Training Day

How can you have a shootout against a hoard of enemies, fire a grenade launcher from a Humvee in Afghanistan and participate in a running firefight with an automatic weapon without ever firing a real shot?

In Orlando last week, attending a pre-show media tour for September’s ASIS 2011 conference, I learned firsthand that technology from Cubic Defense Application’s simulation systems division has taken training as close to reality as you can imagine.

We started the tour with some time on the Engagement Skills Trainer. I stood around 40 feet from the huge screen armed with a weapon. Unlike other simulations I had heard of, this wasn’t some type of generic laser gun -- it was an actual 9-millimeter Beretta handgun. The only difference is that the internals of the weapon were removed and replaced with electronics to work with the technology.

I was tasked with battling a group of simulated enemies that appeared on the screen in front of me. After I used all the ammunition in my clip, I had to eject and reload exactly like I would if it was a live weapon.

Then our group moved on to the Warrior Skills Training, an extension of the EST. The WST is a 180-degree training field that features life sized video screens and projectors that make an ordinary room look like the assigned terrain -- this time Afghanistan.  And instead of just standing, the training was even more real with the addition of a real Humvee modified to work in the simulation.

While fellow media members Steve Lasky from Security Technology Executive “drove” the vehicle and Leischen Stelter of Security Director News sat in the passenger’s seat with a weapon, I chose the seat with a view -- more precisely the gunner position on top of the vehicle outfitted with a 40-caliber MK-19 grenade launcher.

Even though the vehicle never moves, the video changes in reaction to the driver’s action and makes it feel like you are really cruising an Afghanistan town with insurgents. While Stetler tried to pick off the enemies with her weapon, I attempted (rather poorly) to lob somewhere around 30 grenades at the enemy with the massive and heavy launcher for more than 10 minutes.

Along with figuring out quickly that I am easily 6 inches too short to properly use the mounted launcher, Brooks Davis with Cubic surprised me with some hard numbers on how the systems saves the military (and taxpayers) money.

Each real grenade used by the MK-19 costs around $3,000. So, instead of burning through $90,000 in ordinance if I would have participated in a live-fire exercise, I experienced the ins and outs of the weapon in an enormously life-like simulation without using any actual grenades.

And to end to the tour on a running note, as you can see, I suited up with the company’s MILES IWS engagement simulation system. I was outfitted with a lightweight vest containing the laser technology that registers a “kill” and an automatic weapon with a mounted laser transmitter.

The Colt M4, used by military and law enforcement, was modified differently than the weapons I previously used. To give it an even more real-world feel, the weapon was loaded with blanks. When I fired, the weapon sounded and felt exactly like its real-world counterpart, and the pressure from the blanks was returned back into the barrel.

After a quick rundown inside, Stetler, Michelle Molz with Visit Orlando and I were tasked with storming down a specially designed alley on the company’s property to register a “kill” against an assigned bad guy. Our opponent just happened to be Cubic employee and a Marine who protected former President George W. Bush at Camp David for two years.

So what kind of chance did the three of us have? Unsurprisingly, not much.  After Davis gave us a tactical briefing and advised two of us to proceed down the alley while the other provides cover fire, our group made it a little more than halfway to our opponent before easily being picked off one-by-one. When the system registers a kill, the vest emits a loud sound to say your day is done.

Even though the training got the best of me, I’m glad to see law enforcement and military are being able to use technology to become even more prepared for the life-or-death situations that they may face while putting their lives on the line for the rest of us.


Posted by Brent Dirks on May 09, 2011

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