The Israeli Defense Forces are using virtual reality headsets in order to train soldiers how to navigate and fight in Hamas’ network of underground tunnels.
The IDF began utilizing technology made by the Facebook-owned Oculus and the Taiwanese program HTC Vive in April, Bloomberg News reported Monday. Despite costing hundreds of thousands of dollars, the initiative has been beneficial and cost-effective, cutting training time in half and allowing soldiers to undergo exercises that they could not do in real life, an IDF officer said.
The soldiers use both specially-designed workstations and a physical, modifiable tunnel in order to simulate operating in such conditions.
The IDF destroyed dozens of Hamas tunnels during Operation Protective Edge in 2014, but the IDF reportedly believes that the terror group’s tunnel network has been totally rebuilt since then, with some pathways extending inside Israel itself. The IDF says that the quickest way to demolish such tunnels is for soldiers to enter them and plant explosives, hence the training sessions.
The army’s combat engineering unit hopes to expand the program so that a full squad of 20 can train together.