NATO’s fight against pirates goes virtual

Image from Boarders Ahoy! gameNATO is pushing for an anti-piracy training game built in the virtual world, to instruct alliance sailors on how to go aboard a virtual ship, assemble and interrogate its crew, and inspect the vessel for suspicious objects.

“Boarders Ahoy!” is sponsored by Allied Command Transformation (ACT), one of two strategic military commands in NATO and operated by its NATO Maritime Interdiction Operational and Training Centre (NMIOTC) located at Souda Bay, Crete. The game is focused on Maritime Interdiction Operations (MIO) in support of both Operation Active Endeavour and NATO’s anti-piracy mission around the Horn of Africa.


“We have a lot of nations who are becoming involved in boarding operations and they need to have a baseline training set up for them”, says Wayne Buck, ACT’s Modeling and Simulation Analyst and Project Manager for ‘Boarders Ahoy!’during an interview at the Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation and Education Conference (I/ITSEC) 2010 where the game was first presented, “what we have found is that there are so many students going to the centre, that they need to do some of their training online in a distributive manner. [Boarders Ahoy!] is a way to get threshold knowledge to the students before they get to the centre.”


The NMIOTC was founded just over two years ago and at the time counted barely 60 students. Nowadays, with an increasing involvement in boarding operations by NATO member countries, the NMIOTC has rapidly become one of NATO’s fastest growing training facilities with over 1,200 students in 2010.


Boarders Ahoy! is designed for students to partake in immersive, team-based missions to board and search suspected shipping vessels. The game has different training objectives which are marked by scores. Students can keep track of these scores and are given the opportunity to improve them by repeating and thus perfecting their skills in training missions.


The advanced training with 3D multiplayer virtual world games will help teams better prepare for the live training at the NMIOTC.


Another important aspect of virtual games is safety. Simulated training provides a platform for serious military training without risking human safety, particularly when it comes to practicing the search for weapons of mass destruction.


Nevertheless, a video game is no substitute for live training, especially not for the physical and mental strains that are part of any boarding operation mission.

To view an excerpt from Boarders Ahoy! please visit


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