Simulators are rapidly reducing the gap between actual combat conditions and simulated conditions. But can they completely replace the actual on-field training exercises?
Behind the actual battlefield, command and tactical operation centres are the elements supporting ground operations — these centres coordinate communications and enable decision- making which play a significant role in any assignment. The success of any operation is directly proportional to the training given to the soldiers. With the advances made in the field of technology, armed forces world over are using simulation to train their troops for mission rehearsals in combat and operational support roles that are vital to give confidence to the soldier and save precious lives. The combat mission simulators are very diverse and allow training for Army, Navy, Air Force and joint operations.
The simulators on combat mission rehearsals are used to train soldiers in order to check the readiness of army. These systems are vital as they enable validation of the training systems and operational doctrine of the defence forces. The system simulates various types of weapons, threats and provides training for the soldiers. These systems provide a paradigm shift for future battle training and have revolutionised the training through Live-Virtual-Constructive (LVC) simulation.
Constructive combat mission rehearsal
Constructive mission rehearsal simulators are used to train troops in tactical operations, combat readiness, decision making and knowledge on vehicle, weapons, language and culture skills.
In a normal mission rehearsal exercise various situations are presented to the troops. The scenario is painted by the commander/simulator where a casualty has taken place during operations and the individual is tested based on his responses under high stress conditions encountered. This way a soldier also learns the steps to be followed when faced in a chaotic battle situation and subsequently train him in execution of tasks in reply to the given scenario. Combat mission simulators provide real-world capability to train, validate (through after action report) and also to verify the tactics, standard operating procedures (SOP) and techniques to support training and mission rehearsals.
The aim of training on any simulator is to be as close to reality as possible. The soldiers get the same kind of tools and reports as they would handle in an actual battlefield. The scenarios are real things that happen too. To test their leadership abilities during mission rehearsals a company commander is declared killed and now having the company second-in-command take his responsibilities. Constructive simulation for mission rehearsal can be at the local/tactical level, theatre/ operational level or global/strategic level based on the type of training to be imparted to soldier. The various areas of training could include tactical decision making, operational analysis, strategic planning. Among various areas of utilisation of constructive simulator based training for military mission rehearsals, the following are of significant use:
- Training of troops during various stages of operation such as induction/ de-induction.
- Training on logistics and convoy management.
- Training on casualty evacuation.
Live combat mission rehearsal
Due to the inherent advantages of simulation, the armed forces needs to train effectively even if they don’t have frequent opportunities to participate in high level field training exercises. Also live simulation plays a key role in training of troops for effective mission rehearsals and prepare for effective combat missions in different kind of terrains. This helps to assess the doctrine of the army, organisation, gear and soldier characteristics.
Live simulation involves real soldiers operating in real systems and involves training with the actual weapons. Live combat mission rehearsal simulators have live component of simulation training and provide more realism by giving a realistic battlefield environment for soldiers. In this case, the troops are divided into two teams and the soldiers sustain and improve upon their advanced tactical engagement skills. The training is conducted in the field, providing a high level of realism, enforcing correct procedures, and yielding outcomes that would be expected in actual operations. The training can be conducted in varying conditions of terrain (built up area, jungle, desert), weather and light.
Virtual reality based combat mission rehearsal
Virtual reality based simulators involve real world soldiers interacting with simulated systems. These simulators offer a game-based virtual environment of varying fidelity in order to provide realistic visuals. The simulator involves both individual and collective training. The soldiers get the feel of being in the middle of action. These simulators provide exhaustive tools for creating different scenarios, videos and interfaces. These simulators allow the soldier to have first person perspective of the situation. The combatants are able to evaluate their progress in real-time for immediate/after action and analysis by the instructor or soldier. The simulator provides a full 360 degree view of virtual environment and allows use of dummy weapons to give the same effect as in the actual scenario. The system uses highly sophisticated physics engine, artificial intelligence, totally immersive environment, IED simulation, highly developed infra red simulation, large number of participants, interactive command and control interface to name a few. These simulators provide a means for combatants, leaders and units to train efficiently over varying conditions. These can further be used to formulate various doctrines, SOPs and tactics.
Among various companies operating in this field, Virtual Battle Space (VBS) from Bohemia Interactive simulations and VIRTSIM from Raytheon are the leaders. Raytheon uses IED Reality Training (IRT) in its products which are an amalgamation of motion capture, simulation-based realism and fully immersive battlefield environment.
This IRT is based on Virtual Tactical Training Simulation System (VIRTSIM), which is an animation of real-time soldier simulation providing full body movement interaction with simulation. The highly immersive setup includes a complex system of enhanced muscle simulation technology, and devices which provide tracking, use of wireless stereo head mounted displays (HMD), mesh of cameras, markers on soldiers and networking of various entities. The system could be tethered or in advanced versions available, completely tetherless. It allows a trainee to have complete freedom of movement allowing him to stay and fire at different positions, to run, jump, crawl and doesn’t restrict him by wires or tethers. Also it enables training on virtual replication of various light conditions, varying sound and stress variations of the battlefield. The flexibility of such a simulator allows it to be used in any location and installed in large interior space such as basketball court (upto 5,000 square feet) allowing complete freedom of movement of troops.
Based on the camera feed, the soldier gets his HMD and allows use of actual communication devices among the soldiers and laser mounted weapons carried by them to simulate the effect of weapon shot. The simulator allows training of soldier in different atmospheric and terrain conditions without actually changing his location. Audio and video feeds create a situation of stress for the soldier and add to the realism.
With the use of simulators we cannot discount the combat exercises. But with the present day advancement of technology, there is a thin line which separates real life missions and simulated battlefields. Though we cannot totally ignore the actual training, but we agree to the fact that simulators have definitely reduced the gap between actual combat conditions and simulated conditions. The advanced features available in the present day combat mission rehearsal simulators allow the instructor and the soldier to learn from their mistakes by making use of advanced and detailed after action report. The reports evaluate each and every shot fired by each soldier, playback of all actions, trainee body actions etc. These reports are exhaustive and allow the soldier to learn from his errors, which otherwise is not possible in actual combat conditions. The present day simulators allow amalgamation of live, virtual and constructive simulation under the same umbrella, like Mission Rehearsal Planning System (MRPS).