Have you ever played Call of Duty? Battlefield? Maybe some of the classics, like Doom, Quake, or Wolfenstein? These are all video games with something in common. They are all shooters.
Kids these days have played through every war in recent history, from the trenches of World War One to Operation Desert Storm. Heck, if you look outside the Shooter genre, you can find games set in the American Revolution, Ancient Greece, and even the Collapse of the Western Roman Empire.
My point is that kids have been playing commanding soldiers in video games since the start of the gaming industry, and it hasn’t taken long for real armies to begin taking advantage of these uptown pokies. A mindset clearly at the forefront for the IDF’s latest military tech promo.
And in “Real Life”….
Last Sunday, the Israeli Defense Ministry’s Directorate of Defense Research and Development and the Office of the Head of the Armored Corps released a promo video showing off the results of the “Carmel Program”. The program was launched three years ago to hunt for ways of technologically upgrading the IDF’s combat vehicles (preferably at low costs).
During the first phase of the Carmel Program, three companies were tasked with a significant challenge: prove the feasibility of an AFV that is operated by two soldiers with a closed hatch. This outsourcing of military research is nothing new of course. American companies have been doing this for centuries at this point.
The three companies involved are Rafael, IAI, and Elbit Systems. Each of these companies were asked to transform the inside of the vehicle into a more advanced cockpit.
Elbit Systems developed a version of the AFV operated by an Iron Vision “See-Through” Helmet Mounted Display, based on technology developed for the F-35 fighter jet. The idea is to use Virtual and Augmented Reality technology to increase the vision and the operability of the soldiers within.
VR helmets are all the rage now, and it doesn’t seem like the military is missing out on the trend. A soldier with such a helmet could look around and see what was around and outside their vehicle without needing a window or to exit their vehicle. In fact, they could probably see even better than if they had just a window.
Rafael Defense Industries
To accomplish the same task, Rafael designed a new transparent cockpit design that uses augmented reality to give the drivers real-time situational data quickly and efficiently. This info can be anything from targets, to points of interest, to the locations of friendlies (so that that the tanks don’t shoot their allies).
Their design also includes a sort of artificial intelligence system (not Skynet, don’t worry) that they call an “autonomous mission support system”, which will automatically plan missions, drive, and even man the weapons.
Israel Aerospace Industries
The third company, IAI, proposed a design that sparked my preamble. Their system combines a panoramic display, individual control screens, and X-Box controllers. Isn’t that really cool? Real tanks controlled by simple gaming controllers. In addition, they also have onboard an Artificial Intelligence system that helps the operators to process information, highlight critical threats, and decrease decision time.
The Warfare of the Future
So what does this mean for the future? All these vehicles need to go through testing, of course, and then the IDF will have to come to a decision as to which they like and want to move forward with.
According to an IDF spokesman, all three designs passed their preliminary tests, and it will be another two months before they decide which is best. After that, the information will be sent up the chain of command who will have the final decision. Once that is done, maybe we’ll be seeing these advanced war machines on the field of battle within only a couple of years.
Famously, the video game “Fallout” opens with the line, “War. War never changes.” I think that’s complete bunk. War changes all the time, and nowadays, it’s changing faster than ever.
What used to just be hordes of savages running at each other with clubs eventually became organized lines of infantry, and then became what we know as modern warfare. Missions, tactics, espionage, and the technological arms race.
So yes, war changes. Let’s just hope that the good guys stay ahead of the curve.