Defence project puts battle plans in 3-D

In the future, if Canadian armed forces are called on to deal with a terrorist attack such as last year’s Moscow hostage siege, 3-D modelling technology could give them the advantage they need to minimize the death and destruction.

The ngrain technology, from Vancouver’s i3Dimensions, is currently being used as a communication tool in planning another project, the $137 million Department of National Defence contract to build a weapon effects simulation project (WES). In the future, however, it could be used to train soldiers through virtual reality, allowing them to familiarize themselves with the lay of the land before setting foot on foreign soil.


Maj. Greg Burton, project director of WES, calls it “the mother of all laser tag games.”

The project, he says, will comprise a battle group live simulation system with lasers, sensors, radio systems and satellite location devices that will be built at a large facility in Wainwright, Alta. The data on the live exercises will be collected and used to produce after-action reviews for soldiers and commanders. Another, smaller system will be deployed in Gagetown, N.B.

“In the past we used to use blank ammo and go up against each other,” explains Burton. “People designated as umpires would follow along and when the battle or engagement was over, umpires from both the friendly and the enemy sides would determine the outcome with little tables that told them the probability of the number of troops that would be killed. It was a very haphazard method.”

The contract for the WES project was awarded to San Diego-based Cubic Defense Applications Group, which has subcontracted to Montreal-based SNC Lavalin to provide support for 10 years, starting in 2005.

At the same time as the army is looking to update its training methods, it is also looking to refocus on training in urban terrain, Burton says.

That has led to his quest to find technology that will allow soldiers to use virtual modelling to train on so they know exactly what to expect before stepping into enemy territory.

“Last year when we were issuing RFPs for the WES project the army commander asked me to start looking into creating an urban training site for Wainwright that can be seamlessly integrated with WES,” says Burton. “He also asked me to look into a bunch of other technologies and things we could use across the army for urban operations training. At the time we were just getting into Afghanistan and the terrible mountains and horrible cities, which are far more complex than just driving through the hills and valleys of central Europe as we had been doing in the Cold War.”

A coworker introduced Burton to i3Dimensions, which has developed 3-D modelling software that users can interact with.

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