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Saab Global

‘True ballistic’ training for true battle readiness

6 min read + Video

Not all military laser-training systems are equal. While some are unable to accurately recreate the way that weapons and ammunition work, Saab’s advanced BT46 technology delivers a ‘true ballistic’ experience that prepares soldiers for combat.

Laser weapons are a common theme in science fiction movies. When the hero of the film pulls the trigger of his laser blaster, a beam shoots out of the barrel at the speed of light, instantly neutralising the bad guy.

It makes for great entertainment, but it has very little to do with the way that today’s ground-combat weapons work. In the real world, it can take seconds from the time that a soldier pulls the trigger on his rifle or shoulder-fired weapon to the moment that the round arrives at its destination. Real rounds are subject to gravity from the instant they are fired – and the enemy that they are directed at can move unexpectedly. Factors like wind and ambient temperature can all have a big influence on their trajectory.

Unfortunately, the laser-based training systems used by some of the world’s most powerful armed forces teach soldiers that their regular weapons behave just like laser guns. They are designed to record a direct ‘hit’ as long as the user of a weapon is pointing directly at the sensor on his opponent’s uniform at the exact instant that he pulls the trigger. There’s no lag time or accounting for the target moving. The system acts as if all projectiles can travel at the speed of light. And instead of gaining an understanding of the strengths and limitations of their weapons, soldiers gain unrealistic expectations – and habits that could be fatal in the heat of battle.

Advanced military laser-training

Thankfully, not all laser training systems are created the same way. Saab’s BT46 technology, for examples, relies on powerful ballistics computers and gyros to accurately mimic the path of real world projectiles. The result is a far more realistic ‘true ballistic’ experience that reinforces good firearms habits rather than bad ones.


So how was the system developed? And what advantages does a true ballistic training method bring to soldiers in the battlefield. Counting ‘hits’ and assessing the success of soldiers engaging in field exercises has long been a feature of good military training. 

Prior to the advent of modern systems, it was the job of supervising officers to walk around while an exercise was in progress, assessing whether each soldier had hit their intended target. Such an approach had extreme limitations and was often frustrating for exercise participants. Supervising officers would often make the wrong call and could easily not be present when important shots were fired.

A big breakthrough came in the late 1970s when the US Army developed the first ever laser-based training system. Laser modules were mounted to the barrels of soldiers weapons, along with a blank firing adaptor. Each participant in the exercise wore an integrated receiver consisting of sensors on the helmet and vest. When a soldier pulled the trigger of his weapon, a blank cartridge fired and a laser was emitted from the barrel of his weapon. If the laser struck a sensor on the enemy, a hit was recorded and a beep sounded.


It was a major step forward in the sense that supervisors no longer had to run around deciding who had been hit. But it was also a step backwards because the laser ‘rounds’ fired during exercises travelled at the speed of light, giving soldiers false expectations of their weapons.

Saab’s true ballistic system 

That all changed in the 1990s when Saab introduced the BT46 laser training technology. Rather than simply counting a laser striking a sensor as a hit, the system used a computers and gyro stabilisation technology to better mimic the true path of a fired round. In Saab-run simulations, laser rounds behaved the way real-world rounds do, subject to the force of gravity and realistic airspeeds.

Over the years, we have evolved and improved our so-called ‘true ballistic’ system, and it is now available for a wide range of weapons. By using the latest generation of the BT46 technology, the Compact Ballistic Laser (CBL), the true ballistic characteristics for respective weapon can be simulated. This includes e g vehicle weapons, anti-tank weapons and sniper applications.  For each weapon type, the system can mimic the drag, flight path and ballistic properties of the ammunition. It can discern, for example, between the different rounds available for the Saab Carl Gustaf recoilless rifle. If a gunner undergoing training loads a blank HE 441 or an AMD 401 round, the system detects the difference and calculates the correct ballistics. To hit the target, the gunner has to make the same calculations and choices he would in a real battle.

Adjusting for temperature and wind

The system is so advanced that it can factor in the temperature of the round, a critical factor for larger weapons such as anti-tank-weapons. Wind direction and wind velocity can also be pre-set, teaching soldiers to factor in prevailing climate conditions when making their firing calculations.

The system can also be programmed to take into account a wide variety of enemy characteristics when determining if a shot has been successful. For an anti-tank weapon simulation, the system can take into account the use of automatic protection systems and explosive armour.

Crucially, our system allows for the harvesting of exercise data. This allows for a thorough analysis of both the performance of individual soldiers, but of participating squads, sections, platoons, and so. Different battle strategies can be dissected and improved up before the next exercise.

A major improvement for soldiers

For soldiers, the added realism of the Saab system makes an enormous difference. Their training teaches them the true effective range of their weapons and at what distance the enemy can effectively hit them. They gain a deep understanding of the variables that can affect their ability to target and neutralise their opponents, and they learn to always take these into account. That means they are better placed to survive in real combat.

Critically, soldiers using the Saab system don’t acquire bad habits that will let them down in combat. The same can’t be said for systems without true ballistic capabilities.