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Laser simulator at Eagle base

By 1Lt. Franois-Xavier Miller
First published in
SFOR Informer#108, March 7, 2001

Tuzla - A distant fire is bursting out from the pillbox position. A shadow is coming towards the platoon. Four M16A2 toss their owners about. A flare is suddenly flashing in the darkness. More figures are moving forward in front of the shooting sectors. The assault rifles carry on rattling out in the night. The light is switched on. “Scenario Complete” bluntly appears on the wall-size screen. “Okay, let's see the result now,” says a metallic voice coming from a loudspeaker.
Opened the 9th of February, the first shooting laser simulator in the Balkans has just been installed at Eagle Base by the US Army Training Command. Real weapons were modified so that they can shoot a laser beam that hits a target on a screen. Under the stage, a projector casts the chosen scenario, and a camera detects the laser shots. Everything is coordinated by two computers working with DVD-Roms. Four different weapons can be used on the eight lanes, 9mm pistol, M249 SAW “Minimi,” AT-4, and mostly the M16A2 standart assault rifle in the US Army.
The rifles are regular ones, about the same weight, using magazines. They simulate recoil and a shooting noise is heard whenever the trigger is pulled, of course after loading and cocking procedures had been properly done. It is so realistic that nothing is missing, but the acrid smell of gunpowder and the windchill.
What first makes the difference is that the simulator can be used for much more than just zeroing weapons, or as a simple range. Realistic combat situations include patrols, personnel or vehicle checkpoints, don't-shoot restrains, combat house or position defense, with night and day options. 'Moult' (changing) exercises are comprised, so that a scenario already played is never exactly the same. “I play unreal tournament on my Playstation 2, it is also marskmanhip, soldiers shooting. You can always die, come back and play it again,” explained Sgt. Marinojose Jerez, from Bco 26 LTF. “I'd prefer this, it is the real thing. You can see different scenarios and your reaction, and defend your life or your buddy's life,” said this practicer, one among the 50 to 75 people coming in a day.
The accuracy of the immediate feedback also accounts for its success. “I can do analysis and show them where they went wrong or right when they fire, and before and after,” said Mr. Steve Short, system operator from 7th Army Training Command.
In a nearby room, a M16A2 lies on the table 2 m. away in front of a monitor linked to a homestation. “We can use this set as an initial or remedial training regarding the four fundamentals of rifle marskmanship, which are steady position, aim, breath control and trigger control, “ explained Mr. Lyndon Tarver, supervisor, from 7th Army Training Command, Deployable Operations Group. This basis of shooting can be simulated on a 50 to 300 m digital range on the screen.
Why build such a simulator here, in BiH? The acknowledgement of the need for this project was based on unit training requirements, and on the limited use of ranges. “It won't replace the range but it is designed to prepare them to qualify at the range. They can come in here and spend more time on zeroing a weapon, and fixing what's wrong, and continue without firing many bullets that cost a lot of money,” acknowledged Mr. Short.
Range shooting analysis, realtime combat situations are the keys of its success, so the simulator is always busy. And Mr Tarver concluded in a welcoming smile “Units call me for appointments, just have a go.”

Related link:
Nations of SFOR: US
Training and Exercises