Israeli soldiers recently started training for underground Hamas attacks using virtual reality (VR) solutions powered by the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift head-mounted displays, according to a Monday report from Bloomberg. The futuristic training sessions are held in an old military base that was repurposed earlier this year and is located somewhere in central Israel, though its exact location wasn’t disclosed for security purposes.
The VR platform used for training has been designed with the specific purpose of helping soldiers deal with claustrophobic underground tunnels located beneath the Israel-Gaza security barrier that extends along the entire length of the Gaza Strip. Soldiers are trained to navigate the terrain in a team, as well as on their own, and are consequently being prepared for real combat scenarios. The system used by the Israeli military consists of approximately ten workstations, each one of which is equipped with either the Oculus Rift or the HTC Vive headset, local sources have revealed. While the military spent “hundreds of thousands of dollars” on turning its base in central Israel into VR training grounds, one source from the armed forces claims that the end result is still an extremely cost-efficient method of training troops that provides the government with numerous options of conducting military drills that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise.
Following a VR training session, Israeli soldiers undertake a real course that’s meant to imitate a portion of the tunnels beneath the Israel-Gaza border. The course itself is modular in nature and can easily be changed along with VR maps in an effort to imitate the virtual experience and allow officers to evaluate how quickly are their soldiers adapting to new situations and terrain. The Israeli military reportedly opened its VR training grounds in April, not long after a state report claimed that it’s unprepared to deal with Hamas attacks conducted through booby-trapped border tunnels. While the VR training solution developed by Israel relies on consumer-grade headsets, the software and real-world courses used by its soldiers were developed by the military and might even be licensed to the country’s allies in the future, industry watchers speculate.