"Made in Kazakhstan: How a Kazakh startup is completely changing the approach to military training"

At the recently concluded Defence Tech Battle, the award for "Best Innovative Technology in the Defense Sector" was won by programmers from Pavlodar with their project, "Geotactica."

20/09/2023 - 14:01
Source: Provided by the developers for Sarbaz.kz
Source: Provided by the developers for Sarbaz.kz

A correspondent from Sarbaz.kz delved into the development by the winners in the category of "Best Innovative Technology in the Defense Sector" at the Defense Tech Battle startup competition and learned from the creators about the project's unique features and future plans.

For the average person, the military-industrial complex often conjures images of weapon production, machinery, and complex network structures. However, military simulators, vital for defense, form another crucial branch of the defense industry.

As Colonel Yerzhan Aitakov, Head of the Department of Military-Technical Policy at the Ministry of Defense, emphasized in an interview with Sarbaz.kz, the development and production of military simulators are among the most promising sectors of Kazakhstan's defense industry. With the active integration of information technology, military training and tactical education can reach new levels of development.

"Geotactica" is a multi-user virtual platform designed for teaching fundamental combat skills, navigation, and tactical reconnaissance. The simulator boasts a wide range of functional capabilities, enabling precise replication of various combat scenarios and tactical situations. The program can be used both in a traditional classroom setting and for online learning, making it a versatile tool for specialist training.

The project's development commenced in 2019. Initially, a simulator was developed for topography skills, and gradually, features for teaching firing and tactical preparation were added, along with modules for training artillery and air defense specialists.

In the development of weaponry and equipment, special attention is paid to ensuring compliance with the tactical and technical data of real prototypes, ensuring the highest level of similarity in sights and ballistic properties of ammunition.

During the demonstration, the developers showcased the simulator for an anti-aircraft missile system, impressing with its detail and realism. It's not like a computer game where you aim and shoot. The operation of an anti-aircraft missile system requires a team of several individuals. The battery commander prepares the weaponry and selects the target, the guidance officer must align the complex with the target using indicators, verify the correct alignment of launchers, and initiate the launch as soon as the target enters the engagement range. Manual tracking operators monitor the shooting results.

In the artillery observer simulator, trainees acquire artillery targeting skills using an artillery panorama. The firing simulator, complete with visualized projectile trajectory, allows for a visual assessment of the accuracy of targeting and identifying any errors made.

Moreover, the simulator includes a network mode: users from different computers can form units, enabling trainees to practice a wide range of scenarios. For example, one unit may defend a hill while another attempts to capture it.

What is even more impressive is that the simulator's engine was developed entirely from scratch using JavaScript by the Pavlodar-based developers. Instead of using ready-made solutions like Unity or Unreal Engine, the developers opted for a more challenging path. As they explained, this choice was made to minimize the hardware requirements for computers used in universities and schools.

In addition, from a technical standpoint, the simulator is highly flexible, capable of incorporating virtually any type of equipment with the highest level of detail. For instance, unmanned aerial vehicles were developed from the ground up and integrated into the simulator, specifically for the Military Department of the International University of Information Technologies.

"In 2019, we effectively transitioned into the active development phase of our simulator, with a focus on tactical, firing, and topographical training. However, the phase of actual deployment started in 2020, and, as is often the case, there were certain challenges in this process," shared Denis Zinoviev, one of the project's founders.

"Implemented in Just Three Universities: Why So Few?"

Over the course of three years, the project has only been implemented in the military departments of three universities: the International University of Information Technologies (IUIT), Toraygyrov University, and Satbayev University. This is despite the developers' willingness, as highlighted in an interview with Sarbaz.kz, not only to implement and model various types of equipment but also to provide servers for the program's operation.

What has caused the slow implementation of this entirely domestic development?

Erbolat Adilbayev, the Chief Research Officer of the Military Scientific Research Center at the National University of Defense (NUD), attributed this to the conservatism prevalent in the field of application. Specialists who have not previously encountered such developments tend to be cautious and skeptical.

"For instance, I have already grasped the program and I am pleased that it can work in various directions – engineering, reconnaissance training. You can even simulate the operation of drones. The developers have created a high-class program," noted E. Adilbayev.

Bulat Tokin, Head of the Military Department at Toraygyrov University, sees the problem in the university's attitude towards its military department. If a university is interested in developing its military department, then the "Geotactica" project can be implemented without issues, especially considering how accommodating the developers are.

"The capabilities of this simulator are extensive, and the developers are capable of creating a simulator for any type of equipment. We talk a lot about digitalization. But when it comes to actual implementation, only a few institutions take the step. We don't just talk; we take action, and there's no need to be afraid of it," emphasized Bulat Tokin.

Evgeny Strokov, Head of the Military Department at IUIT, primarily connects this delay with financial concerns. In his view, the leadership of many universities aims to optimize expenses, with the development of military departments rarely being a priority.

Experts on "Geotactica"

Erbolat Adilbayev from NUD highly commended the potential of "Geotactica." According to him, from an economic standpoint, this solution significantly reduces costs. From a pedagogical perspective, such a solution is even more effective.

"If traditional methods are used – theory first, then practice – it takes a lot of time. Soldiers need additional explanations. Human nature dictates that visual information is absorbed better. With 'Geotactica,' learners using the software already know how to act in practice. The information in their heads is immediately put into action. After this program, they go to the battlefield, and they already understand everything. It's easier to work with them. It elevates the learner's understanding to a new level," explained E. Adilbayev.

Additionally, the simulator's high adaptability allows for the modeling of scenarios, equipment, and terrain maps, which is especially crucial for Kazakhstan with its diverse natural landscapes.

Adilbayev also pointed out another significant advantage: the substantial improvement in the instructor's methodological preparation. Such detailed visualization of equipment, weapons, and their functioning principles is a unique experience. The students' level of information absorption increases.

"This is a very good thing. I have become convinced of this. Initially, I was somewhat skeptical too, but now I believe that it is a development with potential. Moreover, they can easily visualize everything down to the last detail, right up to the instrument panel of an aircraft or any other equipment," he added.

In Adilbayev's opinion, the program should not only be implemented in military institutes and on military department campuses but also in schools as part of initial military training classes.

At Toraygyrov University in Pavlodar, students at the military department have been using the "Geotactica" simulator for three years. The Head of the university's military department, Bulat Tokin, highly values the implemented program.

"In a gaming format, young people perceive the material better. What's boring to memorize, you remember it while simulating a battle. It turns out that the material is assimilated much better. When the program is working, you're on the same wavelength with the youth. What might hinder us can be turned into an advantage. That's how they've made a plus out of it," shared B. Tokin.

According to the Head of the department, the third year of "Geotactica" usage is bearing fruit. Moreover, it benefits not only the students but also the instructors, who continue to improve their skills. Students are enthusiastic – they grasp the material in a gaming format and in more comfortable conditions.

Export Potential

The first thought that comes to everyone's mind is, "If the project can't be implemented in Kazakhstani educational institutions, why not go abroad?" Especially considering that the algorithm is well-established, and many talents or developments that aren't utilized in Kazakhstan gain immense popularity abroad.

When asked about exporting their product, developers Denis Zinoviev and Alexey Kubrak responded negatively. According to them, their priority is to successfully implement the development in Kazakhstan first.

Erbolat Adilbayev supports this approach:

"As patriots, they don't want to sell 'Geotactica' beyond Kazakhstan. They will be readily taken abroad, but despite this, they are trying to establish themselves in our country. They confirm their significance and want to be in demand both in their own country and for this, they deserve great appreciation."

Will the victory at Defence Tech Battle help the "Geotactica" developers?

Denis Zinoviev and Alexey Kubrak are optimistic. They are pleased that the Ministry of Defense is engaging in dialogue with promising startups openly and for the public



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