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Are Modern Battlefields Becoming Like Video Games?

The influx of military-themed video games like "Call of Duty" is helping recruit and train tomorrow's soldiers. But does it start to blur the line between virtual reality and reality?

Technology plays a large part in the modern military, for all branches, with electromagnetic (EM), optical, and even infrared (IR) energy being harnessed for defensive and offensive purposes on the battlefield. On top of that, the U.S. Army and other branches have made no secrets of their use of computer video games as a way to develop future soldiers interested in showing their skills with technology-based weapons, such as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs or drones) and robotics-based systems, on the battlefield and for counter-terrorism operations.

Many military-flavored video games, including “Modern Warrior 2,” “Call of Duty,” and “Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six,” have served to recruit their share of young soldiers and helped steer them toward enlistment in the armed forces. But, as in those video games, when does the technology take over and the reality of the battlefield become too “virtual?”

Much of modern warfare has turned into defense against terrorist operations and attacks being performed by secretive troops who have adopted military actions that result from time spent on video games. Many of the military video games present realistic scenarios and invite players to defend and attack against extremely difficult conditions.

At the same time, in the real world, military systems are being upgraded with modern electronic capabilities such as highly accurate long-range radar systems, terrestrial and satellite-based communications systems, advanced electronic-warfare (EW) systems, and drone-based surveillance systems. Ironically, the video controllers for many of these systems, such as surveillance drones, are not far removed from the screens appearing for military video games.

Military operations worldwide will rely more and more on technology and on being able to apply it, such as surveillance systems using video, audio, and microwave sensors of all kinds to gather information on a suspect site. At the same time, counter forces and terrorists are aware of the technological capabilities of these modern electronic systems and spend a great deal of time developing ways to jam and disarm the latest defense electronic systems, much like battling an adversary in a military video game.

Because of modern battlefields that are essentially based on video games, there are few secrets with regards to another nation’s electronic armaments or their efforts to disarm or jam the electronic weapons systems that they might be facing. In turn, modern defense electronics design is equally involved with achieving performance goals and in ensuring that enemy forces cannot disable the operation of an electronic design, such as jamming a radar system.

The radar system must be designed in such a way that its pulses, by means of specialized modulation or other techniques, cannot be blocked from reaching an intended target and returning to the radar system’s receiver. While no radar design is complete “jam-proof,” through simulation and prototype testing, it’s possible to emulate the many possible jamming scenarios that a system may face and find ways to overcome those efforts.

Future battlefields will more closely resemble the screens of those many popular military video games, filled with laser weapons and UAVs and robotic warriors. And, therefore, future soldiers will likely feel that they have been going through training since childhood. As in commercial and industrial environments, the amount of data in military settings, from the growing number of sensors, will be enormous and much more than any commander can handle without extensive computing power and support.

In a way, the time spent on all those military video games is beneficial training, helping to prepare future troops for battlefields that look more like science fiction than reality.

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