USA — Gunnery training goes digital

FORT BENNING, Ga. — Bradley Fight­ing Vehi­cle and tank crews from the Maneu­ver Cen­ter of Excel­lence fired on the Dig­i­tal Mul­ti-Pur­pose Range Com­plex this week as part of a gov­ern­ment accep­tance test, one of the final tasks to com­plete before the com­plex is ready for Sol­dier train­ing.

A Bradley Fighting Vehicle and an M1A2 Abrams SEP tank perform a combined engagement Wednesday.  The crews conducted platoon and combined exercises to test the vehicles' instrumentation and ensure the vehicles' performance meets government standards.
A Bradley Fight­ing Vehi­cle and an M1A2 Abrams SEP tank per­form a com­bined engage­ment Wednes­day. The crews con­duct­ed pla­toon and com­bined exer­cis­es to test the vehi­cles’ instru­men­ta­tion and ensure the vehi­cles’ per­for­mance meets gov­ern­ment stan­dards.
Pho­to Cred­it: John Helms
Click to enlarge

The goal of the test was to eval­u­ate the exten­sive dig­i­tal instru­men­ta­tion sys­tems at the com­plex, said Col. Ryan Kuhn, com­man­der of the 197th Infantry Brigade, which has played a sig­nif­i­cant role in cer­ti­fy­ing the DMPRC

“Our Sol­diers were tasked to test the resilien­cy of the range com­plex by gain­ing an under­stand­ing of the lim­i­ta­tions of the range and max­i­miz­ing the capa­bil­i­ties of the instru­men­ta­tion to iden­ti­fy any pos­si­ble feed­back that could enhance the func­tion­al­i­ty of the range or iden­ti­fy addi­tion­al risk-mit­i­ga­tion mea­sures,” the colonel said. 

In a com­bined effort between the Infantry and Armor schools, Sol­diers with the 197th Infantry Brigade’s 1st Bat­tal­ion, 29th Infantry Reg­i­ment, along with tank crews from the 1st Bat­tal­ion, 16th Cav­al­ry Reg­i­ment, 316th Cav­al­ry Brigade, per­formed the fir­ing test. The 316th Cav. Bde. and the 194th Armored Brigade, both of Fort Knox, Ky., will make the move to Fort Ben­ning over the next 12 months and into facil­i­ties at Har­mo­ny Church. 

The 1,800-acre com­plex fund­ed by U.S. Army Forces Com­mand and built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engi­neers, Savan­nah Dis­trict, was designed to sup­port com­bined arms live-fire exer­cis­es and advanced-gun­nery qual­i­fi­ca­tions. The range sup­ports com­pa­ny-sized ele­ments per­form­ing crew and col­lec­tive gun­nery tasks — such as indi­vid­ual crew, sec­tion and pla­toon qualifications. 

The range is designed for tanks and Bradley Fight­ing Vehi­cles but can also sup­port Stryk­er train­ing and, begin­ning next year, Apache gun­nery qualification. 

Pri­or to the DMPRC’s con­struc­tion, Fort Ben­ning did not have a range capa­ble of sup­port­ing pla­toon qual­i­fi­ca­tions, said John Hor­vath, the DMPRC range division’s site supervisor. 

Sol­diers either had train­ing stan­dards mod­i­fied or were trans­port­ed to Fort Stew­art, Ga., 200 miles away. 

The dig­i­tal range is out­fit­ted with high-tech instru­men­ta­tion to trans­mit live video feeds and real-time sit­u­a­tion­al aware­ness back to the range oper­a­tions cen­ter as train­ing sce­nar­ios unfold, Hor­vath said. 

The infor­ma­tion can be used by pla­toon lead­ers and com­man­ders to assess train­ing needs and con­duct after-action reviews. 

The com­plex has 35 sta­tion­ary Infantry tar­get clus­ters, 11 eva­sive mov­ing Armor tar­gets, 55 sta­tion­ary Armor tar­gets, three defense trench­es with for­ti­fied bunker emplace­ments, 18 defilade posi­tions and a heli­pad for use as an emer­gency evac­u­a­tion site. 

Field video cam­eras with day optic and ther­mal tech­nol­o­gy cov­er every inch of the com­plex and trans­mit data on the sta­tus of tar­gets, fir­ing posi­tions and oth­er infor­ma­tion units can use to eval­u­ate their suc­cess dur­ing the train­ing sce­nar­ios, Hor­vath said. 

Addi­tion­al data is gath­ered by Inte­grat­ed Play­er Units installed in the vehi­cles. The IPUs pro­vide glob­al-posi­tion­ing-sys­tem data and 1553 stan­dard mil­i­tary bus data, which is pumped back to the range oper­a­tions cen­ter, where the train­ing sce­nar­ios are observed and evaluated. 

“The data can tell us the turret’s ori­en­ta­tion, which weapon is select­ed, if it’s on safe or armed … whether tar­gets are active, exposed or hid­den … everything’s record­ed,” Hor­vath said. “It pro­vides good after-action review input to cor­rect their mistakes.” 

Col. Kuhn said the train­ing advan­tage for Sol­diers will be tremendous. 

“This range will become the pre­mier live-fire train­ing venue on the instal­la­tion … the aspect that pro­vides the most advan­tage over oth­er ranges on the instal­la­tion is its size and the var­ied ter­rain com­bined with the newest dig­i­tal tech­nolo­gies for assess­ment and con­trol pro­ce­dures,” he said. 

“With the addi­tion of the DMPRC, our lead­ers can coor­di­nate and devel­op vir­tu­al­ly any type of sce­nario nec­es­sary to repli­cate the cur­rent oper­at­ing envi­ron­ment we will deploy to,” the colonel said. 

Sgt. 1st Class Ver­non Pro­has­ka, liai­son offi­cer for relo­ca­tion oper­a­tions in the U.S. Army Armor Cen­ter and School’s Strate­gic Plans Cell, said the state-of-the-art dig­i­tal train­ing facil­i­ty will pre­pare Sol­diers for the bat­tle­field by “help­ing them to under­stand every scope of their train­ing pri­or to deployment.” 

Pro­has­ka, who worked as an Armor School rep­re­sen­ta­tive dur­ing the complex’s design phase, said the video sys­tem and field optics are his favorite aspect of the DMPRC

Addi­tion­al­ly, the complex’s close prox­im­i­ty to Har­mo­ny Church is some­thing Sol­diers will appre­ci­ate, he said. 

The post’s oth­er two train­ing ranges, Hast­ings and Kar­mouche, are a good dis­tance from Kel­ley Hill and Har­mo­ny Church, with Hast­ings being near­ly 60 miles away roundtrip. 

Hast­ings is cur­rent­ly under­go­ing ren­o­va­tions and being con­vert­ed from a four-lane range to a two-lane mul­ti-pur­pose train­ing range that will com­pete with cur­rent gun­nery stan­dards and new heavy brigade com­bat team stan­dards. It is expect­ed to reopen in Octo­ber 2011. Kar­mouche, an old­er range, was recent­ly changed from a one-lane to a two-lane range in order to update gun­nery pat­terns, Pro­has­ka said. 

The 75th Ranger Reg­i­ment is sched­uled to con­duct live-fire pla­toon train­ing at the DMPRC in late Novem­ber. The 3rd Heavy Brigade Com­bat Team will con­duct new equip­ment train­ing there in the spring. 

US Army 

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