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Is Simulation Believable?

The introduction of laser technology revolutionised battlefield combat training, although recent refinements have raised the levels of realism achieved by first-generation systems. The earliest one-way laser systems could not make provision for fall of shot and only handled direct line of fire. Nevertheless, it is widely accepted that even the latest two-way systems that permit pre-calculation of hit probabilities fall short of perfection.

Recognising the need for a forum on force-on-force outdoor training, the first international symposium on `Combat Training and Weapon Effects Simulation' was held recently in Bremerhaven. Sponsored by Diehl Luftfahrt Elektronik (DLE), C.O.E.L. and Comet, the event entitled "Levels of Fidelity" brought together many experts in this field and was held at the Comet facility at which various pyrotechnic products are manufactured.

Although the sponsors are linked in many ways, Levels of Fidelity was not merely a marketing effort for their products. Of the 40 delegates representing nine countries, a number were from companies that compete with one another in world markets. But the trend towards consolidation in industry and the increasing demand for compatibility between different training systems is obliging the development of appropriate products.

So the occasion was more than an opportunity for companies to take stock of the competition, and some innovative products stimulated interest because of their potential for integration with different systems. But as Christian Peipers, Comet's director noted: "Fidelity is the key to the effectiveness of simulation and the object of such training must be to ensure that soldiers do the right thing automatically under physical and emotional stress".

"Soldiers must be convinced by the noise and visual inputs to make them feel that they are in a war," Peipers continued, and it was reassuring that some of the speakers expressed the view that this is now being achieved. Major Richard Chadwick is in no doubt that the Saab Training Systems' equipment used by the British Army achieves the aim of creating the stresses and strains of battle.

Commanding the Battlegroup Training Unit out on Salisbury Plain, Chadwick acknowledged that the current method of deploying marker teams by Land Rover to indicate weapon effects is not ideal. He revealed that trials with an area effects weapon simulator produced by Cubic are underway. This will provide indirect fire, minefield and NBC simulation.

The Fire Marker Unit, as part of the Codarts system produced by C.O.E.L and Ruag Electronics to address this requirement, drew favourable comment from delegates. Lt Col Jan Uebersax, leader of the Swiss Army Simug trials reported that after some six months in service, no Fire Marker Units have had to be replaced due to damage.

However, although they have proven to be both robust and an effective means of generating noise and smoke to indicate the effects of artillery and mortar fire or of exploding mines, the need for a faster means of replacing cartridges has become evident. So Comet has adapted the Fire Marker Unit to fire its own multiple effects cartridge system (Mecs) and the company plans to develop a magazine so that spent rounds can be quickly replaced. Prototype Mecs rounds assembled by hand took part in the demonstration held on the second day of the symposium.

Uebersax enthused about the effectiveness of the Simug force-on-force instrumented training environment. Developed `bottom up,' this is now used at company level and has already demonstrated faster learning in which both sides clearly want to win. The aim is for the Simgun to reach battle-group level; Uebersax reported that soldiers who have experienced it have asked for more exercises.

Jan Vermeulen, project manager of the Royal Nether land Army's Mobile Containerised Training Centre (MCTC) provided a report on its progress and noted that it is to become operational in 2003. This is being developed with Saab Training Systems, initially using ten containers, but eventually employing twice that number. The MCTC will be used for exercises in the Netherlands, but for battalion level upwards it is planned that a German combat training centre will be employed. Vermeulen is chairman of a Nato working group aiming to establish standards that will permit more interaction during training between forces of different nations.

Robert J Wolfinger, US Army Simulation & Training and Instrumentation Command (Stricom) Miles XXI project director, declared that it may be necessary to compromise fidelity for the sake of price, but during a live firing demonstration on the Garlstedt ranges, delegates could judge for themselves the levels of fidelity achieved so far.
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Author:Walters, Brian
Publication:Armada International
Date:Aug 1, 2001
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