Simulated training is becoming as valuable as the real on-field training today. Recreating battlefield environment through simulation and modelling prepares a soldier for almost any situation
In order to keep the armed forces fully prepared for war, men and machine of the three services need to be kept in highest state of battle readiness all the time. While the machines can be kept battle-ready by regular and proper upkeep, men need to train hard to be fully battle-ready for the wars which may start any time at short notice. Best method to train would be to use the original equipment or a system in an environment akin to the actual operational environment. However, because of numerous operational, administrative and logistical constraints such as international laws related to training in the proximity of international borders/LOC/LC, limited availability of training areas, limited availability of officers and men due to various reasons, various kinds of restrictions in the use of equipment for operational reasons and also for conserving precious equipment, ammunition and fuel for operational tasks, limited availability of firing ranges including field firing ranges for regular organised training, armed forces find it extremely difficult to conduct proper, meaningful and effective training for their officers and men as regularly and rigorously as is desired.
In order to ensure realism in the training of the personnel, armed forces regularly carry out their annual training in and around their operational areas where they actually practice and rehearse their operational tasks. While everything else is realistic to the extent possible, live ammunition, bombs, missiles are never used in such exercises. Thus under such circumstances the skills, ability and training standards of a soldier in the field craft, to operate and survive in a hostile battle field environment is never realistically assessed and tested. To overcome these challenges, armed forces world over have been using simulators since time immemorial.
History of present generation of simulators dates back to the World War I where very primitive and generic devices were used for the flight training. Quality of the training devices improved over the years. During and prior to the World War II, link trainers were used for instrument flight training. Simulation technology has grown in leaps and bounds and today we have specific training simulators for all types of weapons, tanks, BMPs, artillery guns, fighter/transport aircrafts, ships, destroyers, troop carriers, electronic warfare, air defence etc. Simulators have been able to overcome, to a very large extent, the problems associated with uninterrupted, round-the-clock meaningful basic, advance and refresher training in efficient handling of the weapon systems, in the realistic tactical training, manoeuvres, counter manoeuvers, firing of main and auxiliary armaments in all operational scenarios, terrain, weather and visibility conditions. Development of laser technology and laser detection systems have brought in far more realism in the conduct of the training where live firing and its effect can now be simulated without the need to fire live ammunition.
Understanding modelling & simulation
Simplest definition of simulation would be that it is an imitation of the operation of the original. Both, simulation and modelling are forms of representation, an abstraction of reality. While simulation is physical, modelling is symbolic representation of an equipment/system, event or task performances. For simulating something, a model has to be developed first which represents the key characteristics, functions and behaviour of the equipment or system, whereas simulation represents the operation of the system (both real world and abstract) in time and space. A simulator is a device that uses sound, visuals, motions and smell to make you feel that you are experiencing an actual situation.
Advancement in computer and other technologies has revolutionised simulation as imitating or replicating the original and much more can now be achieved more accurately, realistically and with greater details. Technology has now made it possible to develop a simulator which is exactly like the original equipment or the system. It is now for the user to decide the level of fidelity of the original system depending on the purpose for which the simulator is designed and the cost at which it is required. Higher fidelity system would always be more expensive.
Simulators may not always be replicas of the original equipment. More often than not, simulators are designed for the specific purpose or task they are supposed to perform. While a tank gunnery simulator will be as close to the actual gunnery of a tank or the tasks required to be performed by a gunner and/or a commander to engage enemy targets, using their authorised ammunition, in different kind of operational scenario, terrain, weather and visibility condition, it will have very little else of a tank and other tasks required to be performed by its crew. For example, it would not have the facility to train the tank driver for which there may be a separate simulator.
Purpose of simulation
Because simulators are able to recreate experiences, they are extremely useful and have a great potential for training personnel for almost any situation. It is an established fact that one learns much more by actually experiencing something than learning about that through reading the books, pamphlets or listening to lectures. Simulated experiences are therefore just as valuable a training tool as the real thing. Simulations are complex, computer-driven re-creations of the real thing. When used for training, they must recreate reality accurately so as to enable trainees to learn the right way to do a task.
While most of the simulators used in the armed forces and many models replicate already existent equipment, systems such as specific tanks, Infantry Combat Vehicles (ICVs), UAVs, Anti-Tank Guided Missiles, automobiles, aircraft, UAVs, ships for the purpose of the training and developing the operational skills of the trainees, both raw and trained soldiers, simulators are also constructed and used in the armed forces for a variety of tasks and scientific pursuits, research and analysis, equipment design, development, testing and evaluation, behavioural studies, decision making, safety engineering, experimentations, stress and performance assessment, repair and maintenance of the equipment/systems and much more.
Types of simulation
Simulation in the armed forces is primarily used for the basic, advance and refresher training of the raw recruits as well as trained officers and soldiers. For this purpose, simulators are available for class room training, for training within unit areas, validating the efficacy of the class room training in a near real world and for validating and testing theories of warfare and the efficacy of the operational plans from tactical to strategic or higher level. Thus, training simulations typically come in one of the three categories:
- Virtual Simulation, where actual players (soldier trainees) use systems in a synthetic environment i.e. computer-controlled setting. A tank gunnery simulator, a small arm training simulator, a full mission UAV simulator and a flight simulator etc. fall into this category where the trainees use the simulated system to learn and enhance their skills in handling equipment/system in different operational, terrain and environmental scenario.
- Live Simulation, where actual players use genuine equipment, systems and carry out the activities as in a real environment. Time is continuous as in the real world. Live simulation is used for assessing the efficacy of the soldier’s class room training and field craft and for assessing other aspects of warfare which cannot be otherwise tested in a real world such as attrition rate in a battle field. Systems such as SIMFIRE (Simulated Fire) used by mechanised forces in full scale field exercises with troops where lasers fitted on the barrel of the gun are used as tank/ICV ammunition and laser detectors fitted on the tanks/ICVs are used to record the hits. TACSIM (Tactical Simulators) used by infantry units and formations is also for the same purpose where laser is fitted on the weapons and detectors on the soldiers body harness.
- Constructive Simulation often referred to as ‘war-gaming’, is where the theories of the warfare and doctrines can be simulated, tested, validated and modified without the need for actual hostilities. Constructive simulation is also used for validating and modifying actual operational plans at the tactical, operational, strategic and even higher level in a Joint Warfare Scenario. These are also referred to as conflict simulation. Unlike virtual and live simulation, they do not involve humans and the equipment as participants. Requisite data such as operational plan, Order of Battle (ORBAT) etc. of the opposing forces (two or more including neutral forces), is fed into Constructive Simulation System. Thereafter, the simulation is driven by certain well-defined sequence of activities. Time is generally faster than the real time and can be further compressed in discreet steps or stopped as per the requirement. Outcome of the activities and war game results are automatically recorded for evaluation and analysis. Advancement in IT technologies has enabled conduct of war game from multiple locations far away from each other. The Indian Army has been using DRDO-developed ‘DRONA’ war-gaming system for some time. The Indian Armed Forces are also in the process of acquiring wargaming solutions through open tendering. request for information (RFI) for establishment of wargaming centre for Indian Air Force. The operational level wargaming system for Indian Navy has already been published.
- Effectiveness of simulators in adding realistic training: Simulators have proved to be very effective training aids in imparting realistic and meaningful training to the armed forces personnel in units, formations, Class A & B establishments. Users are happy with the capability of these simulators which provide real-time feel and performance of the original equipment. The simulators truly replicate ergonomics of the actual systems and have realistic controls, indicators, viewing devices and instrument panels. Experts have evaluated a trainer or a simulator by evaluating the skills it has been able to impart a trainee in carrying out an operational task effectively. Their experiment consisted of forming two groups of trainees; identical, compatible and equally qualified. The first group (experimental group) trained on the simulator while the other group (control group) trained on the actual system for the same duration of time under similar conditions. Both groups were later tested on the actual system and it was noticed that the experimental group invariably performed better than the control group. Thus, the efficacy of a simulator in imparting better quality of training was established.
- Cost effectiveness: A trainer is far more cost effective method of imparting training. In the first place, trainers are much cheaper than the original equipment. A gunnery simulator for a tank is available at a fraction of the cost of a tank. Then it saves on the recurring expenditure on fuel and costly ammunition. It also saves on the wear and tear and of the original equipment, thus reducing the expenses on repair and maintenance. One simulator can train more trainees who would have otherwise required more numbers of original equipment to achieve same level of training. More than anything else use of a simulator conserves the life of the equipment and leaves more fuel and ammunition in the hands of the units for their operational tasks.
- Ease of training: With a trainer at hand, training can be conducted anytime at a very short notice. Units do not have to wait for the allotment of range for conducting small arms training or classification firing. Tanks should not be taken out to such training areas where they can manoeuvre or catch fire. It is not always easy to release troops and other resources for an outdoor training. Such training sessions can be carried out as per the convenience with in the unit areas and training can be imparted round the clock, seven days a week, if desired.
- Training under the watchful eyes of the instructor: Most simulators come with an instructor station. It is the instructor who sets the exercise for the trainees and monitors their performance in real time while they are practicing. He counsels them when they make mistakes and helps them in correcting their mistakes. System records the performance of each trainee which can be replayed to understand rights and wrongs and take corrective actions. Simulators are able to indicate the actual mistake made by the trainee. Such immediate feedback mechanisms allow the trainee to apply this newly acquired knowledge.
- Training on high risk systems or high risk tasks: Training of newly commissioned officers to become expert fighter pilots is an extremely risky business. Making them fly an actual fighter aircraft, despite most extensive class room training, will be extremely dangerous as it may result in loss of precious life. Similarly, training of medical officers on actual patients may endanger the life of the patients. It is well known that the Indian Air Force permits new pilots in the cockpit after an extremely extensive training on flight simulators. Similarly, medical fraternity is using simulators for training of their medical staff. Simulators have been found to be very effective method of training in such high risk jobs as they not only reduce the danger, but also prepare the trainees with such skills that makes them confident to take on such jobs with minimum or no risks.
Armed forces world over have been using simulation for a long time now. With the advancement in technology, weapons and systems are becoming more and more complex and expensive. Nature of warfare is also changing due to the threats posed by terrorist organisations and non-state actors. With rapid urbanisation, training areas are shrinking. Resources are getting scarcer. It is becoming extremely difficult to relieve men from operational duties for the purpose of training. Thus there will be greater reliance on training using simulators. It is learnt that the Ministry of Defence has taken certain policy decisions with regards to training through simulation. As a result, a very large variety and numbers of simulators have been procured in the last two decades and many more are there in the pipeline. Simulators have now become a necessity to train the men for war in right earnest.