Military uses modelling tools to train for landmine project

The Canadian Forces is using a knowledge management system to help militaries around the world receive safe de-mining training by using virtual models.

Military engineers have been using Vancouver-based NGRAIN’s product knowledge management solution for the last two years to develop detailed 3D landmines for the National Defence Mine/Countermine Information Centre (NDMIC) Landmine Database, which was created eight years following more than 45 mine strikes in foreign countries. So far, the Canadian Forces has modelled 31 mines that within days will be in the hands of soldiers in Afghanistan and combat engineers across Canada. Another 36 are in production.

Using the database, soldiers can search for landmines based on type and characteristics, and can virtually review disassembly procedures before working on the actual mine.

Virtual mines cost little to make and look realistic, said Master Warrant Officer Tom Stewart, Canadian Forces, J3 engineer operations in Ottawa. He said database users can also examine the mine’s internal system, removing and reconstructing parts.

“”So now the guys can see exactly how the mine would work, and they’ll be able to see what the results would be if they made a mistake.””

Soldiers receive more effective training if they have the actual mines in their hands before departing to a landmine-ridden area, Stewart explained.

“”But that becomes a problem — obviously acquiring them, transporting them, storing them, certifying that they’re safe to handle and then destroying them after we’ve finished using them.””

In the past, Canadian Forces has used expensive training aids, which look fine on the outside but internally don’t function, Stewart said.

Reports are that there are more than 70 types of landmines in Afghanistan alone, he noted. Acquiring physical models is an expense the Department of National Defence cannot afford since it would have to buy multiple versions of each, he explained.

Stewart said the other option Canadian Forces has is using images of mines, but often the pictures are of poor quality because they’re small or sometimes are reprints of photocopies.

Canada is saving “”tens of thousands of dollars”” modelling mines instead of buying training aids, since the average cost of creating a virtual model that can then be copied numerous times is $2,000 to $2,500.

In contrast, buying a training mine costs $800 to $2,000 per model. Once broken apart, it’s no longer usable, said Stewart. Moreover, a soldier entering an “”operational theatre”” still needs to train using the model, so it must be shipped overseas.

“”I’d say more important to the military in many cases is the ability to save time and to put more students through that same course,”” said Gabe Batstone, general manager of NGRAIN product knowledge management.

Stewart said the most complex mine has been modelled in five days, whereas reviewing a training aid through a “”buy-and-try”” program can take years because of the government tendering process.

Canadian Forces is also working on mapping the geographical location of mines “”down to the handheld capability,”” which Stewart said will be more effective than other methods.

Militaries around the world, including those in Uganda, South Africa, Kenya and Egypt, are using the NDMIC database.

The Canadian Forces contract with NGRAIN is valued at about $200,000 and will terminate next March.

Batstone said NGRAIN’s main software clients include the U.S. army, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics in Forth Worth, Tex. and the Canadian Department of National Defence.

He said NGRAIN sells software products allowing users to re-purpose landmines, as well as other physical objects like landing gear, humvees or diesel engines.

The military is also using NGRAIN tools in planning another project, a $137-million Department of National Defence contract to build a weapon effects simulation project (WES).

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