22-year old Idan Yahya of the Israel Air Force’s Active Defence Wing is the current record holder for the outfit’s “Iron Dome” anti-rocket defence system, with eight “kills” to his name. The position of Iron Dome gunner is intense, where instant decisions must be made based on computer visuals generated from radar tracking data. Yahya, an avid gamer, compares the experience to Blizzard’s RTS Warcraft and similar strategy titles.
“There are a lot of flashing blips, signs, symbols, colours and pictures on the screen. You look at your tactical map; see where the threat is coming from. You have to make sure you’re locked onto the right target. There’s a lot of information and there is very little time,” Yahya explained to Wired’s Danger Room. “It definitely reminds me of Warcraft and other online strategy games.”
First surgery and now missile defence? Is there nothing games can’t do?
On a more serious note, Wired also spoke to unit commander Colonel Zvika Haimovich, who articulates precisely how warfare has changed and with it, how soldiers are trained. From the Danger Room article:
“But now we train them to look at a very complex ballistic picture, with a lot of information about targets and threats, a lot in the air, to decide which target is more threatened and which is less, to know how to communicate with other systems online and to take decisions in a matter of seconds under conditions of extreme stress and with a lot of unknowns. Being a techie is no longer something to be ashamed of, no longer a dirty word, in the IDF. These teenagers who get drafted into the army need to be able to thrive in a technological environment.”
War is most definitely not a game, but it is interesting that gaming skills are translating into practical abilities, especially with military technology becoming more and more computerised. Feel free to insert an appropriate reference to Wargames here.
Israel’s Rocket-Hunting Ace Got His Start Playing Warcraft [Wired / Danger Room]