Training is one of the most expensive activities that is also a critical requirement for all armed forces. Costs of modern-day ammunition are prohibitive, and as such, training using live ammunition during peacetime often gets stymied. Simulators are the best alternative available to ensure both skill enhancement to the desired level coupled with huge time and cost reduction.
While the two wars (Ukraine & Hamas) currently charting their blood-soaked path of death and destruction have thrown up multiple lessons for strategists and military commanders alike, these have once again flagged one basic reality; and that is, ‘while the Armies will march on their stomachs, war effort can only be sustained so long as there is ammunition and fuel’. This fundamental premise explains much of Volodomir Zelenski’s worries or the growing stress of the Hamas and Israeli Commanders.
As regards ammunition, there is a vicious circle. As war rages, while more and more rounds are required at the posts for guns to blaze and missiles to punch a hole in the will of the adversary, their availability, across nations, keeps on depleting. This reality is addressed by training more and more soldiers to be sent to the front lines. Something that requires more and more ammunition for training.
It is basic to state that that in order to save maximum ammunition for war its expenditure during peacetime training must be minimised, that too without compromising on the quality of training. Simulation based training can address this requirement optimally.
This is how it works:
- Today the technology available in our country enables realisation of multiple type of weapon replicas which proximately replicate the original combat equipment.
- By making use of the tools of artificial intelligence, augmented and virtual reality and the latest technologies in three dimensional displays, computation, machine learning and more, these technology-enabled platforms can create an ‘immersive effect’ where a trainee feels as if he/she is operating the actual combat equipment.
- Such platforms can provide unlimited opportunities for simulated fire with all the attendant effects of recoil, shock, jerk, platform vibration, smoke and flash; all these with zero expenditure of ammunition.
- Technology is at play to engulf the above firing experiences with added reality by creating the following battle effects:
- Simulating realistic battle-field environment in terms of terrain, weather, environment and time.
- Depicting air and ground threat as expected from user’s adversaries rather than any ad hoc threat.
- Providing opportunity for two-way force-on-force opposed training with a worthwhile adversary rather than one-way unopposed training.
Besides, just the saving on live ammunition that is required in the battle, simulation based training results in many other benefits. Some of these include the following:
- It saves on the time and cost of training, incredibly. A recent Cost Benefit Study brings out that the cost saving can be as huge as 20 times or more depending on the weapon in use.
- Another independent study by TERI brings out that besides all other benefits, simulation-based training, (by avoiding live firing of ammunition), saves hundreds of tons of GHG (Green House Gas) emissions, thus aiding the sustainability of our environment.
- Closer home, simulation-based training greatly saves on the wear and tear of the go-to-war combat equipment by saving it from day-to-day exploitation in training.
- Such training also makes up for the skill-deficits in the training caused by the shrinking training scales of ammunition and even lesser availability of the same at the cutting edge. It also corrects the erroneous assessment of skill efficiency derived from a less-than-adequate quantum of training ammunition available; a fait-accompli.
- Equally important is the capability of modern combat training solutions to produce a digital and an objective assessment of the trainee skills referred to as the Combat Readiness Score or CRS. These assessments, based on user-defined perimeters provides to a commander an accurate measure of the capability of the force and hence its employability.
Reports indicate that the Russo-Ukraine war being fought largely in the conventional mode is relying heavily on simulator-based training on both sides. Such a training is particularly relevant for the new conscripts being trained to join the war effort in quick time.
Similarly, while Israel is an established simulator manufacturer resorting to simulation-based training in multiple domains of warfare, not much is known about Hamas. Presumably, they could also be doing a degree of training by simulation to prepare their fighters for multiple contingencies.
Closer home, simulation-based training can also be a great boon to prepare the Agniveers in the shortest time (and cost) to join their respective units.
The fact that the entire spectrum of the technologies described above has been realised indigenously under the Atmanirbhar Bharat should be a matter of pride.
It is no wonder therefore, that the Indian Ministry of Defence, way back in September 2021, promulgated a policy on the Framework of Simulators in the Armed Forces. This Policy is based on the vision of implementing simulation based training across military domains for achieving cost-effective, efficient, safe, fast-paced and smart training. The Policy lays down the framework synergised and enhanced exploitation of simulators by the three Services and the Indian Coast Guards.
While it is for the militaries of the world to take note and make full use of what technology can provide today, it is for the Indian military to take steps towards expeditious implementation of the Framework Policy.
Lt Gen (Dr) V K Saxena (Retd)