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Saab Global

Confident and battlefield ready

6 min read + Video

Thanks to today’s advanced training systems, modern soldiers can have the experience of combat veterans long before they engage the enemy for the first time.

There’s an old saying that no amount of training can prepare a soldier for their first experience of the battlefield. The belief is that the confronting sounds, smells and sensations of combat are so far removed from ordinary life that, at best, new soldiers will be overwhelmed and make poor decisions. At worst, they might end up in a quivering mess on the floor.

Thankfully, it’s a concept that is both outdated and inaccurate. There’s no question that combat is a highly challenging experience. But with the right preparation soldiers of all ranks can learn to keep their wits about them under fire. The secret is realistic training that acclimatises troops to the full range of sensations and decision-making situations that they will encounter in the field. Knowing what to expect and how to behave when they hit the ground provides individuals with confidence in their abilities, in their weapons and in the comrades around them. And that all makes for a greater chance of mission success.


So, what kinds of training experiences can create this battlefield readiness? And how do they contribute to developing confident soldier?

For true combat readiness, three of the most important factors are: realistic combat training scenarios, accurately functioning training weapons, and preparation for battle’s sensory experiences.

Realistic battle scenarios

Practising marksmanship by shooting live rounds at a stationary target is a useful skill. But for building battle confidence, nothing beats a live-training exercise. Soldiers are deployed into real-world scenarios and divided into opposing forces, such as red and blue armies. Carrying weapons loaded with blanks, they must contend with not only the ‘enemy’ but different terrains, obstacles and weather conditions. To survive and succeed, they need to collaborate with their peers, follow orders, execute strategies and engage and neutralise their opposition. Just like a real battle. The more often troops train and develop these skills, the more automatic using them becomes, and the greater confidence individual soldiers feel.


Since the late 1970s, laser-guided training systems have been used to assist in this process. Soldiers wear sensors on their helmets and vests, and laser emitting devices are fitted to the barrels of their guns. When they pull the trigger on their weapons, a blank cartridge fires and a coded laser is emitted in the direction the barrel is pointing. In this way, hits and misses against the enemy can be assessed and soldiers can learn from their successes and mistakes. 

Accurately functioning training weapons

Confidence in one’s weapon comes from understanding its range, its capabilities and what is needed to achieve an accurate shot. A soldier then knows what risks he or she can take –and which strategies are feasible. Unfortunately, not all laser-training systems are able to provide this confidence. Some branches of the world’s most powerful armed forces continue to use old-fashioned training systems where a ‘hit’ on an enemy is recorded as long as a soldier’s weapon is pointing at the enemy’s sensor when he or she pulls the trigger. Incredibly, such systems assume that bullets and other rounds can travel at the speed of light, covering the hundreds of metres to the enemy in a few microseconds without the influence of gravity or wind. There’s no attention paid to the fact that the enemy might move before the round arrives.


Solutions like Saab’s BT46 two-way ballistic laser technology, with it’s latest generation Compact Ballistic Laser (CBL) on the other hand, are able to deliver a far more accurate weapons experience. Our offering has the same convenience as other laser systems but, thanks to gyros and computers is able to calculate the true ballistics of each round, factoring in variables such as flight time, wind direction, temperature and the movement of the target. A ‘hit’ is only recorded if the soldier or gunner has correctly factored in these variables. This means soldiers can have full confidence in their training.

The advantage of two-way simulation laser

Weapon munitions do not fly with the speed of light. Its weight, ballistics effects and the weather all effects its trajectory. To offer realistic training, while still using laser technology, Saab uses advanced technology to simulate weapon behavior. Keeping military training as close to reality as possible.

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Another beauty of the system is that data can be extracted during and after the staging of a training exercise. In this way, soldiers can find out where they succeeded and where they failed – and learn from their mistakes. Similar analysis can be made at the levels such as squad, section and platoon.

Realistic sensory experiences 

Battlefields are typically full of intense sensory experiences. Depending on the situation, troops will be exposed to noises including the retorts of their own rifles, the back blast of their shoulder-fired weapons, exploding enemy shells, aircraft roaring overhead, and potentially the screams of wounded civilians and comrades. Bullets from enemy small arms fire may be continually whizzing past. There are often powerful smells from burning vehicles and buildings, and sometimes putrefying bodies. Light and dark smoke and fog and mist can obscure vision.


Achieving true battlefield confidence in troops means exposing them to these kinds of sensory experiences beforehand. In this way, they can take them in their stride.

Saab provides a range solutions to help achieve this desensitisation in live training scenarios. When assisting in the coordination to exercises, we can pump in smokes of different colours into the battlefield, creating a new variable for soldiers to address. Battle smells can also be pumped such as burning rubber and plastic. Blank cartridges in individual soldiers’ guns mimic the retort of live rounds.
For live-fire training exercises where real ammunition is used, our mechanical targets can mimic the sounds and sights of return fire, reminding participants to always seek cover. Our virtual weapons trainers for indoor use also strive to achieve the highest degree of sensory realism. Pressurised air is used to simulate the recoil of the weapons.


In summary, today there is no need to send soldiers into battle unprepared for the confronting sensory and emotional experience waiting them. Through the use of advanced, realistic training techniques, soldiers of all levels can arrive at their first battle, both experienced and battle-hardened.