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Article – Soldier Combat Systems: Marathon Targets

Soldier combat systems have been rapidly evolving to enhance our ability to close with and engage the enemy. A driving factor in this evolution has been the clear vision of Army’s leadership to provide the best possible tools to train our forces. One of these tools is the wide range of modern targetry from Marathon Targets which has recently been trialed and introduced. The utility of these targets are best summarized by their realism, immediate feedback and versatility; and their employment is only limited by the imagination of those designing the training activity.

Marathon Manikin Target

The targets are used to test both soldiers and commanders in a realistic combat environment to simulate a mobile and dynamic enemy. These Robotic Moving Targets (RMT) can also simulate fire and movement by tilting the body below the base. With a rugged frame, this robotic small arms target can be programmed to undertake tactical tasks in accordance with the proposed enemy scheme of manoeuvre, radically advancing the level of realism achievable on field firing ranges.

The RMT have been used for a variety of roles and training scenarios:

  • Live Fire Range and Field Firing practices
  • Reality Based Training
  • Threat based opposing force (able to tactically withdraw and simulate attack)
  • Lateral and oblique rail targets
  • combat skills practice (threat prioritisation tactical patience and fire control)
  • Support to Combat Shooting Courses and Sniper Courses
  • Large scale live fire exercises for up to platoon sized groups

This article will articulate different experiences that were collected across various training evolutions. Each specific setting will be explained by describing the training objectives; the scenarios, and considerations for employment from a user’s perspective. The aim is to share 3 BDE’s collective experience in the employment of the RMT with a view to generate a basis for their use by other units and to create discussion on their future employment in a field firing setting. It is acknowledged that other units outside 3 BDE have used these targets in different settings and would be well positioned to also share their experiences with a broader audience.

Scenario 1: Sniper team leader training evolution

RMTs were used during the sniper team leader’s course in a full mission profile setting. Teams were tasked with providing over-watch of a Key Leadership Engagement (KLE) between Friendly Force Elements (FFE) and local nationals. A threat force was assessed as likely to disrupt the KLE.

As the FFE arrived, the two village elders moved out of the tent and conducted introductions. During this time, from the flank of the target area, snipers were observing the enemy force in single file. Subsequently, it was observed that they had weapons and were advancing towards the KLE. Snipers provided the FFE commander with battlefield commentary / early warning and subsequently engaged the threat group. The enemy force then broke into extended line and conducted a withdrawal.

The training objectives to be achieved were as follows:

  • Assess a sniper team leader in providing timely and accurate battlefield commentary
  • Positive Identification (PID) of threat
  • Use of precision fires to destroy the threat if required

Target set up. RMTs were positioned on a rear slope with six robots acting as an enemy force and two robots inside an 11 x 11 tent replicating local national village elders.

Scenaro 2: Sniper concentration training evolution 

Sniper teams were tasked to observe and be prepared to neutralise threat elements within a Targetable Area of Interest (TAI). Due to the terrain, teams were forced to communicate and battle-track the targets through the tree line and identify a point at which they could engage.

The training objectives to be achieved were as follows:

  • Sniper team ability to provide timely and accurate battlefield commentary
  • PID of threat
  • Use of coordinated precision fires to destroy the threat if required

Target set up. The targets were positioned in a scrape that was obscured in parts by a tree line from the firing point. Targets were dressed differently and carrying weapons in different positions in order to allow the teams to PID the correct target and battle-track individual robots amongst the others.

Scenario 3: Section and platoon live fire training evolutions

An enemy squad position and a wire protective obstacle was observed by a friendly recon patrol and sniper pair that provided overwatch and guides to the Platoon assault force. As the engineer element moved from the Form Up Point (FUP) to the breach site, a RMT reacted from a likely sentry position by withdrawing to the enemy squad position and ‘alerting’ them of the assault. The assault force then moved through and cleared the enemy position. As the position was secured, multiple RMTs conducted an enemy counter-attack (CATK), ‘fire and moving’ toward the position.

The training objectives to be achieved were as follows:

  • Integration of ground Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance (Recon patrol and sniper team) IOT answer intelligence requirements of the relevant commander
  • Section live fire assault, withdrawal and ambush by day and night
  • Platoon live fire assault, withdrawal and ambush by day and night enabled by a manual engineer obstacle breach

Target set up. Robotic targets were employed in conjunction with traditional targetry in both section and platoon level live fire activities. A single marathon target was used as a sentry observing the obstacle. An enemy section position was set up using targets such as Multi Purpose Infantry Target Systems (MPITS)and alphie dolls with bunkers. Additional marathon targets were hidden in dead ground and used as a mobile enemy Counter Attack (CATK) force. The speed at which the targets advanced provided a realistic expectation of an enemy CATK force. This increased the pressure for the commander to ensure the fighting withdrawal was conducted as fast as possible.

The use of robotic targetry for the CATK provided an infinitely more realistic and readily understandable situation for the commander to react to than use of traditional MPITS targets as it could provide digital feedback on the number of hits and ricochets.

Considerations

  1. Time to set up targetry. On average the time taken to set up a Section or Platoon range was six hours. This needs to be taken into consideration by the OIC of the range and generally should be conducted 24 hours prior to the execution of the range. Additionally, the marathon target operators need to be booked and briefed on how the range is to be set up and what the required enemy reactions will be. It should be noted that Marathon Targets retain all mapping and programming of the ranges therefore reducing the requirement to re-map if you use the same training area again. An example of this is currently being developed at Mount Stuart Training Area in Townsville.
  2. Booking. Booking the Marathon Targets is relatively simple; the unit operations cell contact Marathon directly via email or phone. The target operator will contact the unit to ensure they can understand the user’s intent and provide the effects required, as well as discussing planning time for mapping of the targets.

Feedback

An additional key feature that the RMTs provide is instant and detailed statistics of the effectiveness and accuracy of the firers. Every hit is registered and includes feedback between the separation of lethal hits to the head, spine and vital organs, as well as non-lethal hits to the extremities such as hands, arms and shoulders.

This information can be used to assist soldiers’ individual application of fire against the target and therefore identify weaknesses that will determine future training requirements. This is also applicable for the effective use of fire control orders and break-in at the team level.

Conclusion

The way forward for this capability is entirely dependent on the user specific training objectives and their individual innovation. Information sharing across the. RAR and broader user group will assist greatly in the application of the targetry and shorten the  learning loop for all personnel. Perhaps in future programs like Training Area Safety and Management Information Systems (TASMIS) could contain the range trace and subsequent’ enemy’ mapping to enable individual platoons to conduct field firing with greater ease and with minimal notice.

This article should primarily serve as a start state for others to build and develop their own working knowledge of our gaps in the combat shooting capability with a view to better inform our course coaching methods and proficiency standards.

Overall, the  greatest utility in the robotic target can be  found in its versatility. The capacity to support a ‘crawl, walk, run’ training methodology, with respect to both basic marksmanship and reality based training evolutions; robotic target platforms are a key in enhancing our lethality, survivability and battle cunning as a dismounted fighting organisation.


About the author: Jack Westhorpe is currently OC Alpha Company, 2RAR. Previous postings have included 1RAR, SOCOMD and RMC-D.

This article was compiled with the assistance of Ashley Moran, 1RAR and Andrew Davis, 3RAR.


Disclaimer

The Cove is a professional development site for the Australian Profession of Arms.  The views expressed within individual blog posts and videos are those of the author, and do not reflect any official position or that of the author’s employees – see more here.  Any concerns regarding this blog post, video or resource should be directed in the first instance to hello@cove.org.au.

One thought on “Article – Soldier Combat Systems: Marathon Targets

  1. This targetry and scenario training would provide an excellent opportunity for other ISR assets to train with the infantry soldiers e.g Electronic Warfare and UAS operators. These systems used in conjunction with a communication script and coordinated target movements would enable the ISR assets to provide real time information to the commander IOT allow him to decide the best course of action.

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