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FEATURE ARTICLE  

Army Sets Sight on Small Arms Simulator 

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by Virginia Hart Ezell 

January saw the introduction of a new kind of simulator to the Army. The engagement skills trainer 2000 (EST 2000)—designed and developed by Orlando, Fla.-based ECC International Corporation—adds to the company’s collection of skill development technology. With its three-dimensional targeting and wide array of training scenarios, the EST 2000 simulator provides a level of sophistication to small arms tactical training that will help prepare the U.S. infantry soldier for missions and threats of the 21st century.

ECC has been building simulators, beginning with maintenance trainers for the U.S. Air Force, for more than 30 years. It makes maintenance simulators for the F-16 fighter and the C-17 transport aircraft. ECC also makes several simulators for the Army including maintenance and operator trainers for armor crews. Its CCTT is part of the combined arms tactical trainer designed to provide force-on-force training for armor crews up to the battalion level. Now, it’s the infantry’s turn to train units in a simulated world.

The Army already uses several types of small arms trainers for marksmanship skills training. Some of them afford a type of collective training.

The new engagement trainer from ECC combines marksmanship skills, judgement training and collective combat training. An ECC spokesman said its new small arms simulator is not intended to replace live-fire training but was designed to enhance training by offering realistic squad-level collective training in a simulated environment. Improved technologies allow the system to detect failures. It knows where the “bullet” is going, records weapon pitch and cant, trigger pull and keeps a running record of each shooter’s performance during collective training.

As a marksmanship trainer, the EST 2000 provides the shooter with a full course of fire with simulated, but reduced recoil. Each shooter receives a score card that shows a history of his aim for each shot during the course of fire. The system tracks soldiers’ actions and reactions from a three-dimensional, xyz plane for greater accuracy and realism. It records individual performance for accurate after-action reviews and improved individualized feedback. ECC also designed the system for remote diagnostics.

The EST 2000 runs on a standard personal computer making training relatively simple. Part of ECC’s Army contract includes a 24-7 toll-free technical-support telephone line to assist Army trainers in resolving any problems with the system. According to ECC’s program manager, Terry Kohl, ECC will train the trainers for the new system, but the user-friendly simulator design means that soldiers only need to know how to use a mouse to operate the EST 2000. It takes one to three people one to two hours to set it up. Familiarity with the 11 weapons that the system supports is the most complex element of the new trainer.

This video-based system—which has more than 30 high-fidelity friendly and enemy targets, 14 different terrain sets, variable climatic conditions and special effects combined with over 175 scenario options—offers opportunities for diverse, high-quality small arms training. Each scene has between 12 to 18 outcomes, however, individual instructors will have greater control over the training conditions with the simulator’s scenario-editing feature. It handles five firing lanes for more traditional marksmanship training, but includes shoot-don’t-shoot judgment training as well as squad-level collective training all scenarios. Because the system can be networked, up to three five-lane systems can be working in concert, allowing 15 soldiers to train together.

As an indoor simulator, the EST 2000 offers collective training in any weather. Weather conditions, including, rain, snow, wind, fog, dawn, dusk, day or night, are simulated. Special effects include explosions, smoke, flares, bullet splash and tracer firing. Although it uses a flat-screen display, the terrain features and targets are three-dimensional objects. Terrain designs were based on specifications set in the initial contract, however, Kohl said ECC could build new terrain tailored to specific mission requirements. Scenarios also include all standard squad-level infantry training tasks including ambush and air attack.

Weapons, ranging from the 40 mm Mk19 automatic grenade launcher and .50 caliber M2 machine gun to the individual 5.56 x 45 mm M16 assault rifle and small caliber hand guns, operate on compressed air to fire laser “bullets” and simulate recoil and weapon function. Most other small arms training devices use CO2 cartridges to achieve the same effects. In Suwanee, Ga., FATS Inc. is working under contract to ECC to make the weapons for the EST 2000. ECC plans to include the objective individual combat weapon in the simulator package when that weapon comes on line.

The Army is buying 76 simulators: 36 will go to the National Guard; 40 will go to active Army units. The first Army units to see the new equipment will be at Fort Benning, Ga. Troops at Fort Lewis will receive the next six. Delivery of the remaining simulator systems is expected to be completed by the end of July 2001. If funding is made available, the Army could exercise contract options to buy at least 280 more units through 2004.

A combination of known technologies reduces some of the risk in the design of the EST 2000, while it adds high-resolution, realistic simulation to small arms training. As a computer-based system, it adapts to mission requirements.

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