Infantry: Bedouin Warriors Master Electronic Bullets


March 21, 2010:  Saudi Arabia has ordered over a dozen EST (Engagement Skills Trainer) 2000 systems for their National Guard. The Saudi military has about 200,000 troops, but 75,000 of those belong to a separate force, the National Guard. This force is organized into eight brigades (three mechanized and five infantry, for a total of 32 battalions.) There are also another 24 battalions of National Guard reservists. The National Guard is well armed and trained, all of them.

Nearly all the National Guardsmen troops are Bedouins, usually from tribes that have been historical allies of the al Saud family. The king considers the Guardsmen his boys, and takes good care of them. If a Saudi needs a favor from the king, he's much more likely to get it if he is, or was a National Guardsman. The EST 2000 systems are for improving the marksmanship of the National Guard soldiers.

Each EST 2000 system consists of a movie theater size screen (but at ground level, not raised) with back projection target situations displayed as interactive movies. The troops use rifles, pistols and machine-guns that are actual weapons, but modified to fire "electronic bullets", and, via a thin cable, use a pneumatic system that provides recoil as well. There is a sound system to depict the sound of the weapons firing, as well as a computer controlled tracking of ammo fired, letting users know when they have to reload.

 Because it is a simulator, it captures a precise record of exactly where the soldiers weapon is aimed, how well the soldier pulls the trigger, and how long it takes to find and fire at the next target. This enables instructors to much more rapidly detect problems troops are having, and correct them. Tests have shown that you can take people with no weapons experience, put them through four hours of EST 2000 training, and take them to a rifle range, and they will be able to fire accurately enough to exceed military requirements.

 The simulator can be used for training troops in ways that are impractical using live ammo. For example, when used for "shoot/don't shoot" situations, the appropriate visuals (either an enemy soldier, or a civilian) are shown on the video screen. Soldiers train in a group, positioned as they would be in a real situation. The scenario then plays out, allowing the troops to practice when they should shoot, and when they should not. Training can be for day or night scenarios, and for a wide variety of situations.

 Each EST 2000 system can train 800-1,000 troops a month. An instructor runs the software that controls the system, and the training. Troops who have been through the "shoot/don't shoot" simulator report that facing the real thing was a lot easier, less bloody, less stressful and less dangerous as a result. Troops who practice other types of combat situations on EST 2000 also report excellent results in combat. The simulator not only provides better training, but does it at less coast, and is much safer. The version the Saudis are getting has improved graphics, and images of terrain commonly found in Saudi Arabia. All English text has been translated into Arabic. There are more than a thousand EST 2000 systems in use, mostly in the American military. The system was introduced five years ago.





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