How Can Virtual Reality be Used in Military Training

Virtual reality (VR) technology has established a significant role in modern military training programmes across the globe.

In the context of the UK military, VR is utilised to enhance the effectiveness of training while minimising the risks and costs associated with traditional methods. Through bespoke VR training systems, service personnel can engage in a broad array of scenarios, ranging from arctic warfare to jet landings, within controlled and safe environments.

A substantial investment reflects the commitment to integrating these advanced systems into regular training curricula, embodying a modern approach to preparing soldiers for the complexities of contemporary military operations.

The implementation of VR in military training offers an immersive experience that is crucial for developing soldiers’ skills in high-pressure and dangerous situations. By donning VR headsets, military personnel can be transported to lifelike environments where they can practice combat, medical procedures, or vehicle operations without the real-world consequences.

As part of this technological evolution, the British Army conducts trials to generate data and gather insights on the deployability and scalability of VR systems, ensuring their alignment with the Field Army’s Battle Craft Syllabus and operational needs.

Through such ongoing efforts, VR military training is carving out its role as a cornerstone of military preparedness in the 21st century.

History of VR in Military Training

The utilisation of virtual reality (VR) in military training is a testament to innovation and technological evolution in combat preparation. The genesis of VR for military applications can be traced back to the 1980s where significant advancements were made. Notably, VR technology was embraced early on by the military; pilot training was revolutionised with the introduction of the first virtual flight simulator.

  • 1980s: The first documented virtual flight simulator is presented to train Air Force pilots, marking the advent of VR in military circles.

In subsequent years, VR technology progressed, and military simulators became increasingly sophisticated and diverse. The applications of VR branched out from flight simulation to include ground operations and tactical training.

  • 1990s and 2000s: Expansion in VR applications encompassed various training systems, simulating complex military environments and operations.

The British Army, as part of its training methodology, began conducting trials with VR to enhance its Virtual Reality In-Land Training (VRLT) pilot, aiming to gather experimental data to support the Field Army’s Battle Craft Syllabus.

In the modern context, contracts have been secured, such as a £7.2 million deal with Bohemia Interactive Simulations, to furnish a versatile training environment capable of simulating multiple terrains and operations for personnel around the globe.

The historical trajectory of VR in military training mirrors the broader technological advancements, not only enhancing training realism but also preparedness for factual combat scenarios.

Current State of VR Training in Military Applications

The application of virtual reality (VR) technology in military training has advanced significantly, offering immersive experiences that enhance soldier performance and tactical preparation.

These state-of-the-art systems are tailored to various branches of the armed forces, each with specific training objectives and methodologies.

Air Force Pilot Training

The use of VR for Air Force pilot training is transforming the traditional cockpit learning environment. Programmes such as the AR and VR in Military Combat provide highly realistic flight simulations, enabling pilots to experience airborne scenarios without the risks and costs associated with actual flight. It also allows for more frequent training sessions and the ability to simulate a wide range of challenging conditions and situations.

Battlefield Simulations

Battlefield simulations via VR prepare soldiers for real-world combat situations by providing a versatile and controlled environment. The British Army has integrated VR technology into their training, as highlighted in efforts like the Virtual Reality Training Technology trial.

This allows troops to train in detailed, simulated terrains that mirror potential combat zones, greatly improving their spatial awareness and decision-making under pressure.

Medical and First Aid Preparedness

In the realm of Medical and First Aid Preparedness, VR is an invaluable tool for medics. Virtual environments offer the opportunity to practice life-saving procedures in a variety of trauma scenarios. This technological approach is essential for enhancing the readiness of military medical personnel, ensuring that they can respond with confidence and precision in any situation.

Mission Rehearsal and Strategy

When it comes to Mission Rehearsal and Strategy, VR enables military units to visualise and rehearse operations before deployment. These immersive simulations provide an interactive platform for practising various strategies, allowing troops to analyse and refine tactics in a dynamic, risk-free setting.

Through repeated rehearsals of mission-critical tasks and procedures, units can identify potential challenges and find solutions in advance of real-world execution.

Advantages of VR Training for the Military

Virtual reality (VR) training offers the military cutting-edge solutions to simulate real-world environments and scenarios. Through immersive experiences, it enhances skill sets while ensuring safety and reducing costs.

Enhanced Realism

VR training allows military personnel to experience highly realistic battlefield scenarios. Systems like the British Army’s Virtual Reality In-Land Training (VRLT) replicate complex environments and situations with great precision, enabling soldiers to train for actual combat without the real-world risks.

Improved Safety

VR establishes safe training grounds. There is a significant reduction in risk for injury or death as service members can learn to navigate dangerous situations within a controlled, virtual space.


The use of VR also presents an opportunity for cost savings. Virtual environments mean less reliance on physical assets and locations, which can be expensive to maintain and secure. Investing in VR can lead to long-term savings.

Measurable Competence

VR training provides quantifiable evidence of a soldier’s skills and adaptability. It allows for the collection of data on performance, measuring and demonstrating competence in a variety of training modules, which can be essential for targeted improvements.

Challenges and Limitations

While virtual reality (VR) provides dynamic training opportunities for the military, several challenges and limitations can affect its effectiveness and wide-scale implementation.

Technical Barriers

In the realm of VR military training, technical hurdles are significant. Hardware issues such as limited battery life, image resolution, and latency can hamper the realism and immersion crucial for effective training.

Content creation is complex and resource-intensive, often requiring extensive programming and 3D modelling. AR and VR systems must also be robust enough to withstand diverse and harsh operational environments faced by military personnel.

Physical and Psychological Adaptation

Trainees may experience physical side effects such as motion sickness, eye strain, and discomfort due to prolonged use of VR equipment. Furthermore, there’s a risk that prolonged immersion might lead to a blurring of lines between virtual and real combat scenarios. This necessitates careful consideration of how VR is introduced and the frequency of its use, to prevent any negative psychological impact.

Integration with Traditional Training

Combining VR with conventional methods poses its challenges; finding the correct balance is crucial. Traditional training has been honed for decades and integrates nuances of real-world physics and social dynamics that VR hasn’t fully replicated.

Moreover, scepticism amongst military trainers towards the effectiveness of VR means that it must demonstrate tangible benefits to be embraced as a complementary training tool.

Development of VR Training Content

In the realm of military training, virtual reality (VR) content creation is pivotal for the delivery of immersive and effective training programmes. The successful development of this content hinges on meticulous scenario design, the incorporation of interactive elements, and the integration of analytics and feedback systems to measure performance and outcomes.

Scenario Design

VR training scenarios are crafted with precision to mimic real-world situations as closely as possible. Subject matter experts employ their extensive field knowledge to infuse each scenario with realistic challenges, relevant to military training objectives. Every environment, from arctic warfare to rapid jet landings, is methodically produced to provide authentic experiences.

Interactive Elements

Interactive features play a crucial role in VR training, engaging the user and simulating true-to-life operations. These elements range from basic navigational controls to complex, decision-making tasks that provide military personnel with hands-on experience. For instance, the British Army’s VR training technology includes interactive tools to aid soldiers in learning critical skills required in the field.

Analytics and Feedback Systems

To quantitatively assess trainees’ performance, developers implement sophisticated analytics and feedback systems into VR training programmes. These systems track progress, pinpoint areas of improvement, and deliver tailored feedback. The data collected is instrumental for continuous improvement of both the training content and the trainee’s performance, thereby enhancing the overall quality of military training.

Future Trends in Military Training with VR

The landscape of military training is being transformed by Virtual Reality (VR), focusing on increased immersion, collaboration, and realism for service members.

Adoption of AI Technologies

Virtual Reality is being increasingly combined with Artificial Intelligence (AI) to create more dynamic and responsive training scenarios. For instance, soldiers can experience realistic and unpredictable combat situations where the AI adapts the mission and environment in real-time, providing a tailored training experience that improves decision-making skills under stress.

Multi-User Virtual Environments

Multi-User Virtual Environments (MUVEs) are becoming a crucial trend in military training, allowing multiple participants to train simultaneously in a shared digital space. Teams can practice complex collaborative tasks, such as tactical manoeuvres or coordinated assaults, fostering unit cohesion and operational preparedness.

Hardware Advancements

Advancements in VR hardware are providing soldiers with more lightweight and comfortable headsets, coupled with better haptic feedback systems. These developments aim to enhance physical fidelity and reduce training-related fatigue, enabling longer and more frequent training sessions without compromising on the quality or intensity of the experience.

Case Studies and Real-World Applications

Virtual Reality (VR) training within the military context has been instrumental in enhancing the preparedness of forces across various scenarios. The following subsections detail specific ways in which VR has been integrated into military training programmes.

Joint Military Exercises

VR technology enables the creation of complex, multinational joint exercise scenarios that facilitate interaction and coordination among different military units. These exercises can simulate environments and conditions, such as airborne operations or urban warfare, in a controlled and repeatable manner, allowing forces to gain valuable experience without the associated risks and costs of live exercises.

Special Forces Training

Special Forces units employ VR training to hone their skills in high-stakes environments. VR allows for the repetition of specific scenarios, like hostage rescue or covert operations, that require precision and adherence to strict protocols. The immersive nature of VR provides realistic stress inoculation, which is crucial for decision-making under pressure.

Vehicle and Weapons Systems Operation

Through VR simulations, military personnel can gain proficiency in the operation of various vehicles and weapons systems without consuming physical resources. For instance, pilots can practise complex manoeuvres and engage in dogfights, and tank operators can navigate difficult terrain.

These simulations also enable immediate feedback and detailed debriefing, significantly accelerating the learning process.

Ethical Considerations

Virtual reality (VR) in military training carries unique ethical implications that must be scrutinised. As the technology advances, it is paramount to address concerns relating to data privacy and the psychological impact on service members.

Data Privacy and Security

VR military training often involves the collection and processing of sensitive personal data. Security protocols must be stringent to protect against unauthorised data breaches. Explicit consent from participants should be acquired before data collection, and they should be informed about how their data will be used and the measures taken to safeguard it. It is critical to ensure that their personal data is not misused or exposed to external threats.

Psychological Impact and Desensitisation

Utilising VR for military training can lead to potential psychological effects. A question arises about the impact of immersing service members in virtual scenarios that mimic real-life combat.

Prolonged exposure to VR training environments may result in desensitisation to violence. It is vital to monitor the psychological well-being of personnel and provide support to mitigate adverse effects.

The Ethics of Realism in Virtual and Augmented Reality discusses the balance between effective training and ethical implications in realistic VR simulations.

Global Perspectives on VR Military Training

Virtual reality (VR) training is rapidly becoming an integral tool for military forces around the world. It offers safe, cost-effective, and highly adaptable environments for training personnel in complex and hazardous scenarios.

Comparative Analysis by Country

United States: The US military integrates VR into their training programmes, utilising it for flight simulations, battlefield medicine, and virtual boot camps which boast high-fidelity simulations to prepare soldiers for real-world missions.

United Kingdom: British forces are experimenting with VR to evolve into a world-class, agile force. Soldiers from 1st Battalion, The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment, for instance, are trialling Virtual Reality training technology to enhance their readiness for deployment.

China: In China, VR is embraced to simulate diverse combat scenarios, allowing troops to practice in a multitude of virtual environments to gain strategic advantages.

Russia: Russian military training utilises VR in developing skills in armoured and artillery units, with an emphasis on increasing the speed and effectiveness of decision-making in combat situations.

Collaborative International Programmes

NATO: Within NATO, VR training programmes are being developed collaboratively to ensure interoperability among member nations. These programmes are designed to create unified training standards and tactics across different military forces.

European Defence Agency (EDA): The EDA supports collaborative VR training initiatives to standardise military training across Europe, focusing on enhancing the capabilities of EU armed forces through technology.

Joint Military Exercises: International joint exercises frequently incorporate VR components to enable allied forces from different nations to train together effectively, preparing for combined operations with a synergistic understanding of tactics and strategies.

Picture of Phil


I’m the resident head of comms and partnerships here at Draw & Code. I work on strategy, sales, marketing and other vital areas at a studio that was founded on a dream and has spent the intervening decade trying to make that dream come true. I believe that immersive and interactive technologies are impacting on our lives and being in the epicentre of this industry makes every day a thrill.

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