Historically, more combat casualties have been attributed to indirect fire weapons than any other means. Today, in the live force-on-force (FOF) training environment, the indirect fire weapon systems and the Soldiers who use them have no way to be included.
That is about to change.
For the first time, we can put the indirect fire teams directly in the middle of the live FOF training environment, at both their home stations and the Combat Training Centers. In the past, indirect fire teams have been left on the sidelines because they didn’t have a training device to perform their crew duties on indirect fire weapon systems. This new training system fills the gap, training Soldiers effectively on individual and collective tasks.
Brigade combat team (BCT) fire support (FS) includes Army indirect fires, joint fires, and offensive information operations (IO). The success of this support depends on effective interaction among the BCT fires, BCT staff, S-7, and supporting IO units. The fires section’s primary functions include, but are not limited to, planning, coordinating, synchronizing, and executing Army indirect FS and joint fires in BCT operations.
The indirect fire training device will allow the fire support elements to be active participants in the live FOF training events. No fire support element can be complete without having eyes on target. The forward observer (FO) will now be incorporated into the live FOF training event to provide the closed-loop training solution.
This indirect fire training capability brings together the three key elements that form the basis of indirect fire in a closed-loop approach: the FO kit, which provides eyes on the target; the fire detection center, which calculates the angle of fire, distance, type of mortar, etc.; and the mortar element, where the Soldiers hang and fire the mortars.
“You can’t shoot real targets unless you’re at war. This system replicates the entire fire mission process,” said Armour Brown, a U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command Capabilities Manager Fires representative, who tested the new system. “The only thing you can’t do is smell the gunpowder.”
The indirect fire training system relies on an instrumentation system that provides the means to send the indirect fire shot messages against existing Instrumentable – Multiple Integrated Laser Engagement System (I-MILES) targets. The indirect fire support system comprises three separate kits—a dismount kit, a mortar kit, and an FO kit.
The dismount kit consists of an instrumented radio system and a player unit the Soldier wears that interfaces with the MILES. The mortar kit consists of the mortar simulator round, collar insert, optical sensor, and weapons orientation modular processing unit. The FO kit consists of a tablet and player unit. These components communicate wirelessly through a personal area network.
When employing a mortar weapon system, the first thing the crew does is establish the grid position for each weapon and a direction that the crew will use to make fire adjustments. The mortar kit is attached to the weapon system, capturing azimuth and elevation adjustments made by the crew in real time. It also captures the type of round, fuze settings, number of charges, and the arming of the round. All of this information passes to the instrumentation system, where flight characteristics are applied and the impact point is determined.
The FO kit consists of a player unit and an FO tablet. With the tablet, the FO has full view of the battlefield, allowing him or her to locate and identify targets, visualize round impacts, and apply the appropriate fire adjustments to effectively deliver indirect fires. “We have successfully demonstrated that an FO with a tablet can accurately call for fire and adjust onto target in a field environment by virtual means,” said SFC Roger Wilson, a 13F (fire support specialist) representative from Fort Sill, OK, who is familiar with the new training device.
This new indirect fire training capability is a huge advancement for the FOs and the artillery and mortar crews. Not only will it fill a critical training gap, but it comes at a good time. With all DoD agencies looking at their budgets, the Army now can evaluate the training effectiveness of indirect fires without expending live munitions. This training system will provide Soldiers and crews the ability to exercise the knowledge and skills necessary to deliver effective indirect fires on targets in combat.
- TODD KOSIS is Project Director for the One Tactical Engagement Simulation System program, where he develops Weapon Orientation Modules for Program Manager Training Devices (PM TRADE) Live Training Systems within Program Executive Office Simulation, Training, and Instrumentation (PEO STRI). He has more than 20 years’ experience as a Lead Engineer and Project Director in the development of combat systems and Tactical Engagement Simulation Systems in the U.S. Military. He has a B.S. in mechanical engineering from Auburn University.