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Army builds Stryker simulators out of Xbox parts

Maj. Mike Stinchfield (left) and Maj. Greg. Pavlichko demonstrate the virtual capabilities of the Stryker Virtual Collective Trainer concept at the Combined Arms Center – Training Innovation Facility at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. (Mike Casey/U.S. Army)

The Army’s newest armored vehicle training tool in Germany is outfitted with Xbox controllers, luxury gaming chairs and foot pedals designed for racing games.

This week, the Army finished building a virtual Stryker armored vehicle trainer at Rose Barracks to help soldiers of the Army’s 2nd Cavalry Regiment familiarize themselves with Stryker tactics without having to go into the field with the real things. The Stryker Virtual Collective Trainer, as it’s called, simulates several of the vehicles on shared missions.

“The trainers allow soldiers to work together in a virtual battlefield and get comfortable with their tactics and techniques in a safe and cost-effective place,” said Joe Mercer, an Army tactical gaming spokesman.

The Combined Arms Center-Training Innovation Facility at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., originally developed the simulator after a 2013 request for a Stryker trainer that cost less than systems used to train the crews of Abrams tanks or Bradley Fighting Vehicles.

The setup, made of wood, resembles the shells of six Stryker vehicles — the typical number of vehicles in a platoon — and is decked out with a ton of video gaming extras. Each unit is fitted with computer screens all around it, so when a soldier looks out a window or pops their head through the gunner’s turret, they see the battlefield the same as they would in a regular vehicle.

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The Stryker simulators used commercial products in place of specially developed equipment to save money, Army officials said. But soldiers using the simulators will notice some authentic military gear as well.

For instance, the gunner’s seat comes from an actual Stryker, complete with a Common Remotely Operated Weapon Station, or CROWS, joystick to fire a virtual .50-caliber machine gun, or in some cases, virtual 30 mm autocannons. The Europe-based 2nd Cavalry Stryker unit became the only one outfitted with those guns last year.

Up to a platoon of soldiers using the system will be able to fight together on virtual battlefields based on real world locations the unit routinely visits, such as tank bases in Poland and their very own backyard — one landscape is modeled on the Hohenfels Maneuver Area near their base.

“These platforms let the soldiers get in experience with their Strykers before they even go to their gunnery tables,” Mercer said. “Now, this isn’t meant to be done in place of the real thing, but doing this beforehand will make the live training that much more beneficial, since they’re already familiar with it.”

In the future, the Army plans to have soldiers using these simulators training together around the world.

Soldiers could connect to an aviation unit back in the United States and fight on the same virtual battlespace, said Lt. Col. Mario Zaltzman, the Army product manager for tactical gaming.

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© 2019 the Stars and Stripes

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