Polish Industry Responds to Demands Created by Modern Field Training Methodologies

Autocomp Management's HQ. Image Credit: Autocomp Management
Autocomp Management's HQ. Image Credit: Autocomp Management

The latest control system for a modernized tactical training facility, named “Twierdza” [Stronghold], developed by Autocomp Management, is already operational. First field training range where the solution is going to be applied is located in Nowa Dęba. The system makes it possible for the military to conduct training at night and during the day, with the use of thousands of targets. It has also been used during the Lampart 2019 exercise that has just come to an end. Its goal was to ensure force integration at a Brigade level, but also to allow the Polish Highland Brigade to obtain a NATO VJTF certification.

Article prepared by Autocomp-Management Sp. z o.o.

Presence of the allies at the Polish field training facilities created a demand for evolution within the scope of organization and planning of live-fire and tactical training activities. So far, these were being carried out in line with rules and procedures defined by the Polish Armed Forces. The field training facilities, such as tactical ranges, live fire shooting ranges used by infantry or those used by tanks and combat vehicles were all being designed in a manner that would meet the requirements defined within the national training programmes. Emergence of new armament, a myriad of ammunition types used by the contemporary armies and different rules applicable to tactical and live fire training forced the OSPWL (Ośrodki Szkolenia Poligonowego Wojsk Lądowych - Land Forces Centres of Field Training) facilities to adapt to the new circumstances.

The changed training methodology and, above all, joint training undertaken between NATO and the Polish military within the training ranges, in a myriad of weather conditions, at night and during the day and with the use of all of the available fire control system altogether created a need to rapidly tailor the field training facilities to the newly emerging requirements.

The above pertained to controlling of a higher number of targets embedded within the training ranges used by infantry, combat vehicles or MBTs. Nevertheless, it was also relevant to extend the ranges at which the fire training was conducted. Furthermore, it was necessary to establish a capability to carry out a single exercise at several training ranges. All of the above had to be achieved with safety treated as an absolute priority. Another stimulus for changes came in a form of new armament, using new munitions and offering a greater range.

Tactical field training range. Image Credit: Autocomp-Management.

Orzysz Field Training facility used by the Polish military has now become an arena where training activities involving the allies are taking place as well. The soldiers stationed there, belonging to the NATO Battalion Battle Group, actively make use of the training facilities located close to the garrison. Tanks/combat vehicles shooting range and tactical field training range located in Wierzbiny are being used quite intensively. The allies conduct main battle tank and combat vehicle live fire training there, along with a number of fire control exercises of a varied multi-variant profile, at the company and platoon level.

To meet the requirements listed above, at the aforesaid facilities and at the infantry training ranges in Orzysz, software for wireless targets control has been updated. The Autocomp Management WSB-04/M system mentioned here provides immediate results-related feedback to the trainees. The system has also been localized, so that English-speaking operators can use it as well. Thanks to the above, the NATO allies can control the target field on their own.

WSB-04/M system switchgear. Image Credit: Autocomp-Management.

The wireless target field control systems providing immediate feedback - the WSB-04/M solution - have been successfully used at the Polish field training facilities since almost 25 years now. The WSB-04 variant - which was the first version - was introduced into the inventory of the Polish Armed Forces back in 1998. Then the system underwent a thorough modernization. Its current variant (known as “WSB-04/M Wireless Control System with Feedback”) was reintroduced into use in the Polish military on the basis of the decision no.8/Log of the General Logistics Management (P4 SG WP) issued on 27th March 2002. Since years, this solution has been reliably allowing the user to carry out tasks resulting on the grounds of the “Firearms fire training programme”, Training Signature 857/2012, and “Combat vehicles fire training programme”, Training Signature 856/2012. The system makes it possible to conduct varied training scenarios as well.

WSB-04/M makes it possible to control up to 32 thousand targets within the individual target fields over the radio (systems lifting up the targets, moving targets, line breach sensors, short stops recorders, warning signals) also allowing the user to yield control over the battlefield simulation systems (fire imitation devices) at ranges of up to 8000 meters. The Autocomp’s solution also allows the user to record multiple hits with continuous exposure of the target which is a relevant capacity when automatic fire is laid down the range. Furthermore, the system also handles remote and automatic heating up of the targets, when it is required to highlight them when they are observed with NVG/FLIR systems. Finally, the system can also work with other WSB-04/M solutions located elsewhere. 

WSB-04/M system synoptic grid. Image Credit: Autocomp-Management.

 WSB-04/M also enables the user to automatically or manually control the actuators with simultaneous provision of an event log. It records and signals the hits and creates reports pertaining to the technical status of the controlled devices (target lifting systems, thermal targets, line-lights, limit and directional lights, signal masts, moving targets). The system also makes it possible to fuse all of the WSB-03M battlefield simulation system elements into a single organism. The said system has been developed by Autocomp as well. The training results are then archived on a hard drive. The above makes it possible to carry out post-action review, rate the individual units and calculate the quantitative profile of the workload imposed on the range. The system is user and hardware-friendly which makes preparation of exercises significantly easier.

WSB-04/M suite elements - GPS recorder on a combat vehicle. Image Credit: Autocomp-Management.

 WSB-04/M has been a proven solution that so far, it has been used in a variety of weather conditions, with temperatures starting at minus 25 degrees centigrade which means that the system is also operable in case of a heavy snowfall, rain, in the fog and at night, when the targets are illuminated by the diffused light and when the trainees use thermal imaging and NVG systems during the training activities. The system works in conjunction with the latest generation thermal target that realistically replicate the target picture in the sight. 

WSB-04/M system elements as seen through a thermal camera. Image Credit: Autocomp-Management.

 For the sake of exercises carried out with involvement of the FLIR technology, the control system works in conjunction with the WSB-04/SKT visible daylight/thermal vision camera suite that makes it possible to detect and observe the objects (targets, vehicles) during the training. This is done through programming of the positions of all of the WSB-04M-controllable objects within the control system. The “guide the camera towards” command automatically shifts the field of view, offering maximum zoom ratio, to the selected object. The camera can capture stills and movies. It can also be used to observe the soldiers and vehicles involved in training.

Due to the aforesaid reasons, the capabilities offered by WSB-04/M are much higher than those that we see in case of its counterparts. All of the above has been made possible thanks to 25 years of research and development effort. WSB-04/M is the only solution that has been certified and given proper credentials for use in case of the tactical training ranges. It is also being continuously developed by the manufacturer.

Autocomp Management is intensely working on integrating the WSB-04M system with unmanned reconnaissance assets, as these become a common sight on the contemporary battlefield, being used both by own, as well as by the enemy forces. The integration expected by the military would expand the capabilities offered by WSB-04M which, consequently, would enable the commanders to realistically involve air recce assets in the field training operations and to directly designate targets for the fire assets. The integration in question would also allow for control of mortars and artillery support, adjustment of the firing solutions and training in counter-UAV scenarios.  The video feed from the unmanned recce assets to the exercise director done online would also improve the safety levels, by ensuring proper supervision of the training area.

WSB-04/M - operator station. Image Credit: Autocomp-Management.

 WSB-04/M is the sole system used within the Polish training ranges that makes use of GPS to localize the vehicles involved in the activities.  Once proper ‘short stop recorder’ (WRP-94M/S) hardware is fitted onto the vehicles, their movement can be recorded and tracked.   The target field map also includes the position of the combat vehicles which allows the commanders to monitor the exercise and training progress and to assess the effectiveness of fire laid down by the main battle tanks and APCs, after they are beyond the line-of-sight, during highly dynamic scenarios.

The system monitors the distance between the vehicles and the targets in an ongoing manner, automatically deploying the targets in line with the conditions set by the system operator. WSB-04M control system is the only solution of its class in Poland, meaning that it makes it possible to conduct fire control exercise during an offensive engagement with a preprogrammed exercise scenario put into place. During the attack, the system can automatically fold down the targets that remain too close to the vehicles for the given weapons system, in line with the safety rules contained in chapter five of the live fire training programme - signature 856/2012. This functionality remains unique solely for the WSB-04/M solution.

WSB-04/M system elements - target field observation cameras. Image Credit: Autocomp-Management.

 The wireless control systems’ status is monitored remotely by the manufacturer. The software can also be updated remotely by the Autocomp Management company or by the maintainers. This makes a relevant contribution to reliability and efficiency the system exhibits.

According to the representatives of the OSPWL Orzysz field training facilities, all of the requirements defined by the allies and by the Polish military, when it comes to training activities, are met. The staff also suggests that the system itself, if maintained regularly, is fairly reliable. 

Nowa Dęba facility is another significant location on the map of the Polish military training facilities, along with its “TWIERDZA” [Stronghold] tactical training area. The facility, following a major modernization implemented between 2015 and 2018, has also been integrated with the WSB-04/M target field control system. The solution underwent a test during the certification of the 21st Highland Brigade that it had to undertake to be qualified as a NATO VJTF unit. The system has also been used by other Polish and foreign elements, including ones hailing from the Czech Republic, Lithuania, Spain or the UK.

It turned out that WSB-04/M is very effective, becoming a reputable solution in the eyes of the foreign user. New light and heavy targets, along with a reliable control system, make it possible to organize complicated exercises for different branches of the military. Modernization of the aforementioned training facility greatly enhanced the training capabilities it offers to the military units stationed nearby. It is possible that the allies will also start to make use of the new options available at this range. 

Varied terrain at the Polish training ranges, their vast areas, dynamic weather and expansive training options, fused with modern technologies, expansive infrastructure that is fitted with modern control systems altogether offer limitless training options to the military. All of the above, when placed alongside the professionalism exhibited by the exercise staff, contributes to the attractive nature of the Polish field training facilities. In turn, this allows for differentiated and intensive training of national and allied forces to be organized. Undoubtedly, it remains a very important aspect of the process aimed at reinforcing the Polish national security.

Article prepared by Autocomp-Management Sp. z o.o.