The U.S. Army wants to trade the decades-old Multiple Integrated Laser Engagement System, or MILES, for an advanced simulation technology to provide more realistic force-on-force training.
The Army began testing the first version of MILES in the late 1970s. It featured small, wearable laser sensors that emitted a shrill, beeping alarm when hit by another soldier's weapon laser, mounted on the end of M16 rifles and other small arms.
"It was a revolutionary step in training our soldiers how to execute direct-fire contact against a living, breathing and thinking enemy," Col. Michael Simmering, commander of the Operations Group at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California, told an audience Wednesday at the Association of the United States Army's Global Force Next symposium.
"But as our weapons capability evolved as an Army, we didn't necessarily end up evolving the MILES system simultaneously," he said. "We don't necessarily have the systems on the battlefield to replicate certain weapons effects such as the ... grenade launcher and the ability of a tank to shoot through a building."
The Army is involved in an effort to develop a Synthetic Training Environment, or STE, employing virtual and augmented reality to allow soldiers to train in realistic settings using advanced gaming technology.
"A lot of times, people will think we are trying to replace our live training environment with virtuals," said Maj. Gen. Maria Gervais, director of the STE Cross Functional Team.
While STE is a priority, Army senior leaders have directed the training simulation community to develop more effective sims for direct-fire, force-on-force training, she said.
"We have been directed to focus on our direct fire, so ... we are going to replace our MILES capability," Gervais said. "We are also going to focus on [simulated] indirect fire, and we are going to focus on counter-defilade fire," weapons systems that target enemy forces behind cover.
The accelerated effort will focus on identifying, testing and fielding new direct-fire simulation technology for units to use in small-unit training at home station, all the way up to rotations at the combat training centers, Gervais said.
"What does accelerate mean? We are trying to do this within the next two to five years," she said, adding that the effort has been reviewed by the Army Requirements Oversight Council, which has approved an abbreviated capabilities development document.
I-MILES is scheduled to become obsolete beginning in 2026, said Karen Saunders, head of Program Executive Office for Simulation, Training and Instrumentation.
"So, when the senior Army leadership looks at what am I going to invest in the future years, do they want to invest in been tried-and-true ... or do they want to invest in the next generation?" Saunders said. "I-MILES does not meet all the training requirements for direct fire and counter defilade, so we need to start looking at investing in capabilities that we can bring to the force, so we can replace I-MILES but also to get at other training engagements that don't exist today."
Simmering said that a replacement for I-MILES has to "realistically replace the effects of modern Army weapons systems, and it's got to force our soldiers during training to act exactly as they would on the future battlefield, and that is a hard task."
"The current I-MILES system allows soldiers to do things like hide behind a bush when a flurry of machine-gun and laser bullets are hitting their position, so it's got to be realistic," Simmering said. "And second, it really needs to force our soldiers to do the things they would do to prepare for combat, whether it's bore-sighting a tank, whether it's zeroing a Bradley, zeroing your individual small arms."
It also has to be simple, reliable and available for small units down to the squad level, he said.
"It's got to be something that is there 24/7 for the small-unit leader to go grab, link into and go out and train his unit," he explained.
-- Matthew Cox can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.