Yorkshire soldiers have begun the world’s biggest game of 'laser quest'.
Lasting eight days and set in 1,160 square miles of Canadian prairie, the training exercise sees about 2,000 soldiers along with hundreds of tanks and other vehicles kitted out with laser guns and hi-tech sensors similar to those used in the futuristic war game.
The massive war game is part of a bid to ensure troops are at their highest level of readiness should British armed forces be called upon to intervene in a conflict anywhere in the world.
About 1,000 men and women from the 1st Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment, the King’s Royal Hussars, the Royal Engineers, the Royal Artillery and other units are fighting as Britain. They include troops from across Kirklees and Calderdale.
Roughly 1,000 more will represent the enemy, led by the Royal Household Cavalry, as well as acting as local insurgents and safety co-ordinators.
Known formerly as Tactical Engagement System (TES) training, it is part of Operation Prairie Storm - the Army’s biggest training exercise of the year.
Cpl David Thomas is taking part along with colleagues from the King’s Royal Hussars.
He said: “This kind of exercise allows us more freedom to manoeuvre and greater flexibility than if we were operating under the safety constraints of live firing.
“It allows us to try out different scenarios and test ourselves in ways which wouldn’t otherwise be possible in training.”
While the freedom of operating without ammunition can be fun, the operation has a serious side.
Each soldier has sensors fitted all over their body which can detect whether they have been hit with a fatal blow or if one of their limbs has been injured.
A speaker attached to his uniform tells them when they have been hit and they must rescue one another and deliver first aid under pressure.
When a tank is hit, the crew are told either that the vehicle can no longer move, a member of crew has been killed, the entire crew has been wiped out or its weapons have been disabled.
As well as being equipped with laser guns, troops are also supplied with laser grenades and heavy artillery.
Lieutenant Ian Hodgson, 25, from Darlington, is one of the soldiers from the 1st Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment who are taking part.
He said: “If a man is injured or killed in the simulation, the system will tell him that straight away.
“Those around him then have to work out how to protect him while he is treated by a medic or how to recover the body.
“If a medic treats them they are able to re-join the battle.
“It forces them to think quickly and act under pressure and hopefully brings home the reality of dealing with causalities in the field.”
The exercise follows weeks of training which has included exercises using live ammunition to ensure the troops are ready for action should trouble flare anywhere in the world.