Army Trainers Aim to Sharpen Soldier Marksmanship Skills

By Kutner, Joshua A. | National Defense, October 1999 | Go to article overview

Army Trainers Aim to Sharpen Soldier Marksmanship Skills


Kutner, Joshua A., National Defense


The U.S. Army increasingly is using simulation systems to improve and maintain soldier marksmanship, and subsequently, enhance battlefield readiness. Engagement skills trainers (EST) are among the latest systems developed to enhance a soldier's small arms proficiency. The technology recently was deployed in Bosnia to train peacekeeping forces.

Using multi-sensored, laser-activated M9 pistols, M16A2 rifles, M203 grenade launchers, M249 squad automatic weapons, MK-1940 grenade machine guns, or AT-4 anti-tank weapons, soldiers train in urban, desert, police, SWAT, and shoot/don't shoot scenarios where they must identify an accurate target and fire a precise shot.

Individual soldiers practicing marksmanship or a squad rehearsing a tactical mission gather before a large screen that displays a scenario. Once the mission begins, the soldiers, in essence, play "laser tag" with the simulation.

The weapons' sensors can provide a soldier with progress feedback in real time, said officials. Instructors can learn and understand what their soldiers are doing wrong more quickly than in live fire testing. Every shot is recorded and scored. Each weapon system is fitted with an eye-safe laser emitter.

The EST system puts the soldier in a training environment with realistic sight, sound, and sensation, said officials. The simulated display delivers a defined target, terrain, and weapon effect. The soldier is able to hear his or her weapon and the enemy's weapons and vehicles. The soldier also will feel the sensation of firing an actual weapon.

The Army plans to acquire 368 EST systems to be fielded between fiscal years 1999 and 2003. The systems are to be used by the service's active, reserve, and National Guard forces in the United States, Europe and Korea.

The U.S. Army Simulation and Training Command (STRICOM), in November 1998, awarded a contract for the EST to ECC International, Orlando, Fla. ECC International's team of subcontractors includes Firearms Training Systems (FATS), a weapons training provider; Omega Training group, a training support provider; and Shorts Brothers, a division of Bombardier.

Requirements

An EST facility training system can have a configuration of five or 10 lanes depending on the customer's training requirements, according to ECC briefing slides. Marksmanship exercises can be conducted in a five-lane field. However, tactical exercises, must be performed using a 10-lane system or a combination of two five-field subsystems.

Facility room size depends on the number of lanes required. Regardless of the lane configuration, each facility must be windowless or equipped with blackout curtains, have a telephone line for a modem connection, a firing line that is 26. …

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