This article was written by POIS Lee-Anne Cooper and was published in the Australian Army Defence Newspaper. Ms Cooper recently visited the Army Logistics Training Centre to report on the latest innovations. In the first in a series of articles, she recounts being put to the test fighting a virtual fire.
In April 2023 Army Logistics Training Centre rolled out FLAIM immersive learning training solutions in the Bulk Fuel Vehicle and Module course and the ECN269 Operator Petroleum course.
Training is heating up at the Army School of Ordnance, South Bandiana, with the introduction of virtual reality firefighting equipment.
The VR equipment that was introduced last April consists of foam and dry chemical extinguishers and a FLAIM Systems trainer, which consists of a hose with a RB102 nozzle, a self-contained breathing apparatus and a heat vest.
I decided to see first-hand just how real it feels.
Donning the virtual reality visor, there was a distinct crackling sound as I looked around to see a helicopter on fire.
The weight of the hose pulled as I walked towards it.
After being kitted up with the FLAIM System trainer virtual reality equipment by WO1 James Sinclair I started to feel hot as I moved closer; the heat vest adding a layer of realism to the scenario.
Planting my feet firmly, I opened up the nozzle and felt the pressure come through the hose.
The fire appeared to be spreading from the gearbox.
Concentrating on that area, the fire continued to spread; what was I doing wrong?
It is nothing like a video game, according to course instructor Sgt Dale Kay.
“You are not comfy on your couch with a controller; you have to physically move around, continually assess the scene, and if you don’t attack the right area the fire will spread just like a real one,” he said.
Senior Technical WO for ECN269 Operator Petroleum, WO1 James Sinclair and his team see the technology as a step towards a future-ready training system.
VR systems are also being used with the Bulk Fuel Vehicle and Module course and the ECN269 Operator Petroleum course.
“We use the extinguisher system with the Bulk Fuel Vehicle and Module course and it has made it completely portable. We no longer are tied to a single location,” WO1 Sinclair said.
There is more of a hybrid approach for the ECN269 Operator Petroleum course.
“We do not see VR superseding conventional main-line training – there are too many scenarios as a petroleum operator that can’t be simulated by VR,” WO1 Sinclair said.
Back in the scenario, I discovered that aiming over the fire caused a splash-back effect that started to slow the spread.
Thankfully, this was only a virtual experience, as it turned out that I had not been able to contain the spread well enough and would have lost the helicopter, and possibly my virtual life.