Military & Aerospace

Integrated Simulators for Training of Mechanised Forces: The Way Ahead
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Issue Vol. 32.4 Oct-Dec 2017 | Date : 08 Jan , 2018

Tata's Future Infantry Combat Vehicle (FICV)

As India improves its economic index, areas available for conduct of large scale exercises will become even more restricted. Furthermore, the need for modernisation, force sustenance, capability development and rising costs inhibit extensive use of weapons and equipment in order to preserve their life. Hence it is imperative that modern techniques are utilised to ensure that extensive training can be carried out to maintain the cutting edge of the mechanised forces. Integrated simulators provide the way ahead to overcome these constraints. As the Artificial Intelligence technologies gain sufficient traction, these could also be incorporated to enable developing new concepts and doctrines for the future battlefield milieu in the medium to long term. The cost savings should be utilised to provide live training to recruits and all ranks at the training establishments to ensure better assimilation of realism. Simulators should also be appropriately scaled to these institutions to enable better understanding of these facilities at the unit and formation level.

The lack of training areas, prohibitive cost of live firing and the wear and tear of equipment is resulting in avoidable compromises in exploitation of equipment. It is increasingly becoming difficult to exploit the equipment annually to derive full training benefits. Current compromises have led to reduction in annual scales of ammunition for field firing, restriction on ‘A’ vehicle mileage and restriction on the number of ‘A’ vehicles that can be moved out for training (a sub unit worth depicting a unit). Furthermore, the collective training at formation level is held once in two to three years, thereby denying experience to the Commanders at all levels in handling their commands in simulated war conditions.

These restrictions have led to a spate of adjustments and innovations to circumvent the problems. While these solutions are workable, they are rudimentary and do not relate to the advancements in technology, especially Information Technology. India is considered as a major power in Information Technology. As such, use of ‘Informatics’ to assist in circumventing the live problem of ‘restrictions’ being faced by the Mechanised Forces, through Simulators, needs urgent attention.

The Problem

The cost penalty in exploiting the tanks and Infantry Combat Vehicles (ICVs) to derive full training benefits is rising exponentially by the year. Therein lies the catch. To ensure that the Mechanised Forces, considered as the ‘Kings of the Battlefield’, retain their cutting edge, there is a need to conduct regular and extensive training with the equipment. Yet the cost of such training conducted annually is becoming more and more prohibitive which has led to restrictions and innovations that inhibit optimisation of training value.

Restrictions

The restrictions faced by the Mechanised Forces are both due to economic constraints and economic growth.

  • Economic Constraints: These have led to mileage restrictions, reduction in ammunition authorisation for annual field firing and restriction in the No of ‘A’ vehicles that can be taken out for training (with a sub-unit depicting a unit).
  • Economic Growth: This has led to lack of availability of training areas, both for sub-unit training (near the military station) and for collective training, due to more and more open areas either being brought under cultivation or due to expansion of habitats. The cost of compensation to be paid to the residents of the area chosen for collective training is also rising exponentially and inhibits such training from being conducted annually for all formations. This has led to it being conducted once in three years at the Corps level for one to two Battle Groups, thus effectively resulting in a major exercise for the lower formations being held once in two to three years. Keeping the turnover in mind, it results in some formation and unit commanders finishing one level of command and tenanting the next without the experience of handling troops and equipment on ground.

Innovations

The innovations being resorted to are, as under:

  • Use of Modified Field Miniature Ranges: These are used for practising the ‘A’ vehicle crews in gunnery training. It can only assist in some crew integration and practice in use of controls; it cannot substitute for live firing, since it does not include loading of actual ammunition, obscuration and shock of discharge.
  • Creation of ‘A’ Vehicle Driving Tracks: These are small driving tracks made within the military station to depict some typical terrain features as is obtained in the operational area, to practice the drivers and commanders in negotiating them and to take up correct battle positions. Due to lack of space these have limited scope and are better utilised to train new soldiers. The trained soldier does not gain any new skills and is limited to maintaining his existing skills.
  • The Formation Battle Schools: Here too, the space constraints restrict the training level to sub-sub unit level only. Even at this level, only limited battle drills can be practiced. Its integration at the sub-unit and unit level, a necessity for tactical success in battle, is not feasible.

To overcome these problems, the units and formations resort to the following:

  • Concentrate more on the new soldier during annual field firing and on the old maintaining its existing skills, whenever they go out for training.
  • Conduct sand model discussions, tactical exercises without troops or practice battle drills on foot with reduced/representative distances.
  • Share the limited equipment permitted to be taken for training to enable at least the sub-unit Commander in getting a feel of functioning with full scale equipment.

This has a direct impact on the quality of training, as it inhibits exploitation of the equipment for deriving full training benefits and upgrading the technical and tactical skills at all levels to optimum efficiency. The present constraints permit maintenance of just the basic minimum efficiency levels in general and precludes its enhancement since extensive use of the equipment is denied. This does not augur well for a future conflict, since the sub-unit, unit and formation level integration and their integrated battle drills and tactics have not been effectively honed and validated during training.

The Solution

The solution is not far to seek. The aviation industry has been using it for decades, and the Western Armed Forces have also gravitated towards it in a big way - the Simulators. With India being a world power in Information Technology, applying it in the domain of training of Mechanised Forces would not be a constraint since the technology exists within the country. It would not only facilitate in improving the skills at all levels, both in the technical and tactical domain, but would enable a cost saving to the exchequer by reducing the periodicity of annual field firing and collective training.

Available Simulators

  • The Simulator Development Division (SDD), Secunderabad has done yeoman service in developing various simulators for use by Mechanised Forces for training. The present generation of simulators consist of Driving, Auto-Loading and Firing (including missile firing) simulators for tanks and ICVs.
  • These simulators are quite effective and can be utilised to provide good training value to the crew members individually. They can also be integrated to enable crew integration training and tactical training at various levels with necessary software.

Simulator Usage Road Map

The SDD has shown good foresight in equipping the above simulators with high end computers which are GIS, network and IP enabled. This permits the simulators to be capable of being networked, using high-end war gaming software and utilising the vector maps/3D/GIS enabled maps for terrain depiction, thereby enabling its usage for tactical exercises and field firings. This would provide for enhanced savings to the exchequer and ensuring extended life of the equipment by its simulated exploitation to the optimum. The various stages of the suggested road map are discussed in succeeding paragraphs.

Stage 1

As an initial step each Armoured / Mechanised unit should be provided three simulators of each type (as relevant). These could be provided either as Sector Stores through Army Commander’s Special Financial Powers (ACSFP) or issued directly by the Directorate General of Mechanised Forces (DGMF). Issue to the formation as Sector Stores is preferable as it avoids intermittent move of equipment.

Stage 2

The separate simulators need to be integrated as under:

  • Armoured Regiment  

(i)   Simulator for Commander – There is a need to have a Simulator for the Tank Commander’s station. This should be preferably grouped with the Auto – loader Simulator.

(ii)   Integration - The integration of the Driving, Auto – loader, Commander’s Station and Firing Simulators, physically or digitally along with requisite software would enable proper crew and sub-subunit integration and tactical training.

(iii)  Terrain Depiction - Vector/3D/GIS enabled maps of the unit’s area of operation can also be used to conduct tactical training at the sub-subunit level over its operational area.

  • Mechanised Infantry Battalion

(i)   Missile Simulator – The present Simulator represents the Missile Launcher in a ground role. There is a need to integrate it with the Pilot Gunner’s location within the ICV.

(ii)   Simulator for Commander – There is a need to have a Simulator for the ICV Commander’s station. This should be preferably grouped with the Missile Simulator.

iii)   Integration – The integration of the Driving, Missile and the Commander’s Station Simulators, physically or digitally along with requisite software would enable proper crew and sub-subunit integration and tactical training.

(iv)  Terrain Depiction - Vector/3D/GIS enabled maps of the unit’s area of operation can then be used to conduct tactical training at the sub-subunit level.

Stages 3 & 4

  • With the above in place, the next step would be to integrate the simulators with the war-gaming software developed by WARDEC. These softwares could use the same terrain depiction as the simulators.
  • Subsequent to this integration, or concurrently, the Armoured and Mechanised Units should be provided fully Integrated simulators (refer Stage 2 above) at the scale of one per ‘A’ Vehicle as sector stores with each formation.
  • All simulators should be networked within the formation, thereby facilitating integration at the Combat Team, Combat Group and Combat Command Levels. As the network expands to higher levels, it would enable integration with higher formations. The networking would also facilitate Equipment Management by a remote Systems Administrator.
  • Such a networking would enable conduct of sub-sub-unit, sub-unit, unit and brigade level exercises over the operational area without any cost to the exchequer. It would also enable conduct of simulated field firing. This would enable reduction in the periodicity of large scale exercises and field firings less the need to zero the tank’s main guns over a three-year cycle.
  • The ‘B’ Vehicle Driving Simulators should be suitably enhanced not only to cater for the driving ability, but also to incorporate the software for the loads it is supposed to carry as part of the operational logistics chain. The software should include the time for loading and unloading of the supplies and the time to traverse any distance based on the terrain and the time of day. Ability to generate pseudo-random mechanical faults would be a bonus. This would facilitate realistic logistics exercises clubbed with the unit and formation exercises.

Stage 5

  • Concurrently, the other arms should also develop their simulators with the SDD in a similar manner. The scaling for these simulators should also be on the same lines as mentioned above. These should now be integrated and networked with the Armoured and Mechanised Unit Simulators to facilitate integrated training and simulated unit and formation level exercises at higher levels.
  • Major exercises can be carried out, including War Games, to validate concepts and doctrines for the future battlefield milieu, over the actual operational area without any physical movement of troops from their permanent locations. The logistics to support a doctrine can also be tested and practised by the troops.

Advantages

With the acute paucity of training areas, the limited time slot available for large formation level exercises due to crop pattern and the prohibitive cost to the exchequer, training of mechanised forces is being affected. It is increasingly becoming difficult to exploit the equipment annually to derive full training benefits. Various compromises have been put in place, but they remain just that – compromises. With the phased introduction of simulators, these problems can be circumvented to a large extent, with the added advantage of executing the actual plans over intended areas of operations, based on a particular setting, without compromising security. The simulators would go a long way in permitting the men to keep pace with the revolution in military affairs, by training on the simulated equipment. Tough the initial cost of setting up the network of simulators would be high; the subsequent savings to the exchequer that would accrue from it would offset this expenditure within a few years.

Recommendations

It is strongly recommended that the induction of such simulators should be done on priority. A detailed ‘Road Map’ for its induction should be laid down at the Army level at the earliest. This would facilitate integrated training at all levels and not restrict the conduct of exercises during campaigning seasons for want of training areas due to the cropping pattern.

As India improves its economic index, areas available for conduct of large scale exercises will become even more restricted. Furthermore, the need for modernisation, force sustenance, capability development and rising costs inhibit extensive use of weapons and equipment in order to preserve their life. Hence it is imperative that modern techniques are utilised to ensure that extensive training can be carried out to maintain the cutting edge of the mechanised forces. Integrated simulators provide the way ahead to overcome these constraints. As the Artificial Intelligence technologies gain sufficient traction, these could also be incorporated to enable developing new concepts and doctrines for the future battlefield milieu in the medium to long term. The cost savings should be utilised to provide live training to recruits and all ranks at the training establishments to ensure better assimilation of realism. Simulators should also be appropriately scaled to these institutions to enable better understanding of these facilities at the unit and formation level.

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Integrated Simulators for Training of Mechanised Forces: The Way Ahead, 4.3 out of 5 based on 3 ratings
The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Maj Gen Rajiv Narayanan, AVSM, VSM

Retired after 37 years of distinguished service, as the ADGMO (B) in 2016,having been closely involved with Future Strategy, Force Structures and Force Modernisation.

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