RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – will provide virtual reality simulation training targeting improvements in tank repair for the U.S. Army through a $70 million contract.

The agreement, which RTI announced Wednesday, covers development, production and delivery of what RTI calls “next generation” training devices and simulators.

The deliverables are intended to help the Army diagnose and repair Abrams tanks plus related spares and services.

The More than 8,800 have been built for the Army and U.S. Marines as well as Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. The tanks are more than 32 feet long, 12 feet wide and 8 feet tall and weigh more than 60 tons. They are named after the late General Creighton W. Abrams, a former Army Chief of Staff.

RTI will work with the Abrams Maintenance Training System and the Army’s office for simulation, training and instrumentation.

The agreement is the latest in a series between RTI and the Army for ground vehicle-related tasks dating back to the 1990s.

RTI says it will subcontract some of the work to other firms.

"RTI’s approach to this requirement reflects the latest advances in desktop simulations using serious games technology as well as an unprecedented degree of integration with other members of the Abrams community," said Sam Field, who is vice president of RTI’s training business, in a statement.

"For years, RTI has pioneered the application of virtual reality on low-cost desktops as a means of providing learning-by-doing in a cost-effective and safe environment,” he added. “These new Abrams products will feature new technologies and everything we know about learning methods."

Programs will focus on virtual reality running on low-cost computers and enabling use of the software over the Internet, RTI said.

RTI plans to reuse demilitarized tank parts for replication in the virtual reality environment in order to achieve “the highest fidelity training possible,” Field added.

The system also could lead to broader use of simulation training, according to Field.

"The result will be better-trained soldiers at the lowest possible cost and a business model that can be applied to other training requirements,” he explained.

Other partners include the Anniston Army Depot in Alabama; DEI Services Corporation and TJ Incorporated of Orlando, Fla.; as well as DRS Test and Energy Management of Huntsville, Ala.