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IDF turns to new training simulators in quest to level up recruits

It’s no substitute for the real thing, but system set to be implemented on all infantry training bases will allow army to closely track troops’ progress as they get combat ready

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is a breaking news editor at the Times of Israel.

A soldier practices entering a room in a training facility located in the Nahal Brigade base in southern Israel, December 15, 2021. (Emanuel Fabian/The Times of Israel)
A soldier practices entering a room in a training facility located in the Nahal Brigade base in southern Israel, December 15, 2021. (Emanuel Fabian/The Times of Israel)

Using a state-of-the-art simulator with sophisticated data analysis tools and a room full of screens and projectors, the Israeli military is moving toward what it hopes will be a more accurate way to track the progress of ground troops as they go through basic training.

The simulator, located in the Israel Defense Forces’ Nahal Brigade training base in the Negev desert, is the first of many that are to be built on bases throughout the country, an army spokesperson said Wednesday.

All infantry units in the IDF will begin to use such simulators during basic training by the end of 2022, according to the military spokesperson. While it won’t replace actual training, it is being touted as a better way to track soldiers and find ways for them to improve.

The facility comprises five stations that soldiers rotate through during the day, allowing them to train for multiple skill sets.

A 270-degree screen allows up to four soldiers to drill for coordination; a simulated street enables a squad to hone its firepower; a replica apartment meticulously tracks a team’s breaching capabilities; a dummy torso records a soldier’s physical strength; and an individual shooting range develops their reaction time and ability to focus.

The soldiers, equipped with their usual tactical gear, are given smart wristbands that track and record their data while they train in the simulator.

“In the past, we had no way of properly analyzing if soldiers breached into a room correctly. There was just no way of doing that,” Captain Uri Getter, a company commander in the 932nd Infantry Battalion, told The Times of Israel.

Soldiers train in a mock apartment in a training facility located in the Nahal Brigade training base in southern Israel, December 15, 2021. (Emanuel Fabian/The Times of Israel)

“Now I can see exactly where a soldier or the squad needs to improve,” he said.

The apartment, for instance, consists of five rooms, each equipped with ultra-short-throw projectors to display enemies, as well as sensors and cameras that record how the soldiers operate. Commanders can then replay an entry to a room from multiple angles to analyze their performance in detail.

The soldiers’ performance data is also available for their own review, to compare with their squad’s average as well as with the rest of the battalion. They can also see graphs showing their gradual improvement over the eight-month training period.

Throughout their basic and advanced training period, the soldiers spend a few days a week in the simulator, to level up their basic skills, until they reach the standard outlined by the military.

The facility was developed by Bagira Systems, alongside the IDF’s Ground Technology Division, under the military Technological and Logistics Directorate.

Getter said he believes that his soldiers improve at a much faster rate when they can visually see their progress and understand exactly what they need to work on, and that they then successfully implement those skills in the field.

Captain Uri Getter shows a soldier his performance on a screen in a training facility located in the Nahal Brigade base in southern Israel, December 15, 2021. (Emanuel Fabian/The Times of Israel)

First Lieutenant Nir Levy, who oversees the simulator’s operation, said the computer-simulated training facility was safer than traditional live fire drills.

“In the field, a squad could fire 500-600 bullets in a day, but here it’s more like 2,000. And the risk of something happening is negligible,” Levy said.

The rifles use compressed air magazines instead of actual bullets, simulating the feeling of firing the gun with minimal risk. New equipment being introduced into the facility will record if soldiers accidentally hit each other with friendly fire during close-quarter gun battles, something that was previously nearly impossible to detect during dry-run drills, Levy said.

A soldier practices firing an M72 LAW in a training facility located in the Nahal Brigade base in southern Israel, December 15, 2021. (Emanuel Fabian/The Times of Israel)

Levy also noted the efficiency savings of the simulated training: Soldiers can train for different scenarios all in one day, without wasting time conducting long safety briefings, dry runs, setting up targets, and taking them down, he said.

The control room of a training facility located in the Nahal Brigade base in southern Israel, December 15, 2021. (Emanuel Fabian/The Times of Israel)

But Getter stressed that there is no real substitute for actual training out in the field.

“It’s complementary, separate, to outdoor urban warfare training and the [real] shooting range,” he explained.

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