High-Tech Training System Targets Urban Combat Drills
A training system for urban-warfare exercises developed by a Swedish firm relies on radio-frequency technology to make military drills more realistic, the company claims.
The Urban Warfare Training System (UWTS) is being marketed to the U.S. Army as a possible alternative or complement to the widely-used laser-tag training technology, called Miles (Multiple Integrated Laser Engagement System).
In UWTS, all soldiers, firearms, hand grenades and other elements involved in urban warfare are equipped with electronic tags and transponders, so every action is recorded and tracked in real time.
“The stationary sensor antennae identify, locate and collect other data from each data-bearing chip in the exercise,” said Mattias Willersjö, project manager at NSC Training Systems AB. “This is accomplished by deploying antennae throughout the areas that are intended for training and fitting each participant—and each object needing identification—with electronic chips or tags which are activated by the deployed antennae.”
Upon entering an antenna’s sensitive area, the transponder chip broadcasts a unique identification code, he explained. “Other data is also transmitted, thus allowing precise visualization of the entire exercise area,” Willersjö added.
The idea of using sensors in urban training is certainly not new, said Glenn Kohlhase, a U.S. Army project officer at Fort Benning, Ga. Miles was the Army’s first attempt to use a laser-to-sensor system in the late 1970s. However, he added that sensors and lasers have become smaller and lighter in recent years. The U.S. Army is acquiring an upgraded Miles XXI, made by Lockheed Martin Corp., which received a $4.2 million contract in early 2002. Miles XXI is a family of infantry, vehicle, anti-tank and independent target systems laser-based tactical engagement simulators that furnish real-time feedback on the result of combat actions.
“Say that a soldier was hit, but you don’t know who shot at him,” Kohlhase said. The new sensors keep accurate track of all engagements and their outcome. Therefore, a soldier, “pays much more attention to aiming and gets a much stronger training,” he said. The data from the sensors also help conduct post-exercise reviews, he added.
Miles and other comparable systems, Kohlhase said, “provide a more realistic training environment and can point out strengths and weaknesses.”
Willersjö noted that UWTS is “completely different” from the Miles XXI system, because instead of working with lasers, it uses radio frequency identification technology. NSC has teamed up with Electronic Warfare Associates to market its products in the United States.
Although UWTS has not been sold to any military service yet, it has been demonstrated to the U.S., Swedish, U.K., Norwegian and Netherlands armies, said Willersjö. NSC representatives demonstrated UWTS at the McKenna urban-training site in Ft. Benning a year ago. The price for the system varies, depending on customer requirements, he said.
He explained that UWTS not only tracks each individual participant and object on the site, but “also enables the possibility to identify all movements and events taking place in a MOUT [military operations in urban terrain] exercise,” he said. “All of these events are continuously recorded and saved on the database and generates an after-action review (AAR). The AAR can be set up and played back within 60 seconds after the completion of an exercise.”
When a soldier chooses to enter a building through a window, for example, the sensor in the window will record exactly who is climbing through that window and what type of weapons and equipment the individual is carrying. All this information is sent from the IST-C (Identify, Search Technology Central unit) to the EXCON (Exercise Control) unit, for real-time presentation, said Willersjö.
Additionally, when a soldier enters a building, his movements are continuously recorded. This allows the EXCON to show events as they occur, as well as the time and location. If a trainee throws a grenade through a door opening, the sensor in the door will register the specifications of the hand grenade and to whom it belongs.
The exact location where the grenade landed within that room also is recorded. Any casualties from the operation also are reported by the IST-C. When the simulated grenade explodes, the IST-C triggers an effects simulator that emits strobe light, water, smoke and sound effects.
Explosions of walls, floors and roofs are simulated as well. When the sensors register the explosive material (with its transponder), the IST-C automatically creates an opening in the corresponding wall or structure. The opening registers how much explosive material has been used.
The system also can track combatants outside buildings, such as a soldier climbing up a ladder. Since the ladder has its own transponder, the sensor in the window will register the ladder when it is placed against the ledge. The same technique applies to soldiers walking over roofs.
Other sensors register weapon effects on buildings. The system can simulate the effects of water, fire and smoke.
“You could set up sensors as far out as you’d like,” Willersjö said. “They are completely weather insensitive, but it is more a cost-related issue.” The setup time depends on the size of the training site. For example, at the Fort Benning demonstration, it took about four hours to prepare a building of about 100 square meters, with four rooms.
Kohlhase said that once the sensors are placed on the furniture and equipment, they don’t need to be removed. “If you want to do a room in a house and rearrange the furniture, the computer sees the changes,” he said. “It’s not something you have to do every day.”