The Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS) is a transformational platform that will enhance the mobility and lethality of Soldiers, squads and units on the battlefield. IVAS features an all-weather fighting goggle and a mixed reality heads-up display that provides Soldiers high-resolution simulations and situational awareness tools to improve planning, decision-making and targeting on the battlefield, during day and night operations. IVAS’ fielding to the force will start over the next year. However, through user studies and Soldier Touch Points, Soldiers have already taken advantage of the system’s embedded training feature known as the Squad Immersive Virtual Trainer (SiVT), which makes training more realistic, effective and efficient for close combat force Soldiers.
The Army, led by Program Executive Office Simulation, Training and Instrumentation (PEO STRI) and Microsoft are developing SiVT concurrently with IVAS. SiVT allows for the repetition of squad-level training in a mixed reality-based synthetic environment, wherever training is occurring.
“We have developed SiVT with extensive Soldier feedback and input along the way, to ensure the training is extremely realistic and truly provides value,” said Lt. Col. Sheila Howell, Product Manager, One World Terrain (OWT), PEO STRI.
A recent demonstration at Fort Bragg highlighted the value of training IVAS with SiVT. Over a two-day period, multiple teams and squads of infantry Soldiers practiced Battle Drill 6, Entering and Clearing a Room. Soldiers donned IVAS 1.0 devices and carried M4 rifles connected with a uniquely designed weapon tracker and watched scenarios unfold in IVAS’ Heads-Up Display (HUD). Holographic images of walls, barriers, intersections, unarmed civilians, hostile soldiers, obstructions, barking dogs, and unexploded ordnance came into their field of view as Soldiers navigated through the scenario, forcing them to make quick decisions and communicate as a team to meet their objective. In addition to their rifles, SiVT allows Soldiers to throw virtual flash bangs, chem lights and grenades during the virtual experience.
Soldiers and trainers conducted the event in an abandoned dining facility, highlighting how SiVT and IVAS can be used to train almost anywhere at any time – bringing training to Soldiers instead of bringing Soldiers to training. It is a flexible and effective training tool that can be employed with minimal resources within the unit’s footprint. SiVT eliminates the need for planning for a range, transportation, ammunition or logistics well in advance of training.
The scenarios can be created and quickly edited by squad leaders to effectively design any scenario to meet a specific training objective. SiVT enables “reps and sets” to acquire and master collective close combat skills – such as breaching doors, moving in tight quarters, clearing quarters, maintaining security and engaging hostile forces. After the Soldiers went through the virtual experience, a new scenario was reset so not to have to replay the same one again.
“Nothing improves Soldiers’ ability to perform BD6 duties and responsibilities faster than SiVT.” Robert “Fred” Fredrickson, a NET Manager for PEO STRI. “In development, we’ve conducted thousands of hours having Soldiers use SiVT. Feedback has been very positive from those who actually train Soldiers. They get competitive and want to use the system over and over, which improves their teamwork but also improves their skill levels due to numerous repetitions.” Soldiers have experienced SiVT at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Fort Bragg and Fort Hood. SiVT events and demonstrations that PEO STRI leads also act as ‘train the trainer’ events, where Soldiers learn how to build training objective-based scenarios in SiVT that help improve squad training weaknesses.
After completion of the scenario, SiVT provides an After Action Review (AAR) that is visible in IVAS’ HUD, and notes how many targets were engaged, how much ammunition was expended and how and when any casualties occurred. It eliminates ambiguity that might exist when Soldiers have competing recollections of what happened. Soldiers participating in the training were eager to immediately practice the battle drill again, once they identified what needed improving. In four hours, the squad conducted 16 different scenarios with varying degrees of difficulty and diverse training objectives. Squad leaders were able to quickly train their squads and using the AAR tool could teach, coach and execute the battle drill to standard.
“The biggest aspect I liked the best was the AAR, where you see where people were aiming, where they were moving to, when they got shot,” said a staff sergeant who participated in the training. He also noted how it was “kind of realistic how enemy avatars move around and shoot back at you. The avatars were good. Their reactions make it more realistic than a paper target on a wall.”
The more Soldiers utilize SiVT, the more proficient they will become in their Soldier skills as well as utilizing all the operational functions of the IVAS HUD when fielding starts.