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Persistence during the pandemic


The British Army’s Unit Based Virtual Training (UBVT) system demonstrated its persistence by facilitating an extensive programme of events during a 12-month period characterised by lockdowns and logistical difficulties.

Delivered as a managed service by QinetiQ, the technology proved an ideal solution to the conundrum of sharpening soldiers’ skills while adhering to strict social distancing measures and enabled troops to continue to train collectively throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

The all-arms asset rapidly returned to action following the easing of the first national lockdown in May 2020 and has since run an uninterrupted schedule of 66 training serials at locations across the UK.

Using a network of laptop computers, with those exercising communicating via headsets, UBVT immerses troops in a high-fidelity synthetic environment – negating the need for the close proximity and physical contact commonly associated with traditional field training and other fixed simulation capabilities.

Its virtual exercises also afford the advantage of being unconstrained by access to – and the availability of – vehicles, training estates and ammunition.

Working in conjunction with the Army’s chain of command, QinetiQ refined UBVT’s usual operating procedures to implement a wide range of safeguarding measures, including a rigorous testing regime for its delivery teams and the introduction of a remote exercise control setup, to ensure the health of soldiers and directing staff were not put at any risk.

Personnel from 1st Battalion, The Yorkshire Regiment were the first to benefit from the portable collective training tool; rehearsing an array of tactics, techniques and procedures during the system’s two-week deployment to Battlesbury Barracks in Warminster.

“We were quick to evolve the system and to demonstrate that troops could resume training with confidence,” explained UBVT project manager Nick Brown. “Demand from the Army has remained high since and despite effectively losing a quarter of 2020 to lockdown, we quickly caught up and fulfilled a comprehensive and ambitious programme of training.

“The unusual events of the past year have seen UBVT’s flexibility come to the fore and allowed for a continuation of training at a commander’s point of need. In terms of delivering bespoke exercises it has been invaluable, with its only real limits being the imagination of the units using it.

“It has been impressive to see how the Army has responded to the challenges of COVID-19 and employed UBVT to test everything from the efficiency of an armoured infantry platoon’s fire and manoeuvre drills to the effectiveness of a headquarters’ command and control.

“Under normal circumstances, UBVT serves to complement and maximise live training opportunities but during the pandemic it has permitted training to take place that would not otherwise have been possible.”