The Swiss army will be well served for decades to come as RUAG hands over the keys to the well proven SIM KIUG simulation platform. Walter F. Ullrich writes.

On October 4, 2013, Urs Breitmeier, CEO of RUAG Holding AG, and Oliver Meyer, Vice President Simulation and Training at RUAG Defence, handed over the system keys to the Simulation Platform SIM KIUG to Ulrich Appenzeller, Head of armasuisse, the Swiss armaments procurement organisation. The simulation system is designed for both basic individual training and the training of entire military units. It allows the Swiss ground forces to train all types of operations, from classic low- to high-intensity combat training and preparatory training for conflict prevention and crisis management. The delivery took place at the military garrison town of Walenstadt and marked the successful completion of a continuous development and gradual expansion phase which had lasted almost two decades

Training the Swiss Way

There are hardly any other armed forces in the world that employ simulation more widely than the Swiss; they have simulators and training devices for practically every combat equipment and weapons system in the land and air forces. Swiss military commanders realised at an early stage the importance of good training tools and programmes, particularly when it comes to training recruits in a militia-type army. In 2000, on the occasion of the presentation of the first army live training capabilities to the public, Divisionär (Major General) Heinz Aschmann, then Commander Training Directorate of the Swiss Armed Forces, noted on the training ground at Sankt Luzisteig that such tools motivated troops; “Simulators promote pleasure in learning, and they invite their users to give their very best.”

The Swiss Armed Forces essentially have two reasons for using simulation. The first is the country’s geographical situation: Useable space in mountainous Switzerland is limited. The Swiss military cannot just claim privileged use of the terrain, but has to reach agreement with the civil side. The Swiss habitat, which the armed forces protect, must remain intact. Economical use of resources and energy, and due consideration of fauna and flora are a matter of course. The desire to minimise the inevitable impact on civilian life and the environment is one reason for the widespread use of simulators in training.

The second reason lies in the traditional Swiss militia system, which is quite unique. The Swiss Armed Forces are formed of 4,200 regular commissioned and non-commissioned officers, and 180,000 militiamen. Militiamen are “citizen soldiers” whose political and civil rights must be respected. During their 108 days of conscript training, the young citizens in uniform learn military basics. Subsequently, they improve proficiency and skills once a year over the course of three to four weeks of military reserve training exercises in their respective units. In this short space of time soldiers must be fully prepared for their mission. This is not done by force but by motivation. High-class training tools and methods, which are as productive as they are exciting and appealing to exercise participants, ensure the success of training which elsewhere requires the application of pressure.

Industry also makes a substantial contribution to the training workflow, allowing cadres and trainees to concentrate on their military core business.

First Simulation Accomplishments in Live Training

It was in the mid-1990s that Swiss militaries started considering simulation to improve the effectiveness of their ground forces’ training. In 1994, Colonel (G.S.) Peter Müller, then Commander of the Infantry Training Centre in Walenstadt, demonstrated in a very simple sketch how to simulate fire support. The thinking behind this was that whenever weapon effects affected a soldier in reality, the simulation system should also give him direct feedback during the exercise.

Figure 1 An earlier draft how to simulate fire support. Image credit: Swiss Army
Figure 1 An earlier draft how to simulate fire support. Image credit: Swiss Army

Developments began in 1996. The first idea to limit simulation to artillery and mortar fire was quickly abandoned in favour of more ambitious “live simulation platforms”. Under the project management of armasuisse, the Swiss Army and RUAG Defence began setting up a core system for a platform that would support live training in open terrain using laser-based technologies on the training area in Sankt Luzisteig.

In 2000, the Swiss Armed Forces officially launched SIMUG (the German acronym for Simulation Support for Combat Exercises). Within the scope of the SIMUG Combat Training Centre Programme, Switzerland bought eye-safe laser Class 1 simulators from the German company C.O.E.L. The two-way laser-based Tactical Engagement Simulators (TES) and Precision Gunnery Training Systems (PGTS) were elements of the COSIM (COelSIMulators) line that C.O.E.L. provided in partnership with Swiss Electronics. All the entities were integrated into a mobile, instrumented tactical training environment which was marketed internationally by the teaming companies as CODARTS (Combined Arms Direct Fire and Weapon Training System).

The Swiss Army actually started using the new equipment – referred to as LASSIM (LASerSIMulators) – in field exercises in summer 2000. The first SIMUG allowed force-on-force exercises for a maximum of 100 soldiers and 12 vehicles on 4 km2 of open terrain. It even provided the unique feature of the direct visualisation of artillery engagement in the field. Fire marker units transferred the weapon effects to the respective personnel around the simulated point of impact. A specific “kill code” took into account the reaction of the affected personnel. In that situation the correct reaction – withdrawal or taking cover – was rewarded and the soldier who reacted correctly survived.

Obviously, the start-up system was neither perfect nor complete, yet it served as test bed for learning best practices. At that time, Major Jan Uebersax, from the Federal Office for Combat Troops, described the next steps as follows: “Based on our initial experiences, we can already see that the full system will have more functions integrated, such as combat net recording, vulnerability models and after-action review.”

 Expansion of Live Training

Since these early beginnings the use of simulation in live training has been continuously expanded and improved. The 2003 Swiss electorate’s approval of the military reform project “Army XXI” drastically reduced the size of the Swiss Army, yet it confirmed the importance of training. The new concept widened the range of missions for the Swiss military, namely added peacekeeping operations to the heretofore sole mission to defend the country against military aggression. Also in 2003, the army leadership accepted the “Combat Training Centres” study, as well as the resultant master plan which identified the individual procurement steps, including WES (Weapons Effects Simulation), vehicle equipment and real estate. The Swiss Federal Council gave the go-ahead for SIMUG as part of the 2004 Armaments Programme. The SIMUG procurement, valued roughly at US$105m, encompassed two systems on the training areas in Bure and Sankt Luzisteig, as well as spares, logistics and maintenance equipment. The contract also stipulated that services relating to the operation of SIMUG had to be rendered by the armaments sector within the framework of a pilot experiment.

The system in Bure was ready in July 2009; the keys for Sankt Luzisteig were handed over in August 2010. That same year, armasuisse commissioned RUAG Electronics, formerly Swiss Electronics, to add urban terrain training capabilities to SIMUG’s open terrain functions for the equivalent of US$135m. The state-owned RUAG Electronics was well prepared: In 2006 they had taken over the laser technology specialist C.O.E.L., which finally made RUAG one of the leaders in live simulation.

The new system, dubbed SIM KIUG (which stands for “simulation support for training operations in built-up terrain environment”), was developed in very close cooperation between industry and the armed forces. Based on earlier SIMUG experiences, a core system was set up on site, using “mini” installations, which also served as an experience platform for the army and as a test bed for industry. This unorthodox procedure was to both parties’ advantage: the army gained early experience and provided constructive input in development decisions; on the other hand, the direct feedback from users lowered industry’s risk in regard to negative developments.

The emerging SIM KIUG was indeed impressive, serving as a flagship installation for both the Swiss Army and industry during the build-up phase. Colonel Max Fenner, at that time head of the Army Training Centre and a driving force behind efforts to establish top live training in Switzerland, rightly said about the new system: “With SIM KIUG we are realising a simulation platform at the two training centres that does not need to shy away from international comparison.”

Present Situation

The Swiss Army’s Land Forces Training Centre (LFTC) was established in Walenstadt in eastern Switzerland in 2006. A central mission allocated to the LFTC is certified combat training. Such training is executed at the Combat Training Centre (CTC) West in Bure and the CTC East in Walenstadt; both are subordinated to the LFTC.

At the CTC West, infantry, tank and armoured infantry units up to reinforced company level can train area protection and defence in open terrain (SIMUG), as well as in built-up areas (SIM KIUG). The training village of Nalé consists of 30 buildings, although these are not instrumented.

The CTC East is mainly intended for combat and combat support units to train the full spectrum of use of force in area protection-type operations in both open and built-up terrain. The training site at Sankt Luzisteig, 20 km east of Walenstadt, is equipped with SIMUG and allows open terrain training up to a maximum of unit level on an area of 2.5km2.

The RTS LFTC (RUAG Training Support Land Forces Training Centre) is located in the town of Mels, approximately halfway between Sankt Luzisteig and Walenstadt. This is where the LASSIM equipment for the troops and the combat vehicles is stored. However, the RTS’ tasks go far beyond armoury warehouse missions. The highly automated facility provides the Swiss Army with all the services it needs to run exercises with SIMUG and SIM KIUG – from the arrival of the personnel to their dismissal. The RTS handles everything but the real exercise and the after-action review (AAR). This cooperation model is truly a one-stop shop for end-to-end solutions. It is carried out by RUAG within the framework of a pilot project which the Swiss Armed Forces are using to gain first experiences for more cooperation projects, and which will run until 2015.

The Paschga training area just outside Walenstadt is also part of the CTC EAST. It encompasses an infantry combat training facility with modern firing ranges and the jewel of Swiss Army’s live training, the SIM KIUG Aeuli.

The SIM KIUG technology used in the training village of Aeuli permits a seamless transition between open terrain and an urban environment. The site is perfectly suited for training “Raumsicherung”, the Swiss term for a type of operation encompassing the full range from military action, peacekeeping operations and humanitarian aid.

The RTS LFTC (RUAG Training Support Land Forces Training Centre). Image credit: Swiss Army

The 23 buildings are equipped with sensors and effectors which respond when they come under simulated fire. KIUG developers attached great importance to the realistic presentation of weapon effects – sounds and light effects troops easily understand. This led to some features being installed in the training village which are to be found nowhere else in the world. Weapon impacts are transferred inside buildings using realistic battle damage models; the battle damage is visually presented, with doors and windows responding interactively to shots and explosions, replicated by loudspeakers and disco smoke. All events, both inside and out, weapon employment, casualty status, etc. are recorded for 72 hours and are available for the AAR.

Conclusions and Outlook

Since October 2013, the Swiss Army has had a complete live combat training system at its disposal which fully covers training needs for the missions the “Army XXI” reform assigned to the forces in 2003. It is now paying off that the Swiss Army seriously invested in simulation-supported live combat training in good time. This applies in particular to training in urban environments, where Switzerland secured an early lead. At a time when other nations were still discussing concepts, Swiss industry had already set up a formidably equipped test bed that was used and tried out by army experts. The proven and future-proof technology ensures that any new weapon system or equipment can be easily integrated. The Swiss Army will be well served for decades to come.