Troops using the equipment can undertake virtual missions inside tunnel networks, caves, and both urban and rural environments.

Defence sources have revealed that training scenarios can involve ambushes, attacks by snipers or high-intensity, close-quarter battle situations where troops need to clear buildings of terrorists.

Missions can be adapted according to available intelligence to prepare the personnel to deal with rapidly emerging threats, including suicide bomb attacks against high-profile targets, such as politicians or members of the Royal Family.

Environments can be changed to replicate conditions in the desert or the Arctic, any type of weather and any time of day or night.

It has transformed the way the special forces train, allowing SASSBS and the Special Reconnaissance Regiment operators to create almost limitless scenarios, where enemy troops generated by artificial intelligence can react to events as they unfold during “combat”.

While UK special forces train with live ammunition – such as in the Killing House at the SAS’s base in Hereford where troopers practise hostage rescue operations – virtual reality systems offer greater flexibility and can be used almost anywhere.

‘Equipment is out of date’

But one source revealed that while the equipment being used by the SAS and the SBS is adequate, recent advances in virtual reality and artificial intelligence mean it is fast becoming obsolete.

The source, a serving member of the SAS until last year, said: “The concept behind virtual reality as a training aid is great. The UKSF uses it and so do other parts of the armed forces. 

“But our equipment is now out of date and needs replacing. Some of the training aids available now are incredible and can be used to hone and refine skills, especially in close quarter battle.

“You can use virtual reality for all sorts of military training from parachuting to sniping – you have to have the mentality to embrace new technology.”

Most special forces use virtual reality trainers to help prepare troops for operations, the source said.

The US Special Operations Command – which includes Delta Force and the Navy Seals – last year spent $20m on acquiring the Havik virtual reality system for what was described as “immersive and mobile training”.

Cutting-edge technology

The Israeli Defence Forces are using a system designed by a company called Combatica to prepare their special forces for operations in Gaza.

Combatica employs what is called “extended reality”, a hyper-realistic form of virtual reality, which incorporates AI and is also used by US armed forces and military units in several European countries.

Troops use their own weapons – such as pistols or semi-automatic rifles and view each scenario through a headset similar to those used by gamers.

Unlike many other electronic training systems no battery pack is required and the soldiers do not need to wear sensors. It can be used in almost any environment, from a classroom to a gym or a football pitch. Teams of 12 soldiers can be trained together for missions lasting up to 25 minutes.

Speaking exclusively to the Telegraph and National Security News Erel Herzog, co-founder and chief strategy officer of Combatica, said: “Combatica runs entirely on the headset. This means we don’t need bulky backpack PCs, cables or sensors on the trainee and no need for cameras in the room.

“This also means it is a fully mobile system that can be deployed in minutes instead of hours, a stark contrast to traditional setups that require hours for preparation.

“The development team, many of whom have served or are serving on Israel’s frontline – one who has just returned from Northern Israel – are working tirelessly to update the scenarios with real-life data. This ensures that trainees are continually challenged and exposed to a wide range of high-pressure situations they may encounter on the field.”

A Ministry of Defence spokesperson said: “The use of VR as an emerging technology is being explored to complement existing training regimes with UK Armed Forces.

“It could provide the opportunity to allow our forces to safely train and experiment in more complex environments, whilst providing important financial benefits to the MOD, such as conserving fuel and ammunition.”

This article was first posted by The Telegraph. Read the original article here.