The mad scientists at the Office of Naval Research have just signed a contract to build two high-tech battle simulators for Marines to practice their lethal trade in a virtual environment.
Chief of Naval Research Rear Admiral William E. Landay III has announced the funding of a $1.3-million "Tech Solutions" project to deliver advanced infantry immersive training to Marines. This project will field two systems by the fall of 2007. The first system will be installed in the I MEF Battle Simulation Center at Camp Pendleton, California, and the second will be installed in the new Marine Expeditionary Rifle Integration Facility opening this summer near Quantico, Virginia.
The Infantry Immersive Trainer (IIT) is one of several virtual environment training projects that recently emerged out of a decade's worth of Office of Naval Research (ONR) science and technology investment. IIT will focus on treating Marines and Sailors and their supporting equipment (e.g., weaponry and information systems) as an integrated system to enable Naval warriors to win and survive in battle
The requirement for infantry immersive training was initiated in the spring of 2006 by Lieutenant General James Mattis, the current I MEF commanding general, while he was commanding general of the Marine Corps Combat Development Command. The U.S. Marine Corps Training and Education Command has incorporated this requirement into the Squad Immersive Training Environment Urgent Needs Statement.
Both the Army and Marine Corps have taken increasing advantage of realistic simulators that help infantrymen and other troops deal with the stresses of combat and the kind of shoot-no-shoot situations that often crop up in urban combat environments and counterinsurgencies.
For a while now, the Corps has been using FATS trainers for their troops and has migrated into using them for convoy practice, close air support training and artillery coordination. Range space is at a premium these days and with ammo resources devoted increasingly to the war, troops have fewer and fewer opportunities to train with the real thing.
The value of simulated training for ground forces is certainly debatable, but you cant ignore the impact aircraft simulators have had on keeping aviators current and better prepared for in-flight emergencies. Ive seen Marines and Soldiers use simulators like these for several years stateside and at prep bases in Kuwait and they seem to get real value out of them.
Officers and NCOs are big fans of the simulators because they allow Soldiers and Marines to make mistakes in a non-kinetic environment, so when they do get a few hours on the live-fire range, they can really concentrate on their TTPs rather than have to rehash basic rifleman skills.