Army to Replace ‘Laser Tag’ System for Soldier Training

By Stew Magnuson

Lockheed Martin photo

ORLANDO — For more than four decades, the Army, other militaries and law enforcement agencies around the world have used a laser-based system to train personnel using small arms in force-on-force exercises.

With lasers attached to guns, a trainee fires at an opponent — or perhaps a vehicle — outfitted with a series of sensors. If he or she scores a hit, the victim is alerted and could be declared injured or dead.

It is a high-end, more sophisticated version of laser tag.

But now, the Army is looking to replace the Multiple Integrated Laser Engagement System, better known as MILES.

The laser-based technology has been a part of soldier training since the early 1980s, although the system the Army uses has undergone several upgrades since then. The latest was in 2012.

It is looking more like the Army will have to come up with a new acronym for the system as the “L” in MILES is likely to go away, said one senior Army official.

“We can arguably go out and buy a new laser-based system that will be a new version of the old technology. But our senior leaders have told us not to do that: don’t go out to buy new versions of old technology,” said Brig. Gen. William Glaser, director of the Army Synthetic Training Environment Cross-Functional Team, during a panel discussion at the Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation and Education Conference in Orlando, sponsored by the National Training and Simulation Association.

Optical and GPS-paired devices are among the new concepts that could replace lasers in simulated engagement training, he said.

Ray Chandler, Lockheed Martin synthetic training environment campaign manager and former sergeant major of the Army, told reporters at one of the company’s Orlando facilities that the current version of MILES only supports about 45 percent of a brigade combat team that cycles through a combat training center.

“So, 55 percent of the combat power and brigade does not have the ability to play in the battlespace for the training part. That’s huge. If you can go from 55 to 100 percent of all those enablers and allow everyone to be a part of the game, it’s an exciting thing,” he said.

Other flaws in laser systems include the inability to simulate indirect fires, he said. A leaf or a raindrop also can cause the laser beam to go awry, and if someone hides behind something as thin as a cardboard box, the laser can’t penetrate it even though a real bullet could, he noted.
Lockheed Martin is going the GPS route as it gears up to compete for the MILES replacement contract.

Since 2019, it has been investing its own dollars in the new system and later received Army Other Transaction Authority agreements to fund prototypes for a geo-paired system it calls SIMRES.

It allows a lightweight universal weapon orientation module about the size of a pack of gum to be placed on any type of barrel. The operator

can then input into the software its ballistics, which MILES cannot do. It also takes into account environmental conditions.

The module affixed to the barrel is paired with a sensor mounted on a soldier’s helmet, which can provide a wealth of data to instructors that they previously couldn’t collect, he said.

“If you’re firing your laser, you’re not necessarily getting any real-time feedback other than a hit,” Chandler said.

The new system can record where the soldier was looking, track his movements on the battlefield, time how long it takes to acquire a target and fire, and also tell instructors when he pointed his weapon at a friendly.

The company is currently working on three OTAs to create prototypes for M4 rifles, M320 grenade launchers and ground combat vehicles.

A spokesman for Glaser said the Army is looking to field a MILES replacement in about 2027. ND

Topics: Army News