China uses virtual reality for cheaper and more frequent missile training

  • Symbolic exercises are part of efforts to improve training throughout the Chinese military.
  • Technology has changed drills from “large-scale” to “quiet and highly efficient,” the military says
  • See more stories on the Insider business page.

The Chinese rocket force is using virtual reality to train their soldiers to use missile systems, a move that means exercises can be performed more frequently and at a lower cost.

The Army of Liberation People’s strategic and tactical missile force is using the technology as a “virtual training ground” for soldiers, according to a report in the official PLA Daily on Thursday.

Battalion commander Sun Yingjiu told the army newspaper that the technology had improved training.

“You can try to launch it without real installation, and you can use strategies without leaving the foundation,” he said.

The new state-of-the-art virtual training platform meant that rocket force soldiers could use command, action and support in a near-real-world situation, Sun said.

The technology has also turned the “large-scale” missile exercises of the past into “quiet and highly effective” training, according to the report.

He has also made rocket force training much more efficient and flexible. Conventional missile launch exercises involve thousands of workers, and large pieces of equipment have to be transported to a training environment, so the frequency is limited, the report said. However, the “virtual training range” means that all of this can be imagined so that soldiers can use it for much more frequent training.

Chinese ballistic missiles

Armored vehicles carrying DF-26 ballistic missiles in a military parade in Beijing for the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II 3 September 2015.


Beijing wants to turn the country’s military into a modern combat force, with a focus on being more technologically advanced. Like other militaries around the world, the PLA has been using core training and exercise simulations to boost combat. It is part of a wider effort to improve training across the military.

In December, PLA Daily reported that newly hired paratroopers had undergone parachute training using virtual reality.

New employer Zhang Chuxuan told the paper that he had used the symbolic training system to learn basic skills and theory.

“Virtual training in the air is very flexible [in] the symbols of taking off and landing as well as some emergency situations [and the experiences] very true, “Zhang said.

Virtual reality has also been used to train air force pilot cadets, according to previous media reports.

Hong Kong-based weapons reporter Song Zhongping said the technology could make weapons exercises more effective but also reduced training budgets.

“For example, China has placed a strong emphasis on joint exercises across its armed forces, but in reality a drill involving the military, navy and air force is complex and taking time to carry it, “Song said.

“However, computer simulation can achieve similar effects while saving on both energy and costs.”