Blurring The Lines Between Video Games And Battle Simulators

The "affordable Army" of the futurein contrast to the invested expense of the US Army's Future Combat Systems (FCS) programwill depend upon a greater use of technologies developed for commercial pro t and adapted to military applications. Commonly known as commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) products, and by some companies as the more rugged-sounding military-off-the-shelf (MOTS) products, hardware and software sold as COTS (or MOTS) quality implies that it is "good enough" for many military systems. Of course, for those special cases, such as where a requirement calls for radiation-hardened (rad-hard) components to endure high-radiation environments, military-grade components should be speci ed. But COTS components are being well received and used by system architects in many platforms and, as the report on COTS in this issue details, more than a few products being sold as COTS models can handle all the shock, vibration, and environmental requirements of full MIL testing.

The COTS report brings up one interesting area of transition between commercial and military products, and that is in software simulators. Apparently, commercial game developers have done such a good job creating battle eld-based entertainment for personal computers (PCs) and video game consoles that military decision-makers started to use some of these commercial games as the basis for tactical training tools. To formalize the adoption of commercial wargames into military training tools, the Defense Science & Technology Agency (DSTA, www.dsta. gov) has been involved with the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) to use commercial computer games, especially those that mimic battle eld scenarios, for military classroom applications.

This movement of software between commercial and military worlds is not necessarily a bad thing, and perhaps represents the true spirit of COTS product development. Many of the tactical training software now used by the US Armed Forces, for example, started life as recruitment tools or as commercial games. Unquestionably, the current generation of young men in this country are learning hand-to-eye coordination from a number of extremely realistic battle eld video games (one just has to visit this writer's home after school and homework to listen to the sounds of battle eld-based video games echoing from the boys' rooms). When their times come, it will be a matter for Armed Forces recruiters to convince these young men (and women) that those games were really just a preparation for the real thing.

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