Defence firm launches iPhone for missile training

The Patriot anti-missile system now has its own iPhone app, developed by US defence firm Raytheon.

Patriot Crew Drill is a multiple-choice game, designed as a refresher tool for missile troops.

The game, which will not be available on Apple's App Store, will help keep Patriot troops, assigned to other duties, up to speed on the working and mechanics of the system.

Raytheon has said it intends to launch a number of iPhone military apps.

The firm's Roopa Bhide told BBC News that the firm had put the app together as a result of the manpower demands made on the US military; a knock-on effect from the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"It's quite common for troops - who in peacetime would be dedicated to operating the Patriot anti-missile system - to be sent to front line duties," she said.

Soldiers are typically sent out to Afghanistan and Iraq for tours lasting one year.

"As a result, these soldiers tend to get rusty as their focus is elsewhere," said Mrs Bhide.

"This app will help refresh those skills," she added.

The app runs a soldier through the different steps they must go through to assemble and set up the Patriot anti-missile system.

The soldier is presented with a scenario, with three multiple-choice questions to answer.

Successfully answer the question and the app moves onto the next step; fail and they get a dressing down from the "virtual" Staff Sergeant.

There's an app for that

This is not the first military iPhone application from the US military defence contractor.

At the end of 2009, Raytheon said it would develop a suite of combat apps that would make the iPhone a suitable tool for use in a war zone.

At the time, the firm said it would work on an app called One Force Tracker that would use GPS and cellular networks to track the position of friendly troops on the battlefield; there would also be the possibility to track enemy targets, although it remains to be seen how that would be achieved.

A spokesman for Raytheon said that particular app was still in the concept phase and was a "long way off" becoming operational.

The concept of using smartphones as battlefield tools has been growing in military circles.

With shrinking budgets, defence contractors are looking at ways of using existing equipment, rather than designing a dedicated piece of kit from scratch.

It is thought the first military app was Knight's Armament Company's BulletFlight, a utility for snipers that enabled them to work out the trajectory of bullets based on ammunition type, environmental conditions and other variable factors. The iPhone can be mounted on the right of the gun, enabling the shooter to have one eye on the target and the other on the app.

Unlike Raytheon's app, BulletFlight is available on Apple's App Store.

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