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Making the first shot count with modern equipment; state-of-the-art weapon training aids add cost-effectiveness.

Making the First Shot Count With Modern Equipment

State-of-the-art Weapon Training Aids Add Cost-effectiveness

One of the greatest problems confronting military establishments today is that of training soldiers to the requisite level of skill in a limited time. Fifty years ago the infantry soldier needed to be skilled with his rifle, two or three hand-grenades, a light machine-gun and perhaps a light mortar, and it took about a year to do this. Today he has to handle a more complicated rifle and half-a-dozen types of grenades, plus probably a submachine-gun, a general-purpose machine-gun, a recoilles rifle, an anti-tank missile, an air defence missile, night vision equipment, the cannon on his IFV ... the list is inexhaustible. Moreover the time available for training has not increased, particularly in conscript armies.

On top of this there are the increasing constraints of the outside world; demands for armies to give up large training areas for community housing, for industrial development, for conservation; demands to take firing ranges out of earshot of the public; demands to end the air pollution caused by firing weapons in the neighbourhood of civil housing; and so on.

As a result of these problems, more and more effort is being put into developing training systems which save time and manpower and avoid the use of large training areas. The object in view is economic: valuable training time can no longer be wasted in transporting troops to remote firing ranges, nor in using them for such manual tasks as pushing targets up and down and pasting over the bullet-holes. Training time must now be productive.

Basic Marksmanship

Of all the training requirements, the most fundamental demand is, of course, that the infantryman be skilled in the use of his own personal weapon. This is the bedrock upon which everything else must rest, and in spite of many ingenious mechanical solutions such as multiple bullet cartridges and burst-fire mechanisms, none of these can really compensate for a lack of basic skill in firing the rifle. Moreover the training procedure follows a logical sequence and cannot be sensibly changed: first, the simple learning of how to point the rifle and hit the desired target; then an increase in speed; then the ability to shoot at moving targets; then the skill of welding all this into the actual performance of patrolling, defence, attack or whatever tactical task may seem requisite. The sequence of learning has not changed over the years; the method of achieving it, however, has changed dramatically within the past decade.

The traditional method of initial rifle instruction - paper targets on frames - was labour-intensive and slow. Moreover it had been devised by shooting enthusiasts who forgot the admonition of a British Secretary of War in the 18th century: "We do not require that the soldier should hit a particular button on his opponent's coat, merely that the infantry should drive an effective fire into their opponents." When this was finally remembered, in the 1960s, the result was to abandon the age-old bull's-eye target with graduated scoring rings and adopt a figure target mounted on an electro-mechanical device with a sensing system so that when a bullet struck, the target fell down, stayed down for a few seconds, and then rose once more. The act of falling indicated a hit, and that, at this stage of the training, was all that was required. It gave the recruit confidence to see a positive reaction to his shot, and the man who is confident of his ability is capable of building on it.

The next step was to develop a bull's-eye target in the old style but to fit it with accurate sensors so that the strike of each bullet could be pinpointed and then electronically transmitted to an indicator at the firing point. Now the soldier could take pains and shoot for accuracy, without the need to walk back and forth to the target or shout down a telephone and argue about the results. A video screen reproduced the target and showed precisely where each shot went. Coupled to a microphone at the firing point it could also distinguish shots fired on the target by some other marksman, since the microphone picked up the rifle's discharge and switched on the sensors just long enough to record the hit. Any other hit was ignored.

These types of target were assembled into formal shooting ranges and soon became popular. The next stage was to develop similar types of mechanism which were portable so that if a suitable piece of ground was available, a handful of men could lay out targets in any desired pattern in a matter of half-an-hour. By radio or wire control the instructor could raise and drop the targets so as to present the trainees with various problems. A hit caused the target to fall and stay down, and the target could then be raised by the instructor.

Finally the computer was added to these systems, so that cumulative scores could be recorded, printed out at the end of the shooting practice, kept in memory for comparison and used to produce a complete history of any man's firing training and progress at any time. Rifle training had undergone a revolution, and rifle instruction was all the better for it. (Obviously, these systems are equally applicable to pistol, submachine-gun or machine-gun training; it took some time to develop circuitry which could record the shots in a burst of machine-gun fire, but it was eventually achieved.)

A number of refinements have been devised for these systems, to cater for demands made by the soldiers. Thus there are heating systems which cause the target to have a different temperature from its surroundings, so that thermal-imaging sights can be used at night with realistic effects. There are noise-makers and pyrotechnic devices which simulate the target shooting back at the soldier, so that a target can be concealed in vegetation and "shoot" at the trainee, making him study the terrain and identify where the shot came from before shooting back.

A wide selection of target equipment to meet these requirements is now available from numerous manufacturers. In Europe we can pick out, for example, Browning, CGEE-Alsthom, SAAB, Theissen, SIUS, TIRAX, Polytronic and others. SAAB Training were among the earliest in the field and have a range which covers all the stages of training. Their Stationary Target System incorporates pop-up targets which can be hard-wire or radio-controlled and which record the strikes in the instructor's control box for printing out at the end of practice. The hard-wire system is designed so that a line of targets can be installed and the wiring run down the length of the range with connecting points: the instructor can then commence at, say, 100 metres range, then disconnect his control box and take his squad back to the 200 metre point, re-connect and carry on the firing training with the minimum delay. For moving target practice SAAB produces a simple trolley system which allows targets to be operated at varying speeds; for more advanced training there is a range of portable targets which, again, can be radio or hard-wire-controlled.

TIRAX of Switzerland have made their name by the development of a particularly small and compact target mechanism unit, a cylinder no more than 3 kg in weight and entirely selfcontained. It can be placed anywhere, supports a figure target, and can be programmed to fall, rise, swivel, perform various evolutions at intervals, or be entirely commanded by radio or wire. The particularly appealing aspect of this unit is its size, which enables an entire firing range to be transported in a light truck and laid out on the ground with the minimum delay and expenditure of manpower.

Dixi, another Swiss company, produces a range of portable target mechanisms, though these are much larger than the TIRAX model, being really intended for semi-permanent installation. They include such refinements as armour protection for the machinery, night-shooting aids and electronic circuitry which prevents over-use of the batteries. Although quite large units, and capable of supporting large targets for long-range machine-gun shooting, the Dixi targets are sufficiently sensitive to react to the impact of plastic training ammunition.

Theissen of West Germany produces similar radio and hard-wire-controlled targets, both emplaced and portable. Like other systems, they offer double-faced targets in which the figure silhouette is marked as friendly on one side and enemy on the other, thus making the soldier take the decision whether or not to shoot when the target is exposed - useful discipline for special forces. Theissen also make a "shoot-back simulator" in the form of an electro-mechanical framework on which a special blank-firing submachine-gun, developed by Th. Rapp KG, can be mounted and fired by remote control.

Moving to the more accurate types of target-marking, Switzerland's SIUS AG were among the pioneers of the visual display technique. Here the targets are the conventional bull's-eye type, with sensing devices which can locate the precise point of impact to 1 mm and display it on a replica target on the video screen alongside the marksman. In addition, each shot is individually listed and scored on the screen alongside the target display, so that at the end of the practice a push on a button totals up the score, analyses it and presents the soldier with a printed record. A very similar equipment is produced by Theissen as their Precision Target System.

In-barracks Ranges

However, all these systems still demand some open space with the necessary safety precautions, and since open spaces are at a premium in many countries, armies are being pressured into giving up many of their little-used firing ranges. This often means that the soldier and the firing range are several kilometres apart and valuable time is wasted moving the men to and from the range. The solution to this is to move the range to the men and locate the range within the barracks. In-barracks ranges, of the 30-metre type, are nothing new, but in the past they were somewhat artificial and usually confined to .22 cal. shooting. However, modern technology has improved the realism and made them a practical proposition with full-bore weapons.

One such in-barracks system is the British Ferranti Marksman, previously known as the GQ Marksman. Depending on the building and its degree of safety integrity, virtually any type of weapon from .22 to full-calibre assault rifles and submachine-guns can be used against targets which are optically projected onto a screen. This screen is four metres wide, and there are synchronised loudspeakers to provide battle noises and other "noises off" tending to disorient the trainees. The moving pictures are presented at a suitable scale to represent a specific range, and the trainee fires his own weapon against the nominated target. As soon as the shot is fired, the moving picture stops and a light, behind the screen, is switched on to illuminate the bullet hole, thus revealing the accuracy of the shooting. When long-range shooting is being simulated, an allowance for time of flight and trajectory can be programmed, suited to the weapon being fired. Various types of lighting can be provided so as to offer practice in night firing or the use of electro-optical sights.

Should no space be available at all, or the shooting range be too far out of town, as is often the case with police forces, the range can be made to go to the user. MST of Belgium proposes two truck-mounted systems, the MSR 10 based on a 13.1-metre trailer and the MSR 15 which uses a telescopic chassis. When retracted, the latter is 13.1 metres long and complies with road regulations but extends to 19 metres to provide a 15-metre shooting range. In their basic configuration, the trailers are given [360 degrees] bullet-proofing against a variety of calibres, a powerful ventilation system, a bullet trap, a control room at the back of the trailer, etc. However, the MSR mobile ranges can also be equipped with simulators. MST proposes, for example, Ferranti's FAST (Fire Arms Stress Trainer) which projects life-size scenarios on a special screen and records the trainee's performance in a computer.

Browning SA in Belgium manufacture a system which is particularly adaptable to police or special forces in that the target screen depicts a life-sized "interactive" scenario in which the trainee must play his part. Thus he may be one of a pair of patrolling policemen, the second man being pictured on the screen, who meet with some situation during their patrol. He must respond to the actions of his "partner" and the developing situation, making his own decision whether or not to shoot at the appropriate time. If he shoots, the action stops and his accuracy is assessed, then the action can be re-started and the situation followed through to see whether, in fact, his action was justified. Similar situations with varying endings make sure that the student cannot memorise the scenes and cheat.

Unfortunately the "environmental lobby" has now decided that shooting in barracks is a source of "noise pollution" to the neighbourhood and has begun to make life difficult. A solution to this is the development of non-firing simulators which allow the manipulation and target aspects of training to be rehearsed but without the need for any kind of ammunition.

The Ferranti "SMART" (SMall ARms Trainer) is an ingenious device which produces exceptionally realistic effects. The soldier uses the standard service rifle to which he is accustomed, but the barrel is replaced with a replica containing a light pencil. There is also a pneumatic device on the rifle, connected by a light flexible pipe to the simulator, and the man wears eardefenders which actually contain earphones. He takes aim at a target shown on a video screen a few feet away, but since the target is shown at scale size for a specified range, aiming is as difficult as it is in real life. When he pulls the trigger the light pencil emits a pulse which is picked up by the video screen; at the same time the pneumatic device kicks the rifle against his shoulder and the earphones give the report of a shot. As in real life, the target shows no difference; but the impact of the light spot has registered on an enlarged target visible to the instructor so that, if he desires, he can inform the trainee where the shot went. At the end of the series, the picture on the trainee's screen is replaced by the enlarged picture of his target, showing all his hits.

Tactical Weapon Training

Having thus trained the soldier in the mechanics of shooting, it now becomes necessary to translate that knowledge into actual tactical practice, shooting in actual terrain against live targets acting in the unpredictable way that is normal in combat. Obviously, this cannot be done. The nearest thing to reality which could normally be achieved in the past was to give the troops blank ammunition and appoint an umpire to determine the result, based on the balance of probabilities. This was never a satisfactory solution and sometimes deteriorated into a hand-to-hand battle to determine who was the victor. Fortunately those days are over, having been firmly relegated to the past by the invention of the laser tactical system.

This system involves fitting the man's rifle with an eye-safe laser projector which is pulsed by the sound of a blank cartridge fired in the rifle. The man is also fitted with a number of laser detectors, worn on his person as part of his normal webbing. Having so equipped a number of troops, they are divided into two parties and set some simple tactical manoeuvre, such as attacking a defended post or attempting to patrol a defended area. When a soldier sees an "enemy" he takes aim and fires a blank cartridge, thus releasing a pulse of laser light at the target. If this strikes one of the receptor devices on the "enemy", an alarm sounds, indicating to the man that he has been "shot". He can only switch off the alarm by taking some positive action which removes him from the effective strength, such as lying down or removing a key from his own laser projector and fitting in into his alarm box. Either way, he can take no further effective part in the battle and is, in effect, "dead". At the end of the exercise the instructor assembles the men and from the condition of the alarm systems can immediately tell the quick from the dead. No further argument about who was shot and who was not is permitted.

In addition to solving the perennial question of who won, the laser system has also revealed itself to be an exceptionally useful analysis tool. The British Army, and others, have discovered that several time-honoured manoeuvres are not quite so fool-proof as had been believed. In the past the success of a tactic was enough justification; its failure was rarely capable of analysis, since those who could explain why it failed were generally dead. Now that the "dead" can be resurrected and quizzed about what they were doing when they were shot, where they were moving, why they were moving, whether they were taking precautions against being observed, whether they were camouflaged and so on, some flaws have been found in several of the simpler section and platoon tactical moves and these have been carefully analysed and altered.

Laser tactical systems first appeared as adjuncts to tank guns, largely because of the bulk of the earlier systems, but once the technology had been mastered they soon shrank in size to the point where they could be fitted to small arms. The British Army uses the SAWES (Small Arms Weapon Effects System) which was manufactured by Centronic. The Eichweber Talissi system is used in West Germany and other European armies while the Loral MILES (Multiple Integrated Laser Engagement System) is used by the US Army and other armies.

Because of its first appearance on tank weapons, the integration of the laser system throughout the whole spectrum of the battlefield has been rapid. Every direct-fire weapon, from the rifle to the tank gun, by way of anti-tank missile launchers, recoilless guns and cannon mounted on IFVs, has its own laser device and a suitable receptor to make it, or its carrier, vulnerable. There is, of course, the need to categorise the weapons and the targets and to code the laser outputs so that only the appropriate weapon can damage an appropriate target - it would obviously turn a serious exercise into a comedy if men with rifles were capable of knocking out main battle-tanks. As with the simple rifle devices, the laser has enabled a valuable analysis of the combat effectiveness of various weapons and weapon combinations to be made.

Lasers can be applied in another training context: they can replace bullets on firing ranges. By providing the target with a laser receptor and the weapon with a laser projector, straight-forward marksmanship can be practiced in almost any surroundings. Indeed, one ingenious device, by Tarpo of Finland, even does away with the need for a receptor on the target by providing the weapon with a receptor alongside the laser. Provided the target has a reflective surface, the reflected pulse returns to the weapon and gives a signal audible to the holder to indicate that his shot was a hit. This is an ideal system for pistol training, since the trainee can simply stick a piece of foil on the wall and begin to practice; or he can round up a willing companion, stick a piece of foil on his shirt, and "shoot" at him as he moves around.

Heavier Weapons Training

In the case of some weapons, lasers are not the complete answer; they can be fitted with lasers, but the provision of a suitable laser-equipped target can be an expensive business and is not one that can be easily arranged day after day. The weapons in question are, of course, anti-tank and anti-aircraft missile launchers and light air defence guns. Here the trainee requires a great deal of practice which cannot be performed with the real-missile (because of the enormous cost), nor with the real gun (because of range and target problems), nor with a laser (because of the target problems). Here the solution lies in electronic simulation i.e. providing the launcher with a sight unit which allows the injection of a video or computer-generated picture of a target, followed by the simulation of a missile's flight as it would be seen in the sight picture. The actual launcher may be used, or a completely simulated launcher can be provided; there are arguments for both cases.

The use of a real launcher, temporarily converted by the use of a special sight unit, is claimed to provide the soldier with the feel of the actual weapon he will use in war. On the other hand, the supporters of fully simulated launchers say that this saves excessive wear and tear on the real article.

The degree of simulation can be, literally, as much as the finances will stand, from a relatively simple device provided on a video screen to a fully integrated building in which targets are displayed on the walls, accompanied by suitable sound effects, and engaged by the trainee from a position inside the building.

One method of simulating direct fire which has survived since the 19th century deserves mention, and that is the sub-calibre trainer. Originally developed for heavy naval and coast defence guns, it survives today as a system for training on tank and anti-tank guns and anti-tank shoulder-fired launchers. In brief, a device resembling the real cartridge or rocket is loaded into the weapon. This device contains a rifled barrel and a simple breech mechanism capable of firing a small round of ammunition, the trigger of the parent weapon being suitably linked to the sub-calibre device. In this way a 120-mm tank gun can be fired against representative targets a few tens of metres away, using ordinary rifle ball cartridges. Such a system is perfectly adequate for teaching the elementary rules of aiming, manipulation of the sights, aiming off for movement and similar basics. For infantry shoulder-fired launchers such as the Panzerfaust, Carl Gustav, Armbrust and Lanze, these devices are a cheap and very effective basic training method. Such sub-calibre devices are manufactured by Nico Pyrotechnic and Piepenbrock Pyrotechnik (formerly Feistel) in West Germany and are widely used.

Similar devices can be employed for training on mortars. Simulation of mortar fire is not easy, due to the trajectory and time-of-flight effects. The Dynamit Nobel and Ecia systems use a carrier bomb which is the same size as the normal bomb and which carries an internal barrel and a very small sub-projectile. This parent bomb is dropped down the bore in the usual way; on striking the mortar's firing pin, the sub-calibre projectile is fired from the barrel and lands from 50 to 500 metres away, giving a harmless flash and puff of smoke to mark its impact. At the same time the gas generated is sufficient to lift the parent bomb from the mortar tube and drop it a few metres in front, where it can be picked up and re-loaded with a fresh sub-projectile cartridge. Thus the correct loading drill is carried out, and the training not only encompasses the mortar men but also the observers and fire-control staff.

Modern training aids have been slow to reach the infantry, having generally been lavished on the more expensive weapons first, but their adoption has produced immense benefits, not only in simple matters such as marksmanship and gun drill, but in questions of weapon effectiveness and tactical efficiency. And we have not yet seen the end of them; there is no doubt that some even more ingenious devices are in preparation.

PHOTO : One of SAAB's modern training systems showing BT18BF infantry targets, BT19F sound

PHOTO : simulator and BT24 radio interface.

PHOTO : Another example of the training aids offered by SAAB of Sweden: the SAT 213 turning target

PHOTO : system for training in instinctive shooting.

PHOTO : TIRAX have designed this small cylinder weighing 3 kg and supporting a target that can be

PHOTO : set up anywhere.

PHOTO : In this shooting range equipped with a Swiss Dixi training system, the two sets of sixteen

PHOTO : AK213 targets are controlled by wire and fully managed by computer.

PHOTO : Kurt Eichweber TALISSI weapon fire simulator in use with the Dragon anti-tank missile

PHOTO : system.

PHOTO : SIUS of Switzerland make this very comprehensive SA 9001 hit indicator and scorer - an

PHOTO : invaluable aid.

PHOTO : Another TIRAX training aid for combat simulation without live ammunition is its LAST

PHOTO : (Laser Sensitive Targetry System) for pistol shooting.

PHOTO : Mobile Systems Technology's MSR 15 is a mobile firing range that brings the training

PHOTO : facilities to the trainee and comprises two or three 15-metre shooting lanes.
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Copyright 1989, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Stone, Walter
Publication:Armada International
Date:Dec 1, 1989
Words:4152
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