Covid, Online Wargaming, & Keeping Soldiering Skills Sharp

An online soldier community that has been deploying video games to help keep battlefield skills sharp has started to attract toplevel interest.

Players in the tri-Service UK Fight Club have turned to wargaming titles as a way of engaging each other online and practising manoeuvres that could be used on real-life exercises.

Now, having picked up some 300 members in the last six months alone, the initiative’s leaders have briefed top brass – including Chief of the General
Staff Gen Sir Mark Carleton-Smith – on the project’s potential.

Soldiers with the Royal Netherlands Army conduct training in Dismounted Soldier Training Systems at the 7th Army Joint Multinational Training Command, Grafenwoehr, Germany, June 5, 2013. The DSTS is the first fully-immersive virtual simulation for infantry. (U.S. Army photo by Gertrud Zach/released)

UK Fight Club administrator Captain Oli Elliott revealed that the initial concept had grown from a training analysis project at Army HQ. But the Covid pandemic had provided added impetus – with remote working giving soldiers the space to set up imaginative battlefield serials.

Captain Elliott added: “We’ve been using a number of titles, such as Combat Mission: Shock Force 2, to play out several different scenarios. The participants fight through the campaign before using an online forum to discuss what they did, as well as how they could improve in future.”

While the Army has used games to train soldiers in the past – with the Operation Flashpoint engine providing the basis for PC-based convoy
simulations during Telic and Herrick – Capt Elliott said the latest tech opened up new possibilities.

He pointed out that the ability for troops to remotely convene, debrief a situation and discuss alternative tactics had significant potential. With some members putting together their own custom-built scenarios mimicking real-life situations, the format allowed for experience to easily be shared.

Captain Elliott added: “The successful nights we have organised so far have
improved soldiers’ tactical thinking and analysis skills. There have been quite a number of people at unit level joining us since the Covid pandemic started and this has helped the community to expand very quickly.” He continued: “The UK Fight Club is also currently involved in several projects – including working with partners to improve the realism of the software engines. We are planning to host contests between different units to put the tactical abilities of one outfit against another, which will be interesting.”

Personnel who would like to sign up should first follow the community on Twitter at the handle @UKFightClub1 – and enquire with the administrators. “Whether you are a private hoping to gain tactical knowledge before a junior NCO course, or a lieutenant colonel looking for an easy option to test your ability to command a battlegroup, please get in touch,” Captain Elliott said.

Reference

Soldier. (2020) Virtual Fight Club is a Knockout. Soldier: Magazine of the British Army. September 2020, pp.17.

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