Joint training of allied nations is a key topic among all NATO members. It is about the reemergence of conventional warfare as opposed to counterinsurgency and peacekeeping operations, which have been in trend for the last two decades. In order to ensure effective training - often together with international allies - and to be prepared for this threat as well as to be able to change roles flexibly and quickly, increasing importance is attached to interoperability training at brigade level and beyond.
For modern armed forces contributing to international stabilization operations, interoperability and cooperation with other nations has become a key factor, especially with regard to the ability to legally engage adversaries. It concerns security policy as well as military strategy and technical aspects. The impacts of interoperability are therefore significant and something that more armies are considering when developing their training doctrine and Training, Techniques and Procedures (TTPs).
The heart of military training
In 2021 Saab has signed a contract for the delivery of several live training systems and services to the Polish Armed Forces. The order comprises the supply of a complete live training solution for a reinforced mechanised battalion and four training centres for company size units. This order will ensure that the Polish Armed Forces are equipped with innovative, flexible training solutions and the required training capability. It enables the Polish Armed Forces to train as close to reality as possible, domestically as well as at the point-of-need in international collaborations. The solution includes capabilities such as Saab’s latest exercise control (EXCON) and communication systems, as well as the latest generation high-fidelity simulators for soldiers, weapons and vehicles. The support component comprises deployable, integrated logistics and operational support to the Polish Armed Forces.
With decades of experience and expertise in the production and marketing of state-of-the-art military training and simulation systems, Saab has also been selected by the German Armed Forces for a further deepened collaboration. During the contract period from 2020 to 2026, the operation of the Bundeswehr Combat Training Centre Gefechtsübungszentrum (GÜZ) will be supported in the areas of management and maintenance. In addition to the German Army, GÜZ is also regularly used by other countries such as the Netherlands, Austria, the Czech Republic, the US 7th Army with its Deployable Instrumented System Europe (DISE) and, more recently, the British Army.
The British Army, along with its US partners, has participated in interoperable exercises using the Saab Direct Fire Weapon Effects Simulator (DFWES), which has been in service since the mid-1990s. The DFWES is an interoperable laser-based system for tactical mission simulation and enables individual as well as collective and mission-specific training. Saab provides enduring collective training support service in the British Army, with agile field teams deploying worldwide to provide embedded support. At the same time, Saab has facilities at all infantry schools and supports UK Special Forces in counter- terrorist operations training.
With Belgium, another market in Europe has recognized the need to be interoperable, and the armed forces recently opted to procure a completely new training center to enhance their training capability and become fully interoperable. The modern Combat Training Centre (CTC) delivered by Saab is the heart of military training and connects to weapon and target simulators, along with vehicle and communication systems for controlling, monitoring and collecting relevant, objective high fidelity training data. High fidelity data is key to enable detailed analysis and the production of enhanced after-action reviews of training events. For several years now, the Belgian Army has been using training systems for realistic simulations in the field of combat training, and NATO interoperability was the focus of the current new procurement. Since 2021 they train in accordance with the standards of the IUC members (Interoperability User Community) and participate in multinational exercises alongside armed forces from the Netherlands, Poland, Germany, Austria, Sweden, Norway, Finland, the United Kingdom and the U.S. Army, amongst others.
Realism - key to operational success
Whilst there is no substitute for actual combat experience, realism is key to optimizing the training experience. Live simulation training solutions provide this realism and the high-fidelity data to learn the key lessons to maximize combat effectiveness. Virtual simulation training allows the user to practice procedures and equipment handling but has its limitations. Live simulation training adds crucial external influencing factors. Combat forces operate in an increasingly complex battlefield, under accurate hostile fire, inflicting and taking casualties, in extreme environmental conditions and equipped with new emerging technologies.
Studies show that troops who experience realistic live simulation training and receive objective high-fidelity data feedback learn quicker and gain confidence in their performance. This gives them the best chance of successfully fulfilling the mission in the real combat environment. Ultimately, the aim is to develop and improve tactical skills and performance within authentic, realistic combat scenarios and missions, as well as to develop the soldiers' personal instincts. The robustness and reliability of simulation systems that develop these skills and instincts are key to success.
Training systems must accurately replicate all the features of respective weapon systems. The simulation weapons and equipment must replicate the exact characteristics, form and function of live weapon system. Equally, the weapon system’s performance such as range, ballistics and time-of-flight are enormously important. Apart from any audible feedback, there should be no difference between firing a simulation weapon and a real weapon. The smooth transition between simulation weapons and real weapons allows the user to develop skills and optimize performance in conjunction with the TTPs of the respective armies.
High fidelity training
While most live training systems use lasers to simulate the firing of ammunition from tanks, anti-tank weapons and supporting fire from armored vehicle weapon systems, only Saab's BT46 2-way laser system simulates the velocity and time of flight as well as the trajectory of ammunition. This high-fidelity ballistics data provides accurate and reliable feedback on the firing accuracy of weapons over 40 millimeters caliber. Furthermore, this training technology can also be adapted for use with smaller specialized weapons such as sniper rifles, machine guns and grenade launchers. The system can be used in the live simulation combat environment and as a high-fidelity gunnery trainer - offering good value for money by saving the cost of expensive live rounds for the same training value. The laser code developed by Saab is considered today's NATO standard in the domain of training and simulation.
Interoperability and scalability
In addition to interoperability and realism, modularity and scalability are also important components of excellent simulation training. Saab supports the progression from individual to collective training, up to brigade level. Support is facilitated at scale, optimizing the blend and interaction of hardware, software and multiple communication options to provide a hyper-realistic simulated combat environment. Individual soldiers are equipped with radio and sensor systems that track their position, fire and hit effects, as well as their medical status. The system is also capable of instrumenting ground combat vehicles, helicopters and maritime vessels. The ability to simulate threats on the battlefield is also possible, while pyrotechnics, and high-pressure air-based equipment are used to simulate explosions.
Multiple battlefields can be linked via satellites and integrated into a combined exercise scenario. An intelligent communication network and Saab WinExcon software collect high-fidelity data in real time from up to 2,500 players and allow playback as well as analysis of effects and results to provide objective, targeted feedback. Anti-terrorist operations, chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) and Counter Improvised Explosive Device (C-IED) training capabilities are also possible with the live simulation system.
Beyond Live training
The next step in the development - Beyond Live Training - combines the realism of high-accuracy live training with virtual technologies. For the first time, Saab demonstrates non-line-of-sight capabilities such as "Fire & Observe" missiles. These new indirect fire solutions are integrated into WinExcon software, where users can plan, execute, control and evaluate military training exercises. A new feature in WinExcon is Microsoft's HoloLens Sandbox, which enables real-time 3D tracking of every participant in the exercise. Vricon's One World Terrain provides photorealistic 3D maps to this application. The above technologies will further enhance training capabilities and fill the gap in the need for optimized live training experiences.