Technology for simulating natural environments has advanced rapidly in the field, and Army officials said it's about time the service take advantage of the benefits. Leaders say more advanced simulations can help the Army develop weapons faster and cheaper.
"People are surprised how realistic our simulated environments look," said Keith Koehler, a mechanical engineer at the Weapons Technology Branch. "We had a few friends, who were deployed soldiers, walk into the scenarios and you could tell to a degree that they lost themselves in the environment."
The new test bed at the Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey can simulate any weather (rain, snow, fog, wind), location type (indoor, outdoor, towns, cities, rooms, jungle), season, and time of day. The Army has already awarded the test bed a name and abbreviation -- the Simulated Weapon Environment Testbed, or SWeET.
Up to four soldiers can interact with each of the five screens that make up SWeET. The weapons that have already been tested in SWeET include the M4, M11, M9, M16, M249, and the M240. The five screens offer a soldier a 300-degree view and closely monitor the movements of the soldier and the weapon.
"Users can come here and test a weapon or the new ammunition before it is even made," said Clinton Fischer, a mechanical engineer, also with the Weapons Technology Branch. "In traditional development, they would have to first manufacture the weapon or the ammunition for it -- and because there is no production line for it -- it could be a thousand dollars a round. Here, we just make it, shoot, and get data."