SI International Inc. won a contract worth up to $5 million from the U.S. Army to design and build an online system to train students in the use and disposal of ammunition and explosives.

The Army's Defense Ammunition Center said 5,000 to 10,000 students from the military, the Pentagon, state and federal agencies and allied nations would take courses each year through the system, planned for use by 2005.

By cutting out the breaks and question-and-answer session of a typical week-long instructor-led course, students on a computer would be able to cover the material in as little as eight hours, said Keith Anderson, the program manager overseeing the contract at SI.

The system would rely on sophisticated three-dimensional imaging to teach students how to identify different kinds of ammunition. Simulation technology would also let students participate in virtual sweeps of weapons sites or view demonstrations of proper storage techniques for explosives.

Oklahoma State University is working closely with SI International on the project and will eventually analyze student coursework to see if the Web training is effective.

SI, based in Reston, is also responsible for assembling a panel of ammunition experts that will be available as needed for the Army.

The contract has a term of one year but could be extended by three years. SI employees are to work on the project at offices in Reston, Rockville and Oklahoma City.

An instructor helps a student soldier at a Defense Ammunition Center classroom. SI International won a contract to design and build an online ammunition training system.