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How do you prepare soldiers for battle?

Battlefields are intense and highly dangerous environments. To survive, soldiers need to know how to manage themselves and their weapons, how to evade the enemy, and how to work successfully with their peers and superiors.

Military training is the process through which troops are familiarised with combat situations and taught the skills necessary for successfully engaging the enemy and achieving mission success. It can be used to teach new recruits to transition from the civilian to military world, and to enable soldiers of all levels to develop their skills, to build bonds with their comrades, and to learn new strategies. Skill sets covered by training can include weapons drills, marksmanship, combat simulations, safety training and strategy.

Training simulations undertaken as part of military training are often broken down into the three categories: live, virtual and constructive training. Live training involves outdoor exercises where soldiers must manage the environment around them as well as the enemy. Virtual training typically takes place indoors and involves individuals interacting with digital environments, often using realistic simulated weapons. Constructive training typically involves an individual sitting in front of a computer and learning about leadership and tactics by engaging with digital programs.

What does live training for troops involve?

Live training is real-world training that aims to mimic as closely as possible the experience of being in a battle situation.

Participants typically carry real weapons, operate in their regular formations, and must deal with the challenges of the landscapes they find themselves in as well as the prevailing weather conditions. Live ammunition is not used, with blank cartridges instead fired to simulate the sounds and smells of firing real rounds. 


Often, laser engagement systems are used during live training exercises to help determine whether participants have succeeded in ‘shooting’ the enemy with their weapon or have been ‘shot’ themselves. Soldiers wear sensors and their weapons are fitted with devices that emit a coded laser when the trigger is pulled. Some laser training systems have a very low degree of realism because they record a ‘hit’ as long as the weapon is aimed at the target at the time the trigger is pulled. In doing so, they incorrectly teach soldiers that rounds travel in a straight line and at the speed of light. This entrenches habits that can be extremely dangerous in real combat.

Saab’s BT46 technology, by contrast, is able to mimic the flight time and characteristics of real rounds to provide a true ballistic effect. If a soldier hasn’t considered factors like the target’s movement and the path of their projectile, then no hit is recorded. Factors like prevailing wind can also be inputted into the system, and, for shoulder-fired weapons, the temperature of the round. The result is extremely realistic live training that teaches soldiers the true abilities and limitations of their weapons. 


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The choice of different technologies in live simulation is often debated and the opinions can be strong to support various viewpoints. The question does not need to be one or the other but rather best fit-for-purpose. The Saab live training solution, Gamer, is technology agnostic, meaning that laser as well as other technologies such as geo-pairing, GPS and other technologies can be used. This leads to the possibility to include e g artillery, combat support and long-range missiles.

How do you conduct live-fire training exercises for soldiers?

Good live-training simulations are the gold standard in teaching soldiers to be battle ready. However, they don’t provide soldiers with experience in firing live rounds. That’s where live-fire exercises come in.
Photo: Bezav Mahmod -Swedish Armed Forces

Held on designated live-fire ranges, such exercises involve soldiers using real weapons and firing real rounds against mechanical enemies. Because live ammunition is used, participants quickly gain an appreciation for all the sounds, sights and smells involved in firing their weapon, as well as any recoil. They also gain a real world understanding of complications that can arise with their equipment and how real rounds travel towards the enemy.

Because of the obvious danger involved, live-fire exercises can never be force on force. However, advanced training companies like Saab can provide solutions that provide a combat-like experience. The sophisticated mechanical enemies we use, can be programmed to pop up unexpectedly, to hide when under fire, and to simulate return fire. Smoke, noises and smells can be introduced to the training exercise to add to the experience. For example, the acrid smell of burning rubber can be pumped into the training ground to give troops an idea of the type of sensory stimulation they might encounter in a real battle situation Live-fire exercises can be run for weapons ranging from small arms up to artillery.

How do you train soldiers in a virtual environment?

Live training and live-fire training provide soldiers with invaluable experience of the battlefield. However, they can be expensive due to the logistics involved and, for live training, the cost of the rounds fired.

Virtual training is a cost-effective way of familiarising troops with their weapons and methods of engaging the enemy. Relying on interactive digital environments and simulated weapons, it provides soldiers with the opportunity to repeatedly fire their weapons, to observe the outcomes of their actions, and to learn from their mistakes. Many virtual set-ups require soldiers to point, aim and fire at a virtual screen on which a virtual enemy is depicted. High-quality virtual systems offer a high degree of realism, meaning that rounds fired behave exactly as they would in the real world, and are influenced by factors such a round temperature and wind speed. Advanced systems like those produced by Saab work to enhance the feeling of being in combat by using compressed air to create an appropriate recoil when a simulated weapon is fired.


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Virtual systems are available for weapons ranging from small arms through to fighter aircraft. One limitation of virtual systems for dismounted weapons is that users are typically required to be stationary – something that does not reflect many real life combat situations. 

What training support and services are available for military training?

Organising and running training exercises is often a major logistical exercise. Appropriate equipment needs to be sourced, checked and brought to site.

Each participant needs to be logged and systems put in place to monitor and analyse the performance of individual soldiers and the formations to which they belong. Rather than devoting precious internal resources to such activities, many armed forces choose to access training support and training services from advanced training companies like Saab.


Support and services can cover the full range of training activities. For example, for a laser-supported live-training exercise, Saab might provide a customer with everything from the laser modules and sensors to a local network that allows for data to be acquired and analysed. We can also provide a command centre to follow the action in real time and detailed post-exercise data analysis to help improve the performance of soldiers and the squads, sections and platoons to which they belong.

Support and services can cover the full range of training activities. For example, for a laser-supported live-training exercise, Saab might provide a customer with everything from the laser modules and sensors to a local network that allows for data to be acquired and analysed.

Saab can also help customers develop business plans around their use of training services, demonstrating the cost and efficiency advantages of outsourcing. With a wide range of global armed forces now using Saab training equipment, it’s also easy for us to coordinate and facilitate multi-force exercises.