EDITORIAL: Newcastle University's $2.2 million defence grant

THE obvious place of danger for military personnel is in battle, but  training can also be a life-threatening exercise.

Numbers are hard to come by, but a House of Commons inquiry in the United Kingdom revealed that 139 British military personnel had died in training between 2000 and the end of last year. Despite the UK’s involvement in various wars during this time, training still accounted for one in 20 of the UK’s military fatalities.

Given the similarities between our military systems, there is little reason to believe that the Australian experience would be any different. Whether it’s combat training with live ammunition, a parachute jump from a low-flying helicopter or a high-altitude fighter flight, military training has its obvious risks.

For this reason alone, the emerging technology of virtual reality has a ready appeal to military brass who would prefer their charges to make it back from training in one piece.

There is also the cost factor.

But while virtual reality will surely never replace real white-knuckle training completely, it is proving itself to have a growing role in military applications around the world.

The Australian Defence Force has been experimenting with virtual reality for a few years at least: a training program for up to 60 personnel at South Australia’s Edinburgh defence facility was announced in August 2015, using “cutting edge technologies” to “increase the realism” of simulated scenarios to “test the cognitive performance of each participant”.

Now, the Hunter is to participate in the virtual reality revolution, with Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne announcing a $2.2 million grant to the University of Newcastle to fund the development of “advanced resilience training” for Australian Defence Force personnel through “virtual reality based training sessions involving controlled exposure to adverse environments”. 

Earlier in the week, Mr Pyne announced that Williamtown RAAF would receive one of eight new battlefield simulators being installed in military bases around the country.

With global tensions unlikely to abate any time soon, Australia’s defence forces will be in a constant state of readiness. Keeping up with the latest advances in technology is an essential part of being prepared.

ISSUE: 38,628.