Industry suppliers in the US and Europe are helping their customers increase mission readiness through urban training. Group Editor Marty Kauchak highlights some innovations. 

During this period, based on information available, CJTF-OIR assesses at least 1,291 civilians have been unintentionally killed by Coalition strikes since the beginning of Operation Inherent Resolve.” - Combined Joint Task Force - Operation Inherent Resolve Monthly Civilian Casualty Reports.

The period involved was August 2014 through March 2019, and the United States Central Command, seeking to provide transparency as well as focus on civilian casualties in its theatre of operations, issued the 1,291 number for the 34,464 strikes conducted. The 2019-era battlefield remains a dangerous environment for combatants and civilians alike.

Efforts to curtail civilian casualties in combat – in the urban environment where they are most likely to occur – is part of a confluence of factors to encourage military forces to continue investing in learning technologies and training programs to increase their efficiencies in this mission. The training products for urban training in the US and Europe are diversifying, and include enhanced training ranges, devices to improve operators’ firing accuracy, and even augmented reality and better use of big data.

Upgrading Marine MOUTs

These developments are harmonized with the focus and direction of the training enterprise in one representative military service, the US Marine Corps (USMC). The Marine Corps maintains numerous live and non-live fire urban training facilities across multiple bases and stations. The service has constructed all of its Military Operations in Urban Terrain (MOUT) complexes to provide tailorable and realistic training opportunities for the Service and commanders.

Colonel Luis Lara, Program Manager, Training Systems (PM TRASYS), within Marine Corps Systems Command, pointed out his Service is systematically upgrading select MOUT capabilities with immersive elements, battlefield effects, and instrumentation that enhance the realism, better simulate the combat environment, and provide for improved learning opportunities. “Upgraded instrumentation will provide video and audio capture, providing using units with the capability to conduct immediate after-action review (AAR) and remediation,” the training leader noted.

As an example, one current Integrated Urban Terrain project will provide a complex allowing for realistic urban air assault and integration of ground maneuver to provide Marines with opportunities that allow realistic training scenarios.

The urban training piece of the Marine Corps portfolio is dynamic, with current and planned insertions of new technologies and other capabilities, to provide for increased precision in combat operations and other positive training outcomes. “The Marine Corps is constantly seeking new technology and adopting new training methods and platforms to ensure our warfighters are ready to deploy and be successful in the urban environment,” recalled Col. Lara.

In the last decade, the Service has made substantial investments to ensure training is as realistic as possible. Of significance, it established next-generation MOUT facilities known as Infantry Immersion Trainers (IIT) at three major bases across the Marine Corps. “IITs are designed as a training decision-house, enhancing Marines’ abilities to make tactically, morally and ethically sound decisions in uncertain, chaotic, stressful and complex environments. The IIT provides a realistic live training environment that reproduces the sights, sounds, smells and feel of real-world environments and situations,” the Service senior officer added. “As the Marine Corps prepares for the future, we will continue to seek ways to improve training realism by integrating targets that can move and make tactical decisions on their own, improve battlefield effects to further stimulate a Marines’ senses, role players that speak, look, and act like a desired demographic, and installing cutting-edge cameras that can capture more with better resolution.”

Requirements that drive this investment are based on the 2016 Marine Corps Operating Concept (MOC), which the PM said, “states that we must be prepared to simultaneously fight, keep the peace, and provide humanitarian assistance in complex urban environments.”

The I-MOUT Modernization

Ralph Briggs, Business Development senior manager at Lockheed Martin, noted that as the global population grows and cities expand, the reality that follows is a world in which all battles are not fought on a battlefield. “This is why urban training is critical for mission readiness. We have been developing and deploying complex urban training solutions for nearly a decade and we are continuing to align investments with evolving customer requirements.”

Lockheed Martin’s programs in this sector are based on its philosophy that success is built on the repetitive execution of tasks with immediate feedback and analysis. “As integration and architecture experts, our training immerses Service men and women in a combination of real-feel and adaptive training environments before they enter operations,” Briggs pointed out.

He explained, “We’ve supported operational planning, execution and assessment for the US Army, Army Reserve and National Guard through the legacy Urban Operations Training System (UOTS) and continued to do so through the Integrated Military Operations on Urbanized Terrain (MOUT) Training Systems (I-MTS) program.”

From March 2018 through this May, the I-MTS program continued to modernize these systems by providing:

  • more capabilities to measure the team’s effectiveness – better preparing its customers’ soldiers for the “real thing”;
  • flexible data that can be deployed in live, virtual or constructive training environments;
  • an increased global training footprint – as location is no barrier for urban operations training, because I-MTS simultaneously integrates training scenarios across multiple locations; and
  • more diverse, real-feel battlefield conditions – giving users the ultimate, true-to-real-life experience that will make them even more effective in a real-world situation.

Lockheed Martin is also evaluating and integrating capabilities for advanced training analytics that take advantage of big data, to evaluate training results and project training outcomes.

The Leopard 2 simulator features a terrain KMW database of close urban features, adjustable to the crew's skill level and performance. Image credit: KMW.
The Leopard 2 simulator features a terrain KMW database of close urban features, adjustable to the crew's skill level and performance. Image credit: KMW.

Evolving Urban Requirements

As the Pentagon pivots from the Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts to a near-peer strategy, Ravenswood Solutions (a wholly owned subsidiary of SRI International) is also hearing new requirements for urban training from its customers. Katie Landry, Communications manager at Ravenswood, said to adequately train for a near-peer engagement a decisive action training environment is critical. The former naval officer pointed out, “The training must be more complex; it needs to go beyond lasers, include indirect fires, and incorporate multi-echelon force-on-force training to challenge troops to fight a real enemy with strategy and similar assets.”

Her colleague, director of Products and Development, Tony Hawkins, identified three evolving customer requirements:

  • live simulation with a concurrent need for more data inputs;
  • situational awareness and AAR, to further satisfy better data aggregating and strengthen the AAR process; and
  • performance assessment, to make better sense of myriad data collected.  

To elevate its’ customer’s level of training in one specific case, Ravenswood operates its Mobile Ground Truth System (MGTS), known to US DoD customers as “FlexTrain.”

The majority of the Fremont, California-based company’s training business has come from the US Army National Guard. “We have supported exercises in 23 states,” Landry said, adding, “This summer, we will be supporting eight training events at each of these locations: Yakima, Washington; Fort Pickett, Virginia (two); Camp Ripley, Minnesota; Camp Shelby, Mississippi; Fort Hood, Texas; Orchard Combat Training Center, Idaho; and Fort Chaffee, Arkansas.”

Ravenswood Solutions has cast a wide net to partner with companies in this space, including: GDM Electronic & Medical for manufacturing Ravenswood’s hardware (in the US); parent company SRI International to collaborate on the MARTE-O (Modular Augmented Reality Equipment for Observers) project; Aptima, to bring Ravenswood's ORION full-circle – providing the final step in data processing: a performance assessment tool; and RUAG in Switzerland.

Individual Skills to Networked Joint Operations

Munich, Germany-based Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW) has a strong track record in planning, building, equipping and running customized turnkey training centers with high-tech simulators for different armies worldwide. This includes driving, shooting and combat training for crews according to their individual skill levels, from basic to tactical training, and further, to networked joint operations, and from single crew member up to battalion level training. KMW training centers and training devices can be found in more than 20 countries, including Germany, Sweden, Greece, Norway and the US. Training technologies in the US are provided by Wegmann USA, in particular for USMC and Army National Guard.

KMW’s high-fidelity combat and driving simulators usually include high-resolution, seamless projection systems up to 360 degrees with large vertical viewing angles to provide a fully immersive high-quality training environment. Motion platforms increase the training experience with physical feedback on the crew's actions.

Close urban spaces are included in every KMW terrain database, in which the instructor can add additional elements during scenario generation or even during exercise execution to adjust the challenges to the crew's skill level and performance. Thus, training becomes diversified and extensive.

Lockheed Martin's TULWAR HMD introduces advanced augmented reality capabilities into live training for increased battlefield complexity and realism. Image credit: Lockheed Martin.
Lockheed Martin's TULWAR HMD introduces advanced augmented reality capabilities into live training for increased battlefield complexity and realism. Image credit: Lockheed Martin.

Mixed Realities, Decreased Casualties

Lockheed Martin has invested in the evolution of augmented/virtual/mixed reality technologies to meet real-world operational and training requirements for warfighters. One outcome is the Tactical Ultra-Wide Augmented Reality (TULWAR) Helmet Mounted Display (HMD), reported to be a more rugged solution specifically designed for harsh tactical environments. Briggs said it will provide measurable lethality, enhanced situational awareness, and the training realism required for improved mission training readiness. “The TULWAR HMD utilizes a wide field of view optical see-through display, patented optical lens technology, and networked sensor fusion system for multi-domain operations,” he added.

Future systems will transition current live training technology to optically based live synthetic training through advanced augmented reality capabilities, increasing training realism, battlespace complexity, and improved opposing forces behaviors. Briggs concluded, “A warfighter embedded training capability will provide more advanced and intelligent after-action review compared with earlier approaches. More specific tactical and training data will be collected and correlated in real time, providing accurate measures of warfighter readiness. This provides an embedded training capability that will fully compliment warfighter equipment in theater.”

In another urban environment-related project, the Mobile Augmented Reality Tracking Equipment for Observers (MARTE-O) is being brought to fruition through a partnership among Ravenswood Solutions, Lockheed Martin and SRI International. This effort finds Ravenswood pioneering an augmented reality (AR) capability to transition observers from classroom virtual reality (VR) simulators to personnel-worn AR devices that are hardened and designed for repeated field use.

Ravenswood’s Landry explained the system was developed for the Office of Naval Research on behalf of the US Marine Corps. “This technology can be used anywhere in the world and substantially lowers training costs by simulating vehicles, aircraft and munitions. AR eliminates the boundaries of ranges, aircraft and munitions availability, and weather. With AR, troops can train wherever and whenever they want,” she emphasized.

Investments in the full spectrum of training devices and systems, from MOUT sites to gunnery crew trainers to big data, have the potential to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of combatants on the battlefield. As individuals, units and staffs train to more precisely deliver munitions and other kinetic effects in and near urban venues, there is the opportunity to further remove civilians and other non-combatants from the combat mission cycle, and decrease bodily harm and collateral damage among these populations. 

Originally published in Issue 3, 2019 of MS&T Magazine.