Combat Fitness Test its physical test of record by October 2020.

The number of brigade combat teams has also increased and the number of non-deployable Soldiers has fallen from 15 percent in 2015 to 6 percent today.

Readiness remains a top priority in the Army's fiscal 2020 budget, McConville said, which fully funds home-station training and combat training center rotations.

"Our No. 1 priority is readiness," he said. "We have a good historical example of last year, where we had timely, adequate, predictable and sustainable funding. We saw a great improvement in our overall readiness. This year, the budget that we asked for is the budget we need."

Related Links:

Army News Service

Army Futures Command

Army Vice Chief of Staff

STAND-TO! U.S. Army Modernization Strategy