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Commonwealth Games 2002

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Thursday, 24 January, 2002, 18:06 GMT
War simulator unveiled
The simulator's interior
Soliders sit inside a replica tank to use the simulator
One of the largest war simulators in the world has been unveiled by high-ranking officers from the British Army.

The 290m unit, at the Warminster army barracks in Wiltshire, can recreate a tank battle involving 1,000 armoured vehicles in virtual reality.

The army hope the training simulator will give British troops the edge over any enemy in combat.

The combined arms tactical trainer, CATT, is also designed to reduce the massive costs of live military exercises.

Training 'watershed'

The simulator can reproduce vast sections of terrain from Salisbury Plain and other regions across Western Europe.

Every detail of the battleground is reproduced from trees to individual buildings.

The crew of four sit inside a replica tank to take part in the virtual battle.

"It's certainly a watershed - simulation will feature very much in the way in which we train in the future," said Lieutenant Colonel Anthony De Ritter, the unit's commanding officer.

Soliders inside the simulator
The simulator recreates battle conditions
"It won't replace field training - it's complementary to it - but it will mean our field training is better focused," he said.

Corporal Chesterman added: "How much price do you put on the life of your crew?

"If it's going to stop us making mistakes out in real life it's all the better, isn't it?"

The unit at Warminster, containing 85 simulators, can link to another training centre in Sennelager in Germany meaning that 700 troops can take part in a simulated battle.

"In terms of training it allows us to train to a much higher standard so that when we go operational we have that edge," said a spokesman for the defence procurement agency, which has built the simulator.

Huge cost saving

"One soldier said to me that it recreates everything but the smell of the diesel," the spokesman added.

"The recent exercise in Oman cost 90m and ours would only cost thousands to run.

"We can run on every day of the year, we're not dependent on weather conditions and there is a huge playback theatre where the whole battle can be replayed to analyse performance."

He said the US armed forces, which already has a similar system, has made inquiries about the British version, which includes dozens of improvements on the original model.

At the end of 18 months of trials, the system is due to be launched in May.

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