Published August 5, 2014
By Henry Canaday, MT2 Correspondent
Improvised explosive devices (IEDs) have been the major threat, or among the major threats, in both Iraq and Afghanistan. IEDs are likely to be similarly important in any future conflict that U.S. forces clearly dominate in conventional terms.
A wide range of technologies have been developed to deal with IEDs. But even the best tools are useless without thorough training in both threats and countermeasures. This is a point well understood at the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization (JIEDDO).
Counter-IED (C-IED) training is a collaborative effort, involving JIEDDO’s C-IED Operations Integration Center Training Integration Division, its Joint Expeditionary Team and Joint Center of Excellence, the Asia Pacific Counter-IED Fusion Center, the Army C-IED Integration Cell and Marine Corps Engineer School’s Explosive Obstacles Hazards Branch.
In all, 34 training programs are part of pre-deployment C-IED training. Some of them include a 10-day Dismounted Counter-IED Tactics Master Trainer, a three- to five-day Advanced Analytics Program, 80 hours each on intermediate search, route reconnaissance and clearance and handheld detector certification, 40 hours each of counter explosive hazards-planner and area clearance, six months for mine detection dogs, five days on advance situational awareness, and one-day courses on counter-radio controlled devices.
C-IED aids are critical, including handheld detectors and portable equipment. C-IED training uses biometrics, the handheld interagency identity detection equipment and secure electronic enrollment kit. Counter radio warfare uses the C-IED jammers Duke V3 and Thor III, and handheld devices include metal detectors Gizmo and Minehound, as well as the Holley Stick pole to search dirt. Other useful technologies are vehicle mounted mine detectors, virtual clearance training suites (VCTSs) and the Visual Improvised Explosive Device Signature Detection System.
JIEDDO said simulating IED threats realistically is one of the most difficult parts of C-IED training. And more training could be done for partner nations. Finally, JIEDDO wants to institutionalize the C-IED lessons and skills acquired in the past decade.
Private firms have been active in many phases of C-IED training.
“The Army faced several challenges in conducting C-IED route clearance training,” said Christian de Graff, business development manager of FAAC (Fabbrica Automatismi Apertura Cancelli), an Italian manufacturing firm. First, nearly all route-clearance gear went directly to theater, leaving little for training at home. Second, much equipment was heavy or operated at frequencies that interfered with commercial systems, so use was restricted in the United Steates Third, most engineers are in the Reserves, with limited access to equipment. So C-IED training tended to be a high-risk, non-standard mission performed with specialized equipment in theater.
De Graff said these challenges created training gaps only partially filled by using surrogate vehicles at mobilization stations and combat training centers. The Army wanted a virtual training system so soldiers could train the way they fight.
In May 2011, the Army selected FAAC to supply the VCTS. VCTS is a mobile system housed in four 53-foot semi-trailers. One trailer has the instructor/operator station, after-action review and classroom space. Another trailer has simulators for mine-protected clearance vehicles like the Buffalo. The two other trailers contain two medium mine-protected vehicles like the Panther with gunner station, one vehicle-mounted mine detector and one man-transportable robotic system.
VCTS was developed through a partnership of PEO STRI, the Maneuver Support Center of Excellence at Fort Leonard Wood, the Edgewood Chemical Biological Center at Aberdeen and FAAC. The first of 28 suites were delivered in July 2012. Four VCTSs are now in Germany, Korea and Hawaii, and the others are in the continental United States.
Each VCTS has 140 individual and group training scenarios. Instructors can generate new scenarios, induce faults and modify environmental effects like wind, fog, smoke, dust, rain and snow to vary training conditions. De Graff said this increases complexity and prevents soldiers from handling VCTS too easily. A scenario generation tool also enables instructors to modify enemy tactics and procedures as these evolve in real combat.
VCTS trains on driving skills, digging and probing for IEDs with Buffalo’s interrogation arm, using crew-served weapons, and detonating IEDs with Talon robots. Husky operators can learn IED detection and marking.
VCTS also teaches crew coordination and communication and unit tactics, techniques and procedures. One VCTS can do both individual and group training simultaneously. Up to 24 soldiers can train in trailers two to four while up to 40 personnel plan missions in the first trailer.
Inert Products offers functional and static IED training aids. These aids include package bombs, domestic pressure cookers and AK-47 magazine booby traps, to name a few. These can be visual mock-ups or fully functional IED training systems, which can be customized to fit a client’s needs.
“These training aids are used worldwide to aid in the recognition and detection of harmful IEDs,” said Donald Buza, president of Inert Products. “We also offer posters and videos for this effort. When something new is used we can quickly design and produce a replica to be used to meet the challenges of the emerging threat. We also manufacture many other replicas such as inert ordnance and munitions, replica weapons, and a variety of kits used by all branches of service and other government agencies.”
Buza added that a challenge in developing this type of technology is that IEDs are an evolving threat and the tactics of those who use them are constantly changing.
“Hopefully it [counter-IED technology] will become more standardized,” said Buza. “We may never be able to replicate every possible scenario or device, but we must do all we can to ensure that regardless of location all personnel receive the same base level of training.”
Inert Products plans to release a new Penalty Box, which has its own siren or can serve as a bridge to function with other reporting systems currently in use. Penalty Boxes alert trainees to IEDs that detonate while training. They also plan to release a new propane/oxygen blast simulator.
Another firm, A-T Solutions, delivers intelligence, technology, training and mission support for counterterrorism. It offers C-IED training, instructor training and curriculum development, according to President Dennis Kelly. A-T courses include classrooms, live scenarios and role-playing to fully experience the IED environment and understand how enemies think. Technology-enabled blended and distributed learning train both military personnel and others, including law enforcement.
Kelly said experience and real-time intelligence allow A-T to rapidly deliver both courses and devices for each training objective. “Most significant and distinctive … is deep and current subject matter expertise about the relentless and ever-changing terrorist threat.”
Kelly added A-T now has the greatest concentration of explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) and C-IED experts in the private sector. The company has helped more than 200 customers in more than 40 nations.
Late in 2013, A-T acquired GreenLine Systems, giving it new capabilities in maritime security, risk management and cross-border movement of ships, goods and people. The company will soon release important software upgrades for its data collection toolkit (DCT). This DCT enables commanders and on-site teams to maintain situational awareness, and is available in mobile, Web and client versions.
Don Schmidt, senior vice president of Cyalume, which provides tactical and training solutions, explained that his firm’s training solutions include devices that simulate 155 mm and 120 mm rockets, pipe, bombs, bomb vests for suicide bombers and training grenades. “All create a loud explosion and smoke. The device pops a smoke signature and anyone within a certain radius will know if he would be killed or be a casualty.”
Called non-pyrotechnic explosion simulation, Cyalume devices can be buried in the ground and detonated remotely with wireless controls. Though they create shock effects, the devices are perfectly safe. Even soldiers standing directly over the exploding device will not be hurt.
Cyalume also provides staff who participate in multicultural role-playing to train National Guard units at Fort Hood in defeating IEDs. These staff speak local languages, such as Arabic or Pashtu. And Cyalume partners with other training firms, such as Cubic and Saab, on C-IED training.
Tactical Electronics provides products and training for explosive ordnance disposal to law enforcement and the military. It was founded to provide EOD operators and special operators the training and tools needed to excel in real-world challenges. It offers 18 C-IED courses and an extensive line of EOD tools and camera systems, noted Vice President of Training Scott Waterman. The curriculum includes 10 training courses for military EOD operators and law-enforcement bomb technicians, with other courses oriented to other organizations. Courses include IED electronics and circuit diagnostics, manual neutralization techniques, vehicle access and alarms, K-9 odor imprinting and many others. These courses are available in Oklahoma, Virginia or via mobile training team at locations chosen by each client.
Tactical Electronics designs training aids to enhance skills of EOD operators. It custom-builds these aids to mimic IEDs realistically. Waterman said designers constantly evaluate IED trends to develop highly authentic training aids.
The company also offers a large selection of EOD tools and kits based on user feedback. Wireless cameras give operators visual access into packages, rooms and suspect IEDs. The video is transmitted wirelessly to wrist-mounted or handheld monitors. Tactical’s wireless camera systems include video fiberscopes with working channels, handheld inspection tools, pole cameras, K-9 cameras and under-door cameras.
The company currently supports training in special operations commands and other defense units, in addition to law-enforcement agencies. Waterman emphasized that Tactical Electronics customizes each training curriculum for the client’s requirements. He believes his firm has an edge due to a large staff of full-time trainers. Tactical instructors have more than 90 years of combined professional experience.
Tactical recently developed an Advanced Threat Assessment course and is developing an IED awareness train-the-trainer course.
The Marines use VT MÄK’s Enhanced Company Operations Simulation (ECOSim) to train captains two weeks prior to deployment in Afghanistan, noted Marketing Vice President Dan Brockway. “ECOSim trains IED-defeat missions by simulating sophisticated human networks of financiers, bomb makers, safe houses, leaders and emplacers.” These IED networks operate against a backdrop of civilian behavior such as farming, children attending school and families going to marketplaces, and religious services.
ECOSim offers ease-of-use, rapid scenario generation and realistic human simulation. It is the fruit of five years of collaboration between the Marines, JIEDDO and VT MÄK. A Marine can be trained in 10 minutes to operate the system to command searches, patrols and detentions while monitoring intelligence data provided by unmanned systems and cameras.
Brockway said the Air Force Special Operations Command also makes heavy use of human simulation for training in manned and unmanned reconnaissance. For example, noticing the walking behavior of men carrying 155 mm rounds is important in sorting out targets.
All this is made possible by VT MÄK’s DI-Guy Artificial Intelligence (AI), which can create autonomous, terrain-aware characters that navigate intelligently. The military uses DI-Guy AI to author IED network and emplacement logic easily and flexibly. VT MÄK’s new DI-Guy 13.0 has opposing force appearances from many hot spots around the world, increased speed for crowds of thousands and many other enhancements.
Another VT MÄK technology, VR-Forces, is a complete simulation solution, offering a powerful and flexible Computer Generated Forces platform that fills virtual training environments with urban terrain, battlefield situations, maritime scenarios and activities in these environments.
CACI International was one of four companies recently awarded a blanket purchase agreement with a total potential value of $408 million to support JIEDDO training. CACI has worked with JIEDDO since 2006. CACI Chief Operating Officer John Mengucci said asymmetric warfare is becoming more common and his firm has proven experience in helping defense units deal with it.
SAIC was among the three other companies included in the BPA award.