The UK Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) has announced a two-year £1.5m contract with Epsom-based strategic games developer Slitherine to develop decision support tools based on military simulation games.

The tools, originally developed as commercial games, allow users to simulate war scenarios on different scales from large operations to a mission level.

Dstl selected the products because of their ease of access. While bespoke military tools often require training to access the commercial nature of the games makes them relatively easy to pick up and use.

A Dstl principal analyst said: “We work on computer-assisted wargaming and manual wargaming. I have played strategy video games myself,  even some of the titles that we looked at for this project. They are generally easier to learn how to use and have far larger user bases than analytical defence simulations.

“Of course there are things we can’t use these for. Our own simulation modelling, as well as more traditional manual wargaming, is still vital. It’s just another tool for the job.”

Dstl first used the tools with the Royal Navy, leading to one of the games being trialled for educational purposes.The games are currently being used by the US Department of Defence (DoD) to simulate fuel consumption and loitering times in the Air Force, and more broadly for wargaming simulations.

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The German Luftwaffe is also using Slitherine’s tools to train air force officers in aerial tactics and combat.

Dstl division head for defence and security analysis, Rob Solly, Said: “We are excited to be working with a non-traditional supplier such as Slitherine, supporting the UK’s prosperity agenda.

“We are always looking for creative, collaborative solutions to the challenges of effective and user-friendly wargaming and simulation.”

The Dstl analyst added: “We’ll use these tools with our own data and scenarios to provide better ways of visualising military problems. The benefits are accessibility and ease of use, and the number of existing users there are.

“For example, we’ve been able to train users quicker by going out to Dstl staff who have played these games and training them to use them in a professional capacity.”

Dstl is enhancing three of the company’s games, Command, Flashpoint Campaigns and Combat Missions to meet the needs of the UK’s Armed Forces.

Command, in use by the DoD, features large maps and the ability to simulate large-scale operations using one of the largest databases of military equipment in the world. The database includes weapons and systems from 1946 through to the near future with developmental systems.

At a press event, Dstl said they could use the tool to identify which developmental platforms to take forward, and help decide approaches to future systems.

The software also has the ability to receive input from existing simulators, allowing militaries to couple more advanced smaller scale simulators with a larger picture of a battlefield. This can allow flight simulators to control in-software fighter jets instead of artificial intelligence.

The tools can export data from a scenario which can then be analysed by military officers to improve future decision making.

Slitherine’s games are currently in use in the armed forces of the US, UK, Japan, Germany, France and more, and by defence contractors including BAE Systems and Lockheed Martin.