Training: Need for a New Approach

Sub Title : The need for applying modern training solutions

Issues Details : Vol 16 Issue 6 Jan – Feb 2023

Author : Brig Amul Asthana (Retd)

Page No. : 50

Category : Military Affairs

: February 6, 2023

To meet  the training needs for today’s warfare, a transformation is required in our training methodology. The means currently available are inadequate and need to be diversified. There is ample scope for applying modern training solutions to herald this transformation and attain our training aspirations. This is where technology can  help duly aided by appropriate policies

Taking a look at recent conflicts, I get a feeling that better training of the soldier, of the leader and of the outfit may have delivered completely different outcomes! Be it the conflict in Ukraine, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan and so on, training was one of the key factors contributing to the outcome.

But training has taken a lower priority in recent decades as compared to acquisition of hardware and also due to sundry distractions from real training.  In the Indian setting, urbanisation and restricted funding have resulted in a severely constrained training environment beset with numerous challenges. On the other hand, ground warfare has transformed dramatically.  There is a need for todays’ training to match the needs of current and emerging warfare.

There is a need for a transformation in what we train for, transformation in how we train and in how we ‘measure’ the training standards achieved.

Transformation in our training should deliver the following goals :-

  • Training across the vast domain of the training requirements of the modern warfare
  • Quantified and automated measurement of training of individuals, leaders and formations
  • Overcome the challenges to training that severely constrain training today

What we train for.  Every soldier, operator, leader and outfit has got multiple roles today, more so than earlier wars. In the emerging combat landscape there are now more players and there are several domains that are difficult to visualise, difficult to exploit optimally and difficult to defeat, because they are less ‘tangible’; they are more challenging to apply and practice during training. For example, precision shoots, optimal application of missiles, rockets, offensive cyber, CBRN, discerning surveillance and even inter and intra service procedures!  It is equally challenging to fully grasp the application of modern war by adversaries and to practice counter measures and see if they worked in a particular combat framework.

On the other side, good old soldier skills are required no less than in yester years; the rugged, indefatigable sharp shooting, alert trained soldier and leader wins wars today as ever before. Not to forget training for ultimate close combat and even primitive combat, as we may call it! Just to put the requirement in perspective, from task, specialisation and training point of view, there is a vast variety of soldiers, officers, units and equipment and hence the training requirement of each is different (in thousands of variations).  So, in this article, we are dealing with training as generic whole and not training needs of specific type of units.

Winning todays’ war, thus, requires multi domain training and multi skill training.  The fighting forces and equally the supporting forces indeed need a lot of training, intense training, frequent refresher training and above all a measure of combat training.  There is a need for a ‘score’ of readiness of all forces, of units, of soldiers and of their leaders.

The need for multi-skill training is further accentuated by the manpower optimisation charter of ‘transformation’; which effectively requires the Army to fulfil its combat tasks with significant manpower reduction (possibly a 30% manpower reduction, or some say even 45%!). So, every soldier must be able to well perform the role of practically any other soldier.

We may well deduce that the Army does need multi-skill training, but today we are hamstrung even achieving basic levels of training; so how can we achieve this distant and impossible looking goal? How do we overcome the numerous challenges to training? Well, this is what transformation in training should be able to achieve.

How to Train? Traditionally we have been training in the ‘manual’ domain, and doing pretty well.

We now consider how we can graduate towards a cohesive training regime. We do face numerous challenges, yes.  But possibly, technology could be put to use to complement our existing training tools(?).  Thus, it is proposed that transformation of Training in the Army would involve a cohesive shift towards Technology Aided Training or say TecATrain. Technology is intended only to ‘aid’ traditional training, and by no means dilute good old and time tested conventional training.  TecATrain is intended to help overcome current and real challenges to training.It is envisaged that TecATrain could  measure or deliver reality check of combat readiness of soldiers, leaders and formations alike.  At present the training readiness is, at best, an estimate and a ‘claim’ by respective military commanders. The reality of training is very different.  But, we do not have a means to ‘measure’ combat readiness.  And thus, training remains on the back-burner or even further ‘back’.  Here technology can be applied with relative ease do deliver ‘Hands free and drudgery free’ mapping of training of soldiers and the leader alike; even intuitive skills and nebulous talents, which are considered ‘un-quantifiable, can be ‘measured’ by means available today .  We can thus have a quantified real time ‘Score’ of the combat readiness and capability of each unit, formation and leader!

Multi-dextrous goals are possible due to technology. Today’s combat arms require a soldier with ‘technical’ abilities, if not expertise, to optimise the potential of the modern weapons and equipment and also to better understand the implications of hostile information warfare and non-kinetic capabilities and of course a thorough grasp of new-age means for kinetic warfare. In fact, even the mundane aspect of management of electrical power (thousands of re-chargeable batteries in a unit) requires a level of dexterity, as does the understanding of the unmanned systems emerging on the front-line battle scape!

Similarly, while the ‘technical soldier’ requires a broad band of multi-equipment skills and varied expertise, he also requires the universal soldier capability to protect himself against attack and track down attackers within the unit’s zone, at the least and much more often enough.

When it comes to the leaders, the level, depth and breadth of capabilities is truly mind boggling. The officer needs to be better at every skill than his best soldier, plus have a vast vision of the dynamics of contact and non-contact war, detailed knowledge of the enemy and a clear understanding of latest technology too. He is required to bring to bear diverse resources from variety of headquarters, channels, co-operating arms and even across different services. Of course, he is required to be a shrewd strategist who could compare with the likes of Zorawar Singh and be ruthless enemy as well. It goes without saying that he is also required to be better at ‘good old soldiering skills’ than the troops he commands, as well.

Now these capabilities are easy to put into a few lines as above, but it is very difficult to train the soldiers, the leaders and units to achieve such standards. Again, technology can come to the rescue. For example, high-fidelity simulators, superior audio-visual programmes, highly immersive means for augmented reality, mixed reality, realistic physical models and virtual models, mobile based information packages, war games, serious games, strategy games and numerous such like means have made it possible to train a person across a very large variety of skills, and also to automatically measure the dexterity achieved.  This can be done at individual level, team and

sub-unit level and at formation and army level just as well. We only have to ‘ask’ and technology could come to the rescue!

One of the main reasons of reduced training levels are immense and increasing challenges to training.  Today’s leader is generally ‘under-read’ and the soldier is predominantly from an ‘urban’ stock, and often less hardy.

Increasing ‘development’ has put a serious constraint on military training facilities like training areas, firing ranges and even scope for activities like good old long distance route marches. On the other hand, ammunition has become very expensive to afford and too lethal to fire! Lethal missiles, tank munition and grenades are but a few examples.  Hence, ammunition is a serious handicap. Similarly expensive platforms have limited shelf life and costly maintenance schedules; this places another constraint on extensive and intensive hands on training, which is definitely required – lest our tanks get bogged down somewhere due to lack of expert drivers and under trained leaders!

Another challenge is the availability of manpower for training. The commitment of officers and soldiers on multifarious duties keeps them away and units find it difficult to dedicate sufficient manpower for real training. These realities are very difficult for the hierarchy to remedy. It is also very easy for all to simply overlook the dire state of training; because, after all, level of training is a judgement and there is no quantified ‘measure’ of combat readiness training! And thus, all can claim (and accept) higher training levels than actual.

Once again, maybe technology could come to the rescue. Very capable wargames could help grasp the huge and diverse canvas of today’s battle scape, they could help understand nebulous domains like cyber, information, surveillance, precision shoots, terrain, logistics, inter and intra service co-ordination, crafty war-planning, weaknesses and gaps and in fact the entire scope of kinetic as well as non-kinetic warfare as applicable at respective levels. Such wargames could also quantify and map the acumen of leaders too. A variety of simulators and modern audio-visual-haptic devices can help deliver realistic, intense and role specific training along with automated skill mapping. Hence, we may state that technology today offers means to reduce the impact of challenges to training offer very high training value and even deliver very significant cost savings.

Opposed training. War is severely and savagely contested; only the winner survives. But almost all our training, necessarily, is one-sided or un-opposed.  We continue to conduct war games, operational discussions, plan obstacle crossings, attacks, strikes, sundry manoeuvres, stage manage huge exercises with troops and with real life platforms, but all without an ‘effective’ opponent.  Hence it does not matter if the logistics planning was shallow, or we did or did not carry ammunition, it does not matter if I forgot to carry the sight of my rocket launcher, or if the enemy did in fact monitor the movement of each asset and would in reality have decimated our potent forces in their tracks! But, of course, never has the punching bag defeated the boxer!   The result of this one sided, umpire driven training, in fact, may well be labelled as ‘negative training’, as it is largely bereft of reality and in fact, completely opposite of what reality is.  Indeed, we may be under playing the capabilities of actual adversaries and even be unaware of how the adversary may apply his capabilities and even surprise us(which does happen!).

But what to do, what is the answer? We cannot be firing rockets, missiles and launching hundreds of sorties, we cannot have large formations scourge across our ‘developed’ lands! Well, technology could help and we must examine the possibilities.  Maybe, we could take a peek at what they use.  Indeed, realistic opposed training could spell the difference between victory and defeat. What technology offers today is a laser based ‘Force-on-force’ training solution that can integrate all combat resources like weapons, tanks, vehicles, missiles, helicopters, aircrafts etc so that opposing forces can ‘fight’ each other as equals.  These fighting forces can also form part of larger level war games.  Hence, from strategic masterstrokes, to logistic planning down to actual actions by respective formations, units and troops can ‘fight’ it out in a realistic canvas – if a weapon has run out of munition or a bridge is destroyed, or mines have been laid – well they will all have real and logical consequences.  This Force-on-force training exercises the leadership, formations, planners, logisticians and the troops alike.  That is the realistic opposed training possible today.  We could exploit it and derive true training value.  Similarly, it is only at war games that huge – country level forces, diverse weapons and macro level stratagem can be honed; own and adversary gaps and weak points can be identified and plans can be evaluated and studied.

So, if modern training solutions can indeed be used to deliver much higher and just the relevant training, then why are we not exploiting them extensively?  Well, there are five main factors.

First, simulators have actually come of age rather recently – in the last 10-15 years and achieved the optimum level of fidelity that satisfies the training needs of the military.

Second, there is a dearth of Indian origin ‘data’ that proves that modern training solutions can indeed deliver much better training, and deliver cost saving; both these are required to embark on any new path or any procurement.

Thirdly, the military continues to consider that the current state of ‘un-measured’ training is ‘good enough’ and hence would rather spend on operational hardware than on training solutions, which the military may feel delivers only ‘uncertain’ results.

Fourth, there is a lack of connect with what the industry can offer and what the Army needs; and a gap in the awareness about available modern training systems.

And lastly, up until August 2021, there was no overarching policy on application of war games and modern training solutions.

To summarise, to match the training needs for today’s warfare, a transformation is required in our training.  There is ample scope for applying modern training solutions to herald this transformation and achieve our training aspirations. However, a pragmatic policy and guidelines are required to be put in place to enable the Army to adopt a more modernised training methodology.