This new urban operations military training town to be completed in 2020 will greatly enhance the training capabilities of the German Army CTC. Walter F. Ullrich writes.

The German Army has begun the construction of one of the largest and most modern urban training centres worldwide. The military training town is scheduled for completion in 2020. It will include an industrial area, an old town and a new town, slums, high-rise buildings, an airport, a railway and underground station, as well as an artificial river and bridges. The five-phase project will add capabilities to the German Army Combat Training Centre (ACTC) that currently exist only weakly or not at all.

GÜZ – the German Army’s Showpiece

When an industrial consortium comprising the Rheinmetall subsidiary STN ATLAS Elektronik GmbH, EADS/Dornier GmbH and Diehl Stiftung & Co handed over the Gefechtsübungszentrum Heer (GefÜbZH, or GÜZ) to the German Bundeswehr in January 2003, the German Army took command of what was probably the world’s most advanced combat training centre. Within the space of only a few years the German armed forces and industry together managed to set up a showpiece in cutting-edge force-on-force combat training on the former Soviet training ground that was massively polluted with leaked oil, kilotons of wreckage and millions of rounds of ammunition.

The ALTMARK training area, home of the GÜZ, covers an area of approximately 15 x 30 km, making it Germany’s third-largest military training ground. Since operations began the GÜZ has been the German Army’s primary training facility.

An impressive feature is the sheer number of players, allowing battlefield training of up to 2,500 entities, the scope of a reinforced combat battalion plus the opposing forces. The training concept was remarkably different from approaches adopted by other nations: “We do training – not checking!” said Colonel von Reden, the then commanding officer of the centre. Since commissioning, approximately 13,500 military personnel have participated in the exercises every year. From the very start, members of other nations – Austria, Belgium, Poland and the Netherlands – also took part, either integrated into German units or, based on available capacities, as independent exercise formations.

The contract awarded to GÜZ System Management GmbH was one of fourteen pilot projects that were used to test the new partnership agreement concluded between the armed forces and industry. This initiative constituted a completely new type of co-operation between the Bundeswehr and industry, and it left everything but real core military matters to the private sector. This management model was initially not uncontroversial, but has proved very successful over the years and is still applied today.

Yet, while in the early days training still focussed on Cold War-type conventional operations in which opposing forces had similar weaponry and tactics, real-world conflicts have since become more and more embedded in asymmetric scenarios.

Adapting to a changing mission

The German Federal Armed Forces are increasingly taking part in multi-national overseas missions. Training at the GÜZ has been adjusted as a result. The Army Combat Training Centre’s core mission today is conducting realistic final pre-deployment training for all operational units of the Bundeswehr immediately prior to deployment as well as the final capability evaluation of all German forces assigned to the NATO Response Force (NRF) and the European Battle Group (EU BG).

More often than not the German Army’s training facilities are better than those available to other nations – both in terms of personnel and materials. One of the rare exceptions is urban combat training. The existing facilities, the LEHNIN military training area, once established for the National People’s Army of the German Democratic Republic, and BONNLAND, the training site for the Infantry School in HAMMELBURG, have buildings, yet they are not instrumented. The GÜZ also has six smaller settlements for urban training that resemble Afghan and Kosovan villages. None of the installations, however, can really compare to the Netherland’s Army Training Area in MARNEHUIZEN or to the Swiss Army’s training village of AEULI in Walenstadt. These nations had already set up state-of-the-art, instrumented training facilities in urban terrain while the German army was still discussing concepts.

The SCHNÖGGERSBURG military training town will put an end to this deficiency once and for all, and give the German Army a capability it urgently needs in an increasingly urbanised world. Exercises in built-up terrain will be conducted as “live simulation”; thus following the general rule applied at the GÜZ. Urban operations are not considered as a specific type of land operation, but as an integral part of any exercise, with the urban agglomeration being used in every training session. Expansion of the ACTC will, therefore, neither change the current maximum capacity of exercise participants nor the number of training exercises per year.


Work on constructing the largest and most modern training town in Europe began on Colbitz Heath in November 2012 with a symbolic cut of the spade. Buildings and an additional municipal infrastructure will be built on more than six square kilometres. The layout takes account of the Bundeswehr’s operational reality, i.e. current and future conflicts and crises mainly occur in social and cultural metropolitan areas. Moreover, a former airfield with a grass runway that is 1,700 m in length will be activated as a provisional landing strip. The runway is suitable for C130 and A400M aircraft and allows special operations exercises, for instance, evacuation. The project has been broken down into five construction phases and is scheduled for completion in mid-2020. The investment value is estimated to total EUR 100m – excluding costs for specific CTC technology.

SCHNÖGGERSBURG Construction Phase 0 covers the transport infrastructure. A total of 16 km of roads, from beaten track to urban four-lane expressway, are being built; squares of every size on which even large numbers of people can assemble are spread across the city. As there are no natural waters on the terrain, a bed was excavated for an artificial river called EISER that will be 22 m wide. Five moveable bridges cross the EISER River, with a removable mid-section to demonstrate demolition. Underground tunnels connect three subterranean metro stations; a sewerage system that is 650 m long reproduces the three-dimensional character of the urban space. Above ground facilities include a railway station with 1,500 m of tracks and junctions as well as a working waterworks and a power station. This phase is almost 100 per cent complete.

Phase 1 covers the construction of the old town and parts of the new town. A total of 180 high-rise buildings are planned, mainly without interior fittings. Twenty buildings will be structurally reinforced to allow helicopter landings. A church, a synagogue and a mosque will also be built. This phase started in September 2014 and will be finished by late 2015.

Phase 2 covers the industrial district, with large-scale buildings and open spaces. A chemical factory can depict threats originating from that industry; a sports complex permits personnel to exercise the protection of sports events in the deployment area. This phase will be completed by late 2017.

Phase 3 will cover the new town and the high-rise district with 209 residential and commercial buildings up to eight storeys high as well as an agricultural area. Plans additionally provide for a hospital and a college, or a Koran school. The business area can be presented either as a bazaar or Western-style shopping arcade. The planned completion date is late 2019.

Phase 4, which will represent the suburbs, will round off the SCHNÖGGERSBURG urban agglomeration. A total of 108 buildings will form a residential area and barracks. An area with destroyed infrastructure and slums consisting of 250 smaller buildings with hardly discernible infrastructure will allow troops to prepare for special threats. This last phase will be finished in mid-2020.

As part of the further expansion of SCHNÖGGERSBURG, all the buildings will be prepared for the optional installation of instrumentation modules. The building instrumentation, which will be introduced as of 2016 following a public tender, essentially comprises player location, shoot-through-wall capabilities, visualisation, special effects, pyrotechnic etc. MASIE, which is the German acronym for Mobile Analysing System Infantry Employment, will be “mobile”, i.e. the equipment can be installed in any of the buildings, depending on the situation and mission. SCHNÖGGERSBURG will receive instrumentation sets for 50 buildings as its initial enabling capability, with further deliveries planned. The instrumentation will fully integrate urban operations into exercise control of the ACTC. What is true for any other exercise or qualification performed at GÜZ will also apply to urban operations: Evaluation of players’ roles does not depend on individual dispositions but on confirmed data – a methodology that the exercise forces have always accepted and supported from the very beginning.


The author wishes to thank Col (GS) Lothar Biewald, Army Concepts and Development Centre, and Lt Col Peter Makowski, German Army Combat Training Centre, for the valuable information they provided.


Rheinmettal’s Enrico Grossman describes the challenges in instrumenting MOUT sites.

Military operations in urban terrain (MOUT) are among the most demanding tasks soldiers face. And equally sophisticated training facilities are needed to be able to practise scenarios of this kind. At the German Army’s GÜZ Combat Training Centre this means that new capabilities have to be added to the existing live simulation infrastructure. Compared with conventional live simulation products, MOUT applications require a number of special features.

GPS-based systems for tracking participants are not always effective in narrow alleyways and especially inside buildings and underground. A combination of two different systems is suggested to solve the problem: First, the laser-based OSAG-standardized Indoor Positioning System (IPS) enables precision tracking of participants by room or sector, with clear depiction on a situation screen. In addition, owing to its high flexibility and mobility, the IPS can be used very efficiently to equip successive exercise buildings. Second, the Wireless Localization System permits high-precision positioning of all participants. Thanks to a fully animated 3-D viewer, it also delivers a very realistic depiction of the entire exercise sequence.

Due to their physical restrictions, laser-based direct-fire simulators for small arms and vehicle-mounted weapons are ill-suited to MOUT scenarios, in which weapon effects on buildings and their occupants need to be simulated. For instance, large-calibre ammunition would penetrate concrete walls, whereas even a wooden wall is no match for an eye-safe laser. To realistically simulate the destructive effects of weapons in urban infrastructure and on the participants inside, buildings need live simulation components very similar to those for vehicles and soldiers. To that end, the LEGATUS modular live training system provides Building Sensor Modules that are attached to the walls and receive laser codes from the weapons fired. Linked to a building computer, they signal the extent of damage to the building and its occupants based on the weapon and ammunition used. Pyrotechnics and a variety of weapon effect simulations can be employed to make the experience of weapon effects as realistic as possible for both the attackers outside a building and the defenders inside. These include smoke and fire generators, sound generators and smell generators for olfactory effects, for example the smell of burning wood.

Up until now, exercises at the GÜZ have generally taken place across widely dispersed areas. In future, concentrating troops in the SCHNÖGGERSBURG urban agglomeration and the comprehensive use of video technology will significantly increase the volume of data. To transmit and evaluate this data, Rheinmetall is setting up high-performance concentrators around the GÜZ to ensure reliable transmission of all data to the EXCON. Together with individual adaptation of operator interfaces in the EXCON and mobile systems for observers and controllers in MOUT scenarios, a complete package is now available for conducting successful exercises in SCHNÖGGERSBURG.