Artillery Training for Infantrymen.
Mortars can provide foot soldiers with a powerful weapon with which to mount an attack on targets that more often than not are out of sight. Capable of causing mayhem while ambushing a patrol or any other targets unaware of impending danger, mortars can also defeat light armour or even main battle tanks if the heavier calibres are used. However, mortar crews firing standard shells (as opposed to intelligent rounds) require careful co-ordination between crews and forward observers (FO).
Recently, a few manufacturers have succeeded in developing systems that manage to satisfy the training needs of both mortar crews and observers. The Cosim MW for example, developed by the Swiss/German team of SE Swiss Electronics Enterprise Corp and Coel, is said to be the only source for an outdoor mortar simulator, while the United States-based Fats company has, developed a classroom solution to both needs.
But the most widely used kind of training aid for mortar units are the indirect fire trainers (IFT) designed to instruct forward observers. Although there are some mortar weapon trainers, clearly the classroom systems for recognition and command training have an important role to play in honing observers' skills. The widely used Infront indirect fire and forward observation system developed by CAE Invertron is one example.
It covers different levels of observer training, from stand-alone individual skill trainers to classroom trainers for team skills development up to fully-mechanised observation posit vehicle simulators. The Infront IFT employs simulated laser rangefinders and laser target designators, enabling those under instruction to be taught to observe and recognise targets from a fixed or moving eye-point in a feature-rich terrain database representing the customer's own specific area.
Although computer based training (CBT) monitors and projected visual systems may limit the realism of such classroom instruction, the Infront system makes use of state-of-the-art image generators. Thus, realistic targets and weapons can be provided as well as instructor-controlled weather and environmental effects. Moreover, to enhance the level of realism the Infront system includes provision for the use of analogue or digital communications equipment configurable to the fire control system used by specific customers.
Over 250 Infront systems have been sold by CAE and they are used to help students progress from basic training through to the development of complex skills, including threat assessment, tactics evaluation, the sighting of weapons and battle management. A number of similar classroom systems have been developed, including Instrumentointi's Tuksi IFT.
One in a series of low-cost simulators produced by this Finnish company, the IFT features a large-screen visual projection for which the trainees use binoculars, simulated rangefinders and a terminal for sending fire commands. By contrast, the Artsim system produced by Dassault has been designed to interface with other DIS war games and can network with up to 60 stations. This simulator system is intended for several levels of operation including forward observers, mortars and battalion command posts.
Simagine's forward observer simulator developed in the Netherlands has been supplied to US forces by its American partner, Simtech. A PC-based system, this can be used by a single instructor to control up to 30 trainees equipped with binoculars and other viewing devices. Although the trainees may use monitors, an optional large projection screen makes for added realism.
After much research, the Cosim MW has resolved one of the fundamental problems of adding a mortar capability to a laser-based training system. Although tried and tested on line-of-sight weapons, a laser-based simulator clearly cannot establish an optical connection to potential targets. Nevertheless, SE has developed a method of ensuring that the impact of a mortar round is realistically indicated. This permits forward observers to co-ordinate the fall of fire, at the same time allowing the opposing force to train in defensive measures.
A key feature of the Cosim MW is a component called the Fire Market Unit which contains pyrotechnic elements that are remotely triggered by indirect fire, as from the mortar simulator, releasing smoke charges to indicate a `hit.' Thus, even soldiers that are not within the lethal area of indirect fire know that something is shooting at them. The Fire Marker Units are normally laid in a 40-metre grid pattern, each containing six smoke cartridges that are ignited individually to indicate the fall of fire.
Exercise participants are expected to react as they would in real combat; forward observers locating hits by using binoculars and reporting them in the usual way. The mortar crews are only aware that they are using a simulator because the mortar tube has a grenade ejector device. Indeed, the training grenades are very similar to live mortar rounds and must be handled in the same way, highly sophisticated electronic circuitry inside the metal body detecting all the settings and transmitting them via an optical interface to the mortar during the loading operation.
Upon firing, the system computer calculates the trajectory and flight time, the effect in the field being signified by the ignition of smoke cartridges within the Fire Market Unit. These are equipped with local transmitters which can send a "kill code" to nearby soldiers within range. If required, the Cosim MW can be used as a stand-alone mortar crew training system to enable basic skills to be practised.
The Indirect Fire Mortar Trainers developed by Fats can also be used to train observers, mortar fire direction personnel and mortar crewmen. For the observers, the system permits them to view and move through a 50 sq. km 3D terrain scene database. The forward observers having identified targets and called for fire, the mortar crews then follow their drills using a simulated mortar and ammunition which differs from real rounds by being removed from a cutaway tube and made ready for the next firing. Fats has produced 81 mm and 60 mm mortar mockups so far but will have 120 mm mortars available within a year.
After the training has been completed; all elements can then conduct an after action review, successes and failures being quickly identified by means of the system's replay and automatic data recording capability.
The use of a subcalibre mortar training system such as that developed by Nico-Pyrotechnik makes for substantial cost savings while enabling crews to practice the use of mortars. Used by many armies, this system can replicate 60 mm, 81/82 mm, 107 mm and 120 mm calibres, the dummy rounds being handled and fired in the same way but having less range than the projectile. Dynamit Nobel has also produced subcalibre indirect fire training systems that are compatible with most mortar calibres, the projectile flying for a distance of up to 520 metres, depending upon the type of blank cartridge used. These subcalibre systems enable mortar crews to practice handling their weapons in the field, while forward observers in the classroom perfect the art of directing them.