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Optically Based Small Arms Force-On-Force Training System





OBJECTIVE: Develop Optically Based Small Arms Force-On-Force Training System (OBSAT) for live, force-on-force engagement that provides an alternative to laser-based engagement systems.

DESCRIPTION: The Marine Corps seeks to enhance “home station unit training through the sustainment and enhancement of live, virtual, and constructive training capabilities.” Specifically, the Marine Corps seeks to “leverage modern immersive training and simulation technologies in order to ensure that Marines first encounter their tactical and ethical dilemmas in a simulated battlefield vice actual combat” [2]. This topic addresses Marine Corps’ need for the development and maturation of alternative technologies to laser engagement systems for live, force-on-force training. Stuster and Coffman [1] showed that there is a significant reduction in unit casualties after the first five firefights. A major contributing factor to the higher casualty rates in those first five firefights was improper use of cover and concealment. The shortcomings in laser engagement systems provide negative training that results in improper use of cover and concealment in combat. Lasers are blocked by obstacles that provide only concealment in the real world but also appear to provide cover in training using Instrumented-Tactical Engagement Simulation System (I-TESS) or other laser engagement systems. Addressing this shortcoming, then, has the potential to reduce Marine casualties in their initial firefights. In addition, with laser engagement systems, basic rifle marksmanship skills are not reinforced, such as leading moving targets and adjusting barrel elevation based on target range. In fact, laser engagement systems reinforce bad habits in these areas. Finally, a major weapon system in the infantry squad is the M-203 grenade launcher. The grenadier cannot practice employment of this key squad weapon during force on-force training, and squad and platoon leaders cannot train on the tactical employment of these systems. The Marine Corps seeks a technology that makes minimal use of appended equipment, such as I-TESS harnesses and halos, to support live training. The Marine Corps envisions a system that calculates the trajectory of the munitions and determines a hit or miss against stationary, moving, and partially occluded targets at realistic ranges and does not require appended lasers. Ideally such a system would use the day or night scope that is (or will be) part of a front-line Marine’s go-to-war kit.

All proposed systems must accomplish the following objectives (a) determining the accuracy/effectiveness of weapons engagement by individual marines using squad/platoon level weapons, (b) providing accurate and immediate feedback to the marine targeted, and (c) utilizing a system that can differentiate between concealment and cover (protection) from weapons engagement will be considered. In addition, the Marine Corps seeks an alternative technology to laser based systems that meet the following parameters:


- Enables Marines to engage in force-on-force events at ranges of at least 375 meters, and preferably longer.


- Enables Marines to engage targets that are partially occluded by foliage and vegetation during force-on-force training.


- Computes real-time casualty assessment in force-on-force training in daylight, night, and in the presence of obscurants.


- Requires Marines to lead moving targets.


- Requires Marines to raise or lower the barrel of the rifle based on target range (the “bullet” travels in a realistic parabolic path, rather than a straight line).


- Enables Marines to use their organic squad weapons (threshold: semi-auto rifle and grenade launcher; objective: burst fire and automatic weapons).


- Makes minimum use of appended equipment.


- Uses munitions trajectory and damage assessment models similar to those used by virtual and constructive simulations, allowing for LVC interoperability.


Ideally this technology is equally applicable to vehicular combat as well as infantry combat.

One possible concept of how an OBSAT might work is to use a client-server approach similar to the current laser-based system. A main server performs combat adjudication, determining if a shot hits and the severity of the hit by having a real-time understanding of where every Marine (client) is within the training area. To maintain this awareness each Marine is instrumented with a GPS and inertial sensor via a Marine-Worn computing device (similar to a smart phone) that constantly updates the server on the location of the Marine. Besides the computing device the Marine is also equipped with a special optic on their weapon and a weapon orientation device. When a Marine pulls the trigger the system detects that a shot has been fired (similar to the way the current laser based force on force system works) and the following events occur:


(1) The Marine’s site picture and weapon orientation are sent to the server via the computing device.


(2) Using the provided information the server determines if the target in the site picture was hit, where and how badly.


(3) If the server determines that the target has been hit it informs the targets computing device that the Marine has been hit and the severity. The targeted Marine receives an audible cue informing him that he has been hit.


Proposals based on different concepts or approaches that are capable of meeting all required objectives and performance parameters will be considered.

The Phase I Option, if awarded, should include the processing and submission of all required human subjects use protocols, if required. Due to long review times involved, human subject research is strongly discouraged during Phase I base, but may be appropriate for the option.

PHASE I: Demonstrate the technical feasibility for the development of an Optically Based Small Arms Force-On-Force Training System that addresses the current shortcomings of laser-based systems and meets many or all of the desired additional capabilities discussed in the Description section. The feasibility demonstration must work with an M-16, M-4, or acceptable surrogate at ranges of 150, 250, and 375 meters. The Phase I effort may involve appended equipment if there is a clear technology path to significantly reduce use of appended equipment as the technology matures.

PHASE II: Based on the Phase I effort, the small business will fully develop a prototype Optically Based Small Arms Force-On-Force Training System (OBSAT). This prototype system must demonstrate reduced need for appended equipment through the use of equipment that is in the fielding pipeline. The small business will also develop the engagement system technology to integrate with a real Thermal Weapon Scope (to be provided for this effort by the Government as GFE). The small business will also improve overall system latency and increase the number of supportable simultaneous trainees. Although the demonstration will be done with approximately 30 systems (2 marine squads) the Small Business must show that the fundamental underpinnings of the technology (e.g., bandwidth and computing power) are able to support over 1,000 participants. The small business must integrate their system with real M-4 rifles which will be firing blanks during the demonstration. The small business will also expand the demonstration of capability by adding one or more of the following: increased ranges, burst fire, automatic fire, and/or 40mm grenades. The result of Phase II will validate whether the prototype system is suitable and effective for live, force-on-force training in preparation for transition to Phase III.

PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: The final result of Phase III is to mature existing technology to at least TRL 6 ready to transition to a PM TRASYS program of record to eventually replace I-TESS systems for Marine live, force-on-force training. Phase III seeks to expand demonstrated prototype Phase II capabilities in a number of directions: expanding to other infantry weapon systems (e.g., machineguns), improving technology readiness level (TRL) and preparing for integration, improving accuracy and robustness, supporting vehicular combat, etc. During Phase III the small business will integrate this technology into operationally representative training events. The small business will also integrate this technology with other live, virtual, and constructive training systems. Demonstration of the applicability of this technology to testing, concept development, and even commercial applications is encouraged. Private Sector Commercial Potential: The optically based technology has applicability in the entertainment industry. This technology, once mature, could replace paintball and laser tag. Since there are no projectiles, like paintballs, it would eliminate the need for special protective equipment, replacing ammunition, and cleanup. Since no lasers are used, the system is inherently eye safe.


  • Jack Stuster and Zail Coffman, Capturing Insights From Firefights To Improve Training, Phase Final Report, Sponsored by ¬Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, ARPA Order: AT64-00, PAN RTW 2W-09, Issued by¬ United States Army Aviation & Missile Command Redstone Arsenal, AL 35898-5280, Contract Number: W31P4Q-09-C-0160, 31 January 2010, ANACAPA SCIENCES, INC., P.O. Box 519¬ Santa Barbara, California 93102.
  • Marine Corps Combat Development Command, Force Development Strategic Plan, 15 October 2015.
  • Marine Corps Combat Development Command, U.S. Marine Corps S&T Strategic Plan, 17 Jan 2015.

KEYWORDS: Force-on-force training, laser engagement systems, after action review, live-virtual-constructive

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