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PLA Chinese army deploys virtual reality technology for more efficient training

The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has started to use virtual reality (VR) technologies in training as it allows officers and soldiers to gain enhanced combat capability more efficiently, Liu Xuanzun reports on Global Times.
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Chinese soldiers in a brigade attached to the 83rd Group Army of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army conduct virtual reality exercises (Picture source: screenshot from China Central Television)

A logistics support unit affiliated with the PLA Northern Theater Command Navy recently held a wartime fuel support drill. But unlike usual, the drill did not take place at a dock, but in a simulation room, in which the participants used VR simulators to practice the disassembly of equipment, location of malfunctions and fixing of pipelines, the PLA Daily reported on March 21.

The VR training system was developed by the naval unit together with civilian developers with the aim of enhancing troops’ capability to deal with complicated and emergency situations, the report said, noting that more functionality will be updated to the VR training software to simulate more training scenarios. “The VR training platform is not restricted by the availability of training sites, weather conditions or the consumption of equipment. This means we can enhance training efficiency and shorten the period in which combat capability is generated,” the PLA Daily quoted an unnamed officer at the unit.

The navy is not the only PLA service that uses VR. A brigade attached to the 83rd Group Army of the army has set up more than 10 VR training simulation rooms for training in multiple areas including individual combat skills, coordinated action and command, China Central Television (CCTV) reported on March 20. Video footage in the CCTV report showed a type of simulator which takes the exact form of the cabin of an infantry fighting vehicle, with the driver practicing in a virtual battlefield and the simulator bumping as if the driver is in the real thing. It also showed a large VR training room with a squad of soldiers wearing VR headsets. He Zhandong, staff officer of the brigade, told CCTV that VR training saves ammunition and fuel and produces good results.

According to a separate report by the PLA Daily on March 18, the Rocket Force is also using similar simulation technologies to practice launching missiles, as a missile launch exercise was conducted in mid-March.

Training with VR shows the PLA’s deployment of high technologies and innovation, a Beijing-based military expert who requested not to be named told the Global Times on March 22.

In the future, VR training devices for different units and services of the PLA across the country will be interconnected, so that even large-scale joint operations can be practiced through VR remotely, the expert predicted, noting that this will massively enhance the coordination in joint missions. VR cannot replace real exercises, but it is a helpful addition, the expert said.

In this year’s two sessions held earlier this month, Li Xiang, a national political advisor and professor at the National Defense University of the PLA, suggested that China should develop more military-themed video games that reflect features of the Chinese military and use them for supplementary training.

VR simulators used by the PLA could eventually be customized, simplified and declassified into video games that normal people can gain access to, so they can be used for the purpose of national defense education and to encourage more young people to join military service, analysts said, reported by Liu Xuanzun


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