'Embedded' Trainers Planned for Army's Next-Gen Combat Vehicle
Erwin, Sandra I., National Defense
In future military deployments, combat vehicle crews will have access to sophisticated training aids, regardless of their location, U.S. Army officials predict. Those training tools would be built into the combat vehicles, making it possible for soldiers to hone various war-fighting skills in their spare time.
The U.S. Army plans to install these so-called "embedded" trainers in its next-generation combat vehicle, known as the future combat system (FCS). The FCS is in the early stages of design, under a program managed by the Army and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Four industry teams are competing for a contract award in 2003.
FCS operators will be able to fight virtual battles in computer-generated scenarios, or will have the capability to conduct live-fire drills against three-dimensional virtual targets, said Michael Macedonia, program director at the U.S. Army Simulation, Training and Instrumentation Command (STRICOM), in Orlando, Fla.
"We are an Army that is losing training space,' Macedonia told an industry conference, sponsored by the Association of the U.S. Army. Less access to ranges means more simulator-based training, he noted. In the context of the FCS program, particularly, preparing soldiers for that vehicle will be more demanding than the training that M1 Abrams tank and Bradley infantry vehicle crews typically undergo, he said. The FCS will have "exotic gear" and much more complicated command and control systems, Macedonia added. "Imagine the kinds of soldiers you'll have in FCS. ... The weapons are complex, the ammo is very expensive. Missions will be complex."
To field successful training tools, the Army will have to "figure out how to simulate the city, for example, in a contingency operation," he said. That means having digital models that represent actual cities where soldiers would be expected to fight. "We have to start thinking how we'll employ [the simulations] in a joint task force and how we train for the mission."
The complexity of the FCS platform will be compounded by the use of unmanned vehicles as part of the standard formations, and the sophisticated digital networks that will link every vehicle and weapon system in the battle zone.
The training devices developed for FCS crews will have to address a number of issues, said Macedonia. …