For decades, pilots had flight
simulators. These devices enabled pilots to learn valuable flying skills
without leaving the ground, and in very controlled and closely monitored
conditions. This proved to be very useful. Now, without much fanfare, American
infantry have the same advantage.
The EST (Engagement Skills Trainer) 2000 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
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. Much like the payoff with flight simulators.