War in Ukraine: – We need this. Preferably yesterday

War in Ukraine: – We need this.  Preferably yesterday

Slowly but surely, Ukrainian General Oleksandr moves in different directions in the conference room at the Norwegian Armed Forces College (FHS) in Akershus Castle in Oslo.

Subordinate officers, Norwegian researchers and representatives of a Norwegian company are forced to give way to the man in the green field uniform.

In each hand, the General has a small radio controller, and on his head he wears a pair of large white glasses that he looks into, but not through.

Through so-called virtual reality glasses, he sees the interior of a Leopard 2A4 tank, eight of which Norway donated to Ukraine last year. Using the controls in his hand, he can, among other things, operate switches and press buttons inside the cart.

With each passing second, the General moved more confidently around the room. So virtual reality (VR) faces limitations from our physical reality:

The General walks straight to the whiteboard in the conference room.

He and the rest of the room laugh heartily, but beneath the light atmosphere lies a heavy seriousness.

One year: The Norwegian Armed Forces College (FHS), in collaboration with the Norwegian company Fynd Reality, developed the software in just over a year. Photo: Hans Arne Wedlog/Dagbladet
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Ready to use

For one year, FHS, in cooperation with the Norwegian company Fynd Reality in Hamar, has developed a virtual reality program that will contribute to training on tanks donated from Norway.

The beneficiary of the program is the Ukrainian institute responsible for tank training in Ukraine. This week, six officers and a researcher from the institute visited Oslo to test the program, which is constantly being developed.

Now the initial version is ready for use, but before the software is sent to Ukraine, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs must issue an export license. This is expected to happen in the near future.

– The product you showed us is great. We need this, preferably yesterday, says General Oleksandr to Dagbladet.

He heads the institute in Ukraine and has long experience as a tank commander on various Soviet-made tanks.

-The first time I used this program, I almost tore it apart. I was completely fascinated by it. I even understood how to press the different buttons and turn the right levers. “For young students who will use this software, I am absolutely sure that it will be a good and interesting educational tool,” says the general.

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– An altruistic project

The virtual reality program is not intended to replace simulators or actual training on the Leopard 2 vehicles, but it gives the institute's students a better starting point before they get that far.

The goal is simply to reduce training time, says Stian Keksrud, associate professor at the Staff School, part of FHS.

– This is a piece of the big game, but the main goal is to make the first stage of education as good as possible, says Kiksrud to Dagbladet.

Project Officer: Stian Kjeksrud leads the so-called XR projects at FHS.

Project Officer: Stian Kjeksrud leads the so-called XR projects at FHS.
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He is responsible for the so-called XR projects at FHS. XR means “extended reality” in Norwegian. Virtual reality falls under this umbrella term.

– This is a somewhat altruistic project. It really only happened because we were in a good place and had been working on it for a while, Kixrud tells Dagbladet.

Initially, Ukrainian Defense was interested in another project that Kjeksrud and FHS are investigating, but this project is still in the theoretical stage. A Ukrainian delegation visited Norway in February last year, and the meeting was about to boil down to nothing, says Keksrud.

– But we gave them the opportunity to ask us what we could contribute. What they needed was support to train tank personnel, Kexrud says.

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Support from the Nansen programme

FHS and the Ukrainian delegation stood around. They quickly contacted authorities in Ukraine and Norway, and in a relatively short time, the project received support from Norway's Nansen programme, a five-year multilateral political program to provide Norwegian support to Ukraine.

The support package amounts to 75 billion Norwegian kroner, and extends until 2027. The money goes to civilian and military purposes.

Tracks the civil war after the fall of Putin

Tracks the civil war after the fall of Putin

The VR program received NOK 15 million in 2023, and will receive the same grant in 2024. There have also been indications that the project may continue to receive support in 2025.

Once the project received funding, FHS approached Fynd Reality, which has spent much of the past year creating a so-called digital twin of the Norwegian Leopard 2 rover.

The entire Leopard 2 crew, made up of four, can use the VR software at the same time and train together. Since the program is cloud-based, the four people can sit in different places in the world as long as they have VR headsets and access to the Internet.

Digital Doubt: This is what the interior of a Leopard vehicle looks like from the inside in a virtual reality show.  Photo: Hans Arne Wedlog/Dagbladet

Digital Doubt: This is what the interior of a Leopard vehicle looks like from the inside in a virtual reality show. Photo: Hans Arne Wedlog/Dagbladet
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You will use it immediately

Ukrainian General Oleksandr says that once an export license for the virtual reality software is issued to FHS and Fynd Reality, the Ukrainian institute will put it into use.

-We have already adapted our educational program. The sooner we get the program, the better. We will definitely need to adapt and improve, but this can be done during training, says the general.

That's the plan too, says Associate Professor Keksrud.

– Only when it is used correctly do we get an answer about how it works in practice. The use becomes the test, and the more we use it, the better we can develop the software, says the FHS researcher.

Small country - what now?

Small country – what now?

The Ukrainian general says that all Western tanks received by Ukraine are operational in the field, and the institute does not have Western tanks on which they can actually train.

– Unfortunately, we have a limited number of Western tanks, which we have in conflict. We need something to practice on, and with this program we can at least practice on it something, Oleksandr says.

And something better than nothingExplains the year.

– Tank personnel training varies from country to country, but everyone must learn the basics. The best tank for many of our more experienced crews is the T-64. For you, it's the Leopard 2. It's about familiarity with the vehicle. He adds that this program can give our crews more familiarity with the vehicle, as when our crews become more familiar with it, they will start asking to use it.

“Ukrainian advantage”

During the visit to Norway, the Ukrainian general signed a cooperation agreement with the FHS.

– I hope that the virtual reality project will be designed to meet their needs, and will be an effective tool, said FHS Director Major General Dag Rist-Amuth while signing the agreement.

– I have no doubt about this. We've already seen that from the beginning. “It solved many problems, and now it is designed to suit our desires,” the Ukrainian general said.

The FHS Director also expressed his admiration for Ukraine's willingness to learn.

Agreement: A cooperation agreement was signed between FHS and the Ukrainian Institute during the visit to Norway.  Photo: Hans Arne Wedlog/Dagbladet

Agreement: A cooperation agreement was signed between FHS and the Ukrainian Institute during the visit to Norway. Photo: Hans Arne Wedlog/Dagbladet
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This is one of the advantages you have: the desire to learn. “It is important to keep evolving, because war will present new challenges that you must solve and obstacles that you must overcome,” Amoth said.

– When I was studying, I learned different techniques to use on the battlefield, but a lot has completely changed since then. Everyone should learn from these experiences, but first we must deal with our enemy: a monster like this, who does not care about people's lives, not even his own, is scary. It scares me. Therefore, the first task is to win – with their help, the general answered.

he added:

– Either you learn, or you die on the battlefield.

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Hanisi Anenih

Hanisi Anenih

"Web specialist. Lifelong zombie maven. Coffee ninja. Hipster-friendly analyst."

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