Over the next five years, the U.S. Army plans to spend more than $50 million in video game-related combat training.

The army’s new “games for training” program is scheduled to begin in 2010, with the creation of a gaming unit to oversee all game acquisition and training requirements for the U.S. military.

Reportedly, the army has had a great need for virtual training aids and initially wanted to get videogame training materials out to units before the money was available. Though the army has a large interest in watching the gaming industry for useful technology that could be adapted for military training applications, it doesn’t plan to be go toe-to-toe with game publishers.

“We don’t have the intent to become a competitor with the commercial gaming industry,” said Lt. Col. Gary Stephens, product manager for air and ground tactical trainers at Project Executive Office – Simulation Training and Instrumentation. “We don’t have the intent or capability to be a commercial game house.”

That said, the army’s gaming unit also has an undisclosed budget for purchasing a high-tech, cutting-edge gaming system that will be tested in February. Its current first-person shooter training game, called DARWARS Ambush, was modified by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to teach soldiers how they should react to roadside bombs and ambushes. Over 3,000 copies of the game were shipped to various U.S. military branches in the past two years, but the simulation was constructed with antiquated technology that no longer meets the Army’s current needs.

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