03 November 2023

FWS Topics: Force-on-Force Training

All video game warriors can feel like gods of war that hunt down and kill their virtual computer-generated enemies. There, you are the predator, the one who knocks, and the one who wins the day. Once you pride yourself on taking the game to task on every difficult level, you decide to take on human-controlled avatars in the online gaming arena and the story changes...alot. You are no longer the predator, but the prey...you are the worst player on your team and tell all about how much you sucks, your parents suck for making you and that your god should be ashamed of you. That is the horrible reality of force-on-force training where you pressure test your combat skills against the living and not the computer. 

What is "Force-on-Force" (FOF) Why is it Important to Training?
One of the key concepts that filtered down from the Special Operations community is that you should train like you fight and in a static box of what should happen. No plans survives contact with the enemy and when the shits goes down, it is time to roll with it. To develop that ability, you must train for it with one of the most effective tools we have: Force-on-Force (FOF). The concept is the most effective method of training warfighters to response in combat conditions to flesh-and-blood tangos in real world situations and environments (direct fire). This allows soldiers, operators, and law enforcement to see how their gears works in pressure testing situations. how their weapons and weapon handling skills work against the living, and how the team works together to accomplish the objective. One important element to FoF is Direct Fire Force-on-Force training, in which both sides in engage each other in the real-world and not in a controlled simulator. 

Can Simulators be considered FOF?
The very nature of Force-on-Force to use thinking humans against other thinking humans in a controlled environment that allows for the enemy (or "OPFOR") to get a vote to interrupt the assault plan of the operation. An enemy that reacts, thinks, and counters. This is the way that both side of the training learn and improve. But, could simulators be used for Force-on-Force trainings? Simulators are classically used for training pilots, teenagers attempting to learn to drive, and to teach CPR via those RQI sleds. When it comes to military and law-enforcement training, the case for simulators as grown with the improves with technologies in software and hardware. Since the 1980s, simulators have been used to train tank teams, pilots, and more recently, the infantry and police officers. Using virtual reality systems, or what the US Army calls "Synthetic Training Environments (STEs)". 
These STEs are fully interactive 3D PC-based environments that attempt to create something as close to the real-thing by blending real and virtual trainings. These are still in development and testing and there is the expensive VBS3 simulators at Ft. Carson, Colorado. With all of this technology, funding, and thought, it seems that the military and LE clients of these companies working on these next-generation simulators are convicted that simulators are a valid method of training warfighters. But...are simulators a good candidate for Force-on-Force?  Certainly, simulators do indeed work for training pilots in ACM with computer generated enemy aircraft, and there has been some success with using vehicle simulators for convey combat operators, but infantry combat is a different matter with more variables in position, skill level of the enemy, movement, cover, and angle of attack. 
If the software is generating the enemy for the human to engage with and against, it is not Force-on-Force because it does provide a true test of the soldier's abilities. In video game terms, infantry combat simulators are more like PvE and more conventional FoF exercises are more akin to PvP. Even the best bots are just bots. I think if simulators are going to be used, than humans ought to be on both side of the screen. There are elements that can infantrymen can learn from simulators, but not what most traditional FoF exercise can. However, the day will come when that will change with A.I. To be continued. 

Video Games for FoF Training?
Since the 1970's, with the advent of video games, there has been though in the real world and in science fiction of using video games to train soldiers. Of course, video games that focus on firearms and war have been blamed for for mass shootings, satanic worship, and the end of western civilization as we know it. In reality, video games are not the end-all-be-all of training tools. But, that does not mean that military organizations have not use video games for training and recruitment. One of the earliest military training video games was a alternation of ATARI's Battlezone from 1980 for the US Army M2 Bradly IFV. The Bradly Trainer was an unpopular project with the team that developed Battlezone due to its association with the military. Despite the months of work, only two prototypes of The Bradly Trainer were developed with only one existing today. 
With the COVID-19 pandemic, the US Army actually used video games to maintain readiness and even use custom deigned video games for training that used networking similar to Xbox Live. These games were used mostly for tank crews to practice team work and coordination of operating the M1 Abrams MBT. These simulators used the Virtual Battlespace 3 software developed by Bohemia Interactive Simulations. According to BIS company, their VBS3 can be used for training shooting, vehicle crews, naval crews, and flight operations. In the BIS shooting simulators, laser modules are attached to the actual weapon and the operator cane be taken through shooting galleries and kill-houses via interactive screens. This is not just limited to infantry combat, but there were machine guns simulators for those mounted on naval and aerial vehicles. 
Then that brings us to the central question: can military-themed video games be consider FoF? Well, there are some considerations. When we gamers engage with games like COD, HALO, Battlefield, and RAINBOW SIX; the enemy AI is very subjection unless we are engaging with actually human controls. Few AI-controlled bots can mimic the flesh-&-bone experience and I don't think any AI can think as tactical as an experience human player. Then there is the consideration of the use of the environment in personal combat along with body position that video games cannot mimic. At this stage, there is a limit to the benefit of using video games for FoF instead of the classic methods. 

The Importance of the Pressure Testing in Training
Sifu Bruce Lee once said in his 1973 film Enter the Dragon that "Boards...Don't Hit Back." That is the philosophy of of Force-on-Force training in a nutshell. Shooting at paper or metal targets is fine for one tactical element or practice marksmanship. Training new soldiers in close quarters warfare in killhouses with paper targets is also an important building block of their tactical education on room takedowns...but, it lacks the reaction of a thinking prey that can react and resist. Adding in a human, a thinking machine or even advanced computer generated foe allows for the other side to react, counter, and hit back...even to the degree of "killing" the soldier that is training. After all, as Lord Shaxx says: "All battles are just a lesson Guardian."  This concept of pressure testing is a current topic within military, LE, and Martial Arts training. 
In the world of modern Martial Arts, the concept of pressure testing is quite the topic, especially those more traditional Martial Arts. There are a few Martial Arts where for much of their long existence, the students bent to the will and skill of their masters, despite a clear opening for a kidney punch or a kick right to the balls. Very traditional styles can suffer greatly from this and it can result in a lack of real world application. This is the current state and battle with styles like Aikido, which finds itself at a crossroads. Simply put, if you pressure test a concept and train like you fight, then you are more likely to win the day. Pressure testing allows for all sides to benefit from the interaction that is more real than easy mode training. 

The Different Types of FoF based on Service Branch
Quite often the concept of Force-on-Force are seen through the lens of infantry combat, but not everyone in the military either in the present or in the future, is a ground-pounder. So, FoF training will look different for those servicemembers that onboard ship, in the cockpit, or in the belly of a tank. 

Infantry Combat
I am not going to devote much to this type of FoF due to the amount of information already present in the article, but one of the natural FoF training environments is in the realm of footsoldier vs. footsoldier. Classically, FoF for infantry involves something that looks like expensive taxpayer funded paintball or laser tag matches in MOUT facilities or kill houses. This is direct fire FoF.  At times, combined arms mock battles are staged or mounted convey soldiers train to engage OPFOR targets from the vehicle and during dismounted operations. Due to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, vehicle based mounted infantry FoF training as focused and we can see simulators constructed around convey combat. 

Air Combat
Combat aircraft, from transport planes, attack helicopters, attack jets, and tilt-rotors are all expensive machines to run, repair, and fuel. They are also complex to fly and fight with. If you make a mistake in the actual aircraft during training, it could be your last. Combat FoF training for pilots is critical givens the complexity of ACM and ground attack. In the aircraft world, the term "captive" or "captive carried" is used for training w/ mock missiles that are of the same size, weight, and performance of a real missile. This allows for the pilot to experience firing a nearly 100% missile from the real aircraft. 
One example of this is the CATM-20 captive air-training missile for the AIM-20 missile. When it comes to aircraft gun training for FoF, one F-4 pilot informed us that dog fighting using autocannon had the hits recorded by the gun camera and blank ammo was not used. In the current aerospace combat sphere, combat pilots are currently trained to attack targets both in air-to-air engagements and air-to-ground mission for close air support of ground units. This means that simulators are being designed for the realities of both combat roles that use the multi-mission aircraft, like the new F-35. In training past, current, and future pilots, simulators have been used since the first flight simulator in 1929 with the Link Trainer by Edwin Link. 
Currently, the largest simulator is at the NASA AMES center with their vertical motion simulator. Training for combat is different than a flight simulator, and more difficult before the age of computers. Since the advent of computers, greater sense of realism as been achieved with video games becoming part of that training of new pilots and those that fancy themselves as pilots. While the simulators are useful for training, there is something about engaging the living and thinking in the actual machines...and that is were the FoF of air force combat pilots comes in. One interesting way that pilots training to take on the fighter planes of their enemies is via concepts like the "Aggressor Squadrons". Beginning in 1969, the US Navy used the A-4 Skyhawk to mimic an MiG-17 for pilots training against, but they were not real MiGs. 
Over the course of the Cold War, the US and her allies were able to get their hands on some Soviet aircraft and those prized machines were kept at the infamous Nellis Air Force base. From everything I read, the training of pilots, both civilian and military, in aircraft operations is the most expensive and dangerous of all military training. In regards to FoF for aircraft, it is even more expensive and dangerous, thus leading to more simulators being used for the instruction of ACM FoF tactics. Companies keep pushing technology to develop these types of simulators better to the goal of being no separation between the virtual and real world environments.  

Tank Combat
In the 1970's, a tank-driving simulator was constructed that was unlike another built before. A model European town and surrounding area was constructed in lavish detail by the Swiss military to save on money due to the expensive of training in actual tanks. The tank driver sat at the controls of a tank simulator and piloting the tank around the model European town to learn how to handle the tank in urban and other terrain in a miniature world. When the driver looked out, he saw the miniature world feed to him via cameras. Only one still survives today, and it is amazing tool that you can try if you are in Switzerland, you can try out yourself. One of the major tank simulators used to train tankers from 1987-1990 was SIMNET. 
This was a wide-area network for modern combined arms combat by having tanks, helicopters, and even aircraft in a simulated battlespace. Some of the SIMNET enemies were human controlled or computer controlled. SIMNET was the world's first fully operational VR system according to Wikipedia and it was developed with help from the shadowy DARPA organization. I learned about SIMNET from military TV programs and issue #10 of Punisher War Journal from 1988. The effectiveness of this training was seen during the First Gulf War with how deadly effective the US armored units were against the Iraq Soviet-era tanks. SIMNET's success led to other simulators and even helped Zipper Interactive develop the SOCOM series of video games! 
Currently, there is also the newer RVTT training simulator to instruct US Army personnel on combat convey operation in both mounted and dismounted combat operations using a real HUMVEE and a video wall system that reacts to incoming fire. In addition, close-air support, medical situations, IEDs, can be added into the simulation scenario. Beyond the simulator, tanks and armored vehicles can be used in Force-on-Force via the use of IR lasers, like the old MILES Gear and vehicle kill-switches. Of course, we could just use Oddball's paint shells: "We got our own ammunition. It's filled with paint. When we fire it, it makes pretty pictures. It scares the hell out of people"

Naval Combat and Crisis Management 
When it comes to naval combat training and even crisis training is vastly different than ground combat or even aerial combat FoF training due to the size and complexity of naval operations. One of the modern tools for the US Navy is C-Sim of the NIS that has simulate crisis via computer desktops and the NSWC Dahlgren Division Combat System Simulation (CS3). Much the FoF training that soldiers and marines get via wall 360degree simulators, the US Navy uses systems like this to training sailors in operating these massive ships and working together. These wall simulators are used to training sailors in deck-mounted machine guns like the Mk. 38, M2, Mk. 19, and the M249 against small boat asymmetric threats like pirates and boarding parties. To training the CIAW Phalanx system, drones are used to finetune the software and to test out the new DEW based Phalanx like systems, the AN/SEQ-3 and the LAWS HELIOS systems. The Crisis management part of the navy FoF is to train sailors in controlling fire and flooding in extensive trainings in simulators that have controlled fire and flooding events. 

Other Modern Force-on-Force Training Technology

Unlike its older, bigger brother Paintball, AirSoft guns are more 1:1 to their real-steel counterparts and the entire hobby/sport of AirSoft is grounded around military simulation (AKA MILSIM) play. In addition, the same tactical gear, weapon handling, reloading, and muscle memory are able to be used...and the separation between AirSoft and paintball pistol is vast with the AirSoft pistols being more like real-steel pistols and not hand cannons. While it would seem that AirSoft would be superior to paintball in being a direct fire FOF training tool, there are limitations to AirSoft. Like paintball markers, AirSoft guns cannot replicate the weight nor recoil, despite some attempts to replicate via real-action. Another elements, is that the 6mm plastic BBs often tend to spray out in a way that bullets cannot. AirSoft is very populate for FOF training centers, LE training companies, and even Hollywood film/TV training (we saw Keaun Reeves using a AirSoft pistol from some vehicle shooting training).   

Paintball (.43, .50, .68)
Paintball is a sport that I have been involved with since the late 1980's and it has evolved a great deal since the early days of tree and cattle 12 gram Co2 cylinder powered markers by the Nelson Paint Company were used in a game of survival in the summer of 1981 in New Hampshire on June 7th. It was pretty clear early on that the new sport of paintball could be used for FOF training by the military, Law Enforcement, and even civilians. Oddly, paintball has been "weaponized" as a form of less-than-lethal option for military and LE riot and crowd control. Most paintball markers use the industry-standard .68 ball size in a range of colors (not red) and shell density that are propelled out of a barrel at around 300 feet-per-second via CO2, compressed air, propane, and even a propellant primer (in the case of the Para-Ordnance MOD-85). The reason for paintball is not used as much as Simuntion or the military "laser tag" systems, like the US Army MILES, for direct fire FoF training is bullshit factor associated with paintball markers and their ammunition. The guns of paintball are beasts, odd beasts, that are not able to mimic the look, feel, or operations of a real-steel military firearm, especially in loading and range. Unlike bullets or even other FOF tools, paintballs do not always break when hitting a target, they curve in the wind, the paintballs are greatly effected by the weather, and they make a damn mess. 
Then there is the gas that powers them and issues with cleaning and maintaining the markers. This would make for a logistical nightmare for an organization as large as the US Army. While there have been advances in magazine-fed markers in the last decade (I own a mag-fed .68 Tiberius Arms T8 pistol), there are still limitations and expense. During the 2000's with the rise in popularity of paintball, especially MILSIM paintball, a California company called Real Action Paintball (RAP) developed .43 caliber paintballs for more of a 1:1 real-steel match for guns like the M4 and the SIG Sauer P226. Some fields would not accept .43 paint and there were a number of quality issues with the markers themselves. 
While some there was some law enforcement FOF training conducted with RAP .43 markers, it was limited and the company joined with some other paintball companies to form a new company in 2015.While these are the elements that do not work for paintball being used as a FOF tool, here are the positives. You can see when you hit someone and you can feel when you are hit...which is an issue with AirSoft. There is something about the way paintballs sound when they sail pass your head or impact on cover that you are behind. There is such a rush with playing paintball and while the guns cannot replicate the handling of a real-steel weapon, there is something very kinetic about paintball. 

One of the big limitations of AirSoft and Paintball is that their guns are not a replication of real-steel weapons and players that use these two systems often develop some bad habits due to the limitations of the weapons and their ammunition. Still, both have their place in direct fire FoF training, however, Simunition ammunition is more of the standard now. The earliest form of modern Simunition ammunition was the wax bullet and it has been in use for over a century, but every round had to be cycled. Modern simunition ammunition allows for modified firearms to fire the simunition ammo and often marked by being blue in color somewhere on the weapon along with some of the magazines being clear and marked. Special weapons designed specially simunition cane be bought or there are conversion kits as well. While there is still a mixture of FoF training tools, one article I read quoted an Army officer at Ft. Bliss saying that pain was a good teacher over the beeping of the old MILES gear and they preferred the use of simunition ammo for direct fire FoF training. During these FoF trainings with simunition ammunition, soldiers must wear face/eye protection. The downside to simunition FoF training is the expense of the ammunition. 

The Military "Laser Tag" MILES Gear
The most famous or infamous "multiple integrated laser engagement system" or MILES FoF training tool that works in a similar manner to the civilian laser tag systems...just much more expensive and odd. MILES gear was often seen by civilians during news stories and its inclusion in the 1986 Clint Eastwood film Heartbreak Ridge. Which I believe is one of the only films to ever show the system. For a kid of the 1980s that fought in the Great Laser War of 1986-1988, I wanted to try this system so badly, but I think my fantasies of the MILES gear was better than the reality. The system is actually older than I thought with the first MILES gear being developed for the US Army in 1978-1979 by Xerox Electro-Optical Systems. This means that MILES gear is older than paintball and the civilian copies of IR based laser tag rec systems. What MILES did for training soldiers and Marines is allow for direct fire force-on-force training that really not existed before MILES. While there were limitations to the MILES gear, it did allow for soldiers and Marines to use their weapons, not some copy, in direct fire engagements with more realistic action than ever before. 
MILES gear has sensors mounted to the soldier's helmet and torso. There weapons are affixed with an IR emitter that fires an IR signal when the weapon is fired with blank ammo. MILES gear allows for near misses, kill shots, and wounds with the I-MILES improved system that will be phases out in 2026. Of course, the MILES gear was not prefect and suffered from technical limitations, human cheating, and negative mindsets to the system. From articles and social media posts, MILES had a troubled history and some small unit commanders liked the MILES gear and thought it added to training in a way that Synthetic Training Environment (STE) cannot. I read many accounts by soldiers, Airmen, and Marines that basically stated that they hated the fucking MILES gear and wished for "real training". The real question is after 2026, will MILES be replaced with another direct fire FoF system?

The Far Future of  Force-on-Force Training: Robots, VR Worlds, and Holodecks?
With the level of technological advancement, especially in the realm of AI, robotics, and VR; the next 100 years will see the training of future military personnel to be very different than today. While there is no substitute for real-world experience and how the real-world opens the senses to train the body and mind, we could see VR taking the place of some of the old ways by generating training environments without the expense of land and materials. Future warfighters could train on marksmanship without the risk of firing real bullets or throwing real grenades. When future soldiers, Marines, Sailors, and Airmen arrive for their basic training, there will be extensive use of VR, robots, and simulators. 
Application of robots for FoF could be as OPFOR in war games, hand-to-hand sparring opponents, and even as the instructors themselves. Robots could take the place of human trainers onboard military starships due time dilation and virtual reality based simulators could be used in concert with the robotic trainers. VR would be used to test out new skills in a risk-free environment. Students could pilot new craft or use new weapons would screwing up expensive military machinery. Onboard deep space troop ships, we could see the use of VR simulators for training on their new gear that was developed while they were in hypersleep...as seen in The Forever War. 
Onboard our deep space troopship, pilots could keep their skills fresh by use of simulators while crossing gulf between star systems and along side the fighter jocks, we could the space marines training in a simulation of the exo-solar planet environment they will be deployed to. This would improve survivability and allow for officers to know the terrain they will be planning operations in. Of course, any spacefaring military organization will have their space marines assigned to off-world exo-environmental training sites, like Luna, Mars, or Titan, but given the realities of space travel, there would be need to use the transit time effectively. Another tool for providing training while in transit between Sol and Gliese 667 is using neuro-networks while the soldiers are in cyro-sleep to insert new informational packets and trainings.  Cybernetic soldiers could be trained and upgraded via this concept.  That brings us to another element of training soldiers in the distant future: location. Some future space marines would be trained on Terra or at least, in the Terran system...but other colonial citizens born on off-world colonies maybe trained at a central military world or space station, like Reach from HALO. Colonies could have their own training sites for their own colonial militia as well. 

Science Fiction and Force-on-Force Training
While training of new soldiers, marines, airmen, and sailors is a key foundational experience of any military career that solidifies bonding among the recruits; there has to be a reason to include training in a science fiction work. Sci-fi creators will show or write an FoF/training sequence to show the characters growing in their roles, learning the skills of combat, demonstrating the technologies of war present in the society, along with core character development. At times, FoF/training sequences can inform the audience of how characters feel about killing, explanation of the current state of the fictional universe, and the enemy that our characters could be facing on exo-planets. In the realm of training/FoF sequences in video games, these levels are used to train the players in the mechanics of the game, using weapons, movement, and combat flow. 
In addition, Force-on-Force experiences of our fictional space marines are an important part of their military life and so they are included if the story involves the journey of the space marines or as a flashback to those early days. This is seen in The Forever War, Old Man's War and SST. These scenes can show what their experiences or emotions might be to actually combat, or how much of badass they might be...or how much of a cherry they are. This is seen in ALIENS, during the tactical transport flight to Hadly's Hope when Lt. Gorman tells the civilians and the Colonial Marinas under his command that he has been only 2 combat drops with dozens being simulated. In the case of both Battlestar Galactica shows, the training scenes there were to illustrate the desperate need for Viper pilots and who is recruited for that important job...like shuttle pilots. Another way that sci-fi creators use the training scene in visual media is to pull the old bait-n-switch. You think that you are watching a real comabt scene only to be told that this sequence was just a training and no space marines or original Trek bridge officers were harmed. 


The "Kobayashi Maru" Starfleet Academy Simulation from the Star Trek Universe
One of the more famous introduction scenes to a film and it was a Force-on-Force simulation with 23rd century technology was the infamous "Kobayashi Maru" test in the Starfleet Academy San Francisco campus. In bridge simulation test, senior cadets are put into the simulator to pressure test their thinking in the "no-win scenario" of the Kobayashi Maru. In the Star Trek II: TWOK original version of the test, Lt. Saavik, other non-command cadets, and experience officers are tasked with rescuing the Class III Neutronic fuel tanker after they hit a gravitic mine and suffered major damage. 
There is debate if the commercial vessel was officially a Starfleet vessel or just a Federation civilian vessel. When the USS Enterprise entered into the Klingon Neutral Zone, three K't'inga class Klingon battlecruisers intercepted, likely due to a trap being setup for the crew of the Federation vessel. Some have assumed that the Klingons faked the accident to lure in the Federation heavy cruiser. Things go badly for the inexperienced command of the simulated Enterprise and the ship is dead in the water, waiting for the Klingons to finish them off. 
There are fake explosive and some actor deaths involved as the bridge simulator explodes around them. This is when the whole cadet exercise was cancelled and Admiral Kirk steps onto the bridge in glorious fashion. In the lore of Trek, Kirk was the only one to win at the "no-win scenario" simulation via reprograming the code to allow the ship to be rescued. The simulation was a psychological test of bridge crews during combat situations when one heavy cruiser is outgunned and lives are on the line. The ship was named for the former neighbors of Star Trek II screenwriter Jack B. Sowards and the name means in Japanese: "Little Wooden Boat" and the term has become fashion beyond the realm of Trekkie culture.   

The Paintball Training from Ep 4 "Revenge Road: from Bubblegum Crisis
In the classic anime cyberpunk limited series (and one of my personal favorites!) Bubblegum Crisis from 1987, we see the mercenary Knight Sabers engage in a FOF training with two being assaulters (Priss & Linna) )of a building and two being defenders (Syliva & Nene). All four are armed with the classic UZI SMG (clearly seen in both design and name), and during firing, the UZI fires redish paintballs with ejecting shells. After setting on a simulated mine, the assaulting team loses, buying dinner for the defenders. On this list, there will be many examples of characters not wearing protective gear and here is no different. I am not sure why the Knight Sabers, who wear armored power suits are engaged in CQC drills with SMG type weapons, when they do not use anything like this. Some sites have mocked the very realistic paintball weapons with good reason, but at the time of 1987, there was a realistic shell ejecting SMG: the Para-Ordnance MOD-85 that used propellant to fire .375 paintballs that ejected the plastic shell casings. This could be the reason that the UZI paintball markers behave like they do in the 4th episode or the animators were just lazy.  

The "Fighter" Target Training Dummy Robot and the Shield Training from DUNE (1984)
In one of the key beginning scenes from the 1984 DUNE film by David Lynch is the Force-on-Force training with a "fighter". This fighter is one of the few robots allowed after the Butlerian Jihad and is this robot is used to train warriors and nobles in close combat that is common in the inner-house limited warfare allowed by the Guild and the landsraad. In the scene in the 1984 film and the book, Paul engages in close combat with a fighting practice dummy. In the book, Paul uses a rapier and in the movie, the infamous sonic Weirding Module is used. These practice dummies one of the robots allowed under the ban on Thinking Machines imposed after the holy war against the machines. Unlike the servant robots of the Great Houses or the machines on Ix, the practice dummies are limited use to provide training and they do get damaged or destroyed during the training...it seems from the book and film that the safety settings were turned off. 
For some reason, the fighter in the 1984 film always reminded me of those Wing-Chun wooden dummies we used in JKD. Prior to that, Paul and his teacher Gurney Hallack engage in a knife-and-personal shield combat that could be a form of force-on-force. Of course, Gurney tells Paul to guard himself for true and if had not, he would have bore a scar for the lack of effort to remind him of that lesson. Given the personal dangers of the DUNE universe, nobles had to be ready to defend themselves against assassins.   

The Force-on-Force Training Beam equipped Morita Rifles from Starship Trooper (1997)
During the boot camp scenes at Camp Arthur Currie in the 1997 SST movie, we do get an interesting laser tag-like FoF scene where a blue and red team play capture the flag/king of the hill game mode. The weapon used are the familiar Morita Mk. I of the film , but instead of bullets, they fire beams of red or blue. There was an attachment on the front of the Morita rifles that allows for the beam...like a form of MILES? I found a 3D printer artist name "SLUSHO" that created a Morita Mk. I laser tag barrier attachment. The MI troopers are wearing blue or red helmets along with a vest with sensors, similar to a laser tag worn at centers today. 
One of the vests was featured in a video from the Propstore and had eight small LED blinking lights that were positioned front and back with a larger pack on the back. On the front, there central bigger LED light that take the place of sensors. All of this was operated with a remote control. When a trooper is tagged, the vest seems to generate a shock that causes enough pain to stop the player from being a zombie. Oddly, Rico is able to use a Red Team's Morita FoF laser rifle and his blue rifle to tag out members of the red team. A cool scene that is one of the better futuristic FoF in a sci-fi film and it makes one wish that real-world laser tag was as cool. Pity.  

The VR Firing Range from COD: Infinite Warfare
For many of COD players (or former player in my case), the 2016 "COD in Outer Space" title divided the player base into several camps. Given the hate and venom leveled at COD: Infinite Warfare (COD:IW), we never got a sequel or expansion which makes me sad. I actually really liked COD:IW and I still play the multiplayer offline to this day. In the game, when the player is loading up for a mission, he does down to the armory and selects the weapons for the mission. Then the player can test out the selected weapons in the VR Firing Range. There was another virtual firing range as well in COD: Advanced Warfare that lead to the inclusion of Firing Range in COD: IW. This was a unique take on the classic firing range in the real world and how we test weapons more organically than just firing at a paper target. I wished so much this was in Destiny 2 given the amount of weapon rolls in the game. 

The "Famous Missions" from Space Hulk: The Vengeance of the Blood Angels
In 1995, EA, Key Games, and Krisalis Software would gift us with one of the best early WH40K video games that was based on one of the best gateway drug products of 40K: Space Hulk! The success of the original 1989 boardgame caused there to be a computer game of the concept in 1993 on MS-DOS and Amiga machines of the day. Then in 1995, Space Hulk: The Vengeance of the Blood Angels would be released for home consoles as well like the original PlayStation, the oddball 3DO, and the failed Sega Saturn. This sequel was superior to the original, but did include missions from the original computer game. I owned this game in 1996 and kept it until my PS2 and all of my games were stolen in a home robbery. In the extra features for the game, the player can engage in FOF training via the Chapter's Librarian to relive the missions and glories of previous culling in the space hulks that are spit out by the Warp. This is interesting take on FOF in video games. 

The Crucible from the Destiny Universe
There are many a night that take my female human Hunter into the meatgrinder that is the Destiny 2 (D2) Crucible Player-vs-Player (PvP) lobbies and kill or be killed in 6-v-6 action. The Crucible is a critical part of the overall D2 experience for new light and seasoned players, and allows for player guardians to test their new builds and new weapon rolls. For me, the Crucible is one of the factors that keeps me coming back to D2 again and again when I should be doing other things with my free time (like working on FWS!). 
In-game, it is mentioned by NPCs like Saint-14 and Lord "I Banged Mara Sov" Shaxx, along with chatter from NPCs in the Tower that the Crucible is a real thing and people watch it. From the chatter by workers in the Tower, the matches in the Crucible are broadcasted and they bet, have watch parties, and even record matches like some Football game or the American Gladiators! According to the lore, the Crucible was founded by Saint-14 to solve interpersonal issues within the Guardian community and these matches were not a holo-sim, but done with real bullets and the Ghosts revived their Guardian each time. After the bloody Battle of the Twilight Gap, Lord Shaxx made the Crucible a training ground for Guardians to improve their skills on the inter-solar systems battlefields. This is a very real FOF training environment that could not be replicated today despite what Robert Heinlein suggested in SST. If you do play D2 and you enter into the Crucible or the Iron Banana, you are playing with real bullets, real Guardians, you really fucking died in a real map on a real planet. Damn Lord Shaxx! Cut down on the espresso Guardian! 

The Pilot Gauntlet VR Training Sim from Titanfall 2
In the follow-up (and likely the end of the franchise) to the Xbox One launch title of Titanfall, we see our character, Jack Cooper (really?!), engage in VR training to achieve his pilot certification to become a mecha pilot for the Frontier Militia. The primary goal of the gauntlet VR training is to reach the movement of the pilots that allow to survive them on the battlefield until the Titan mecha is orbit dropped onto the battlefield and mount their Titan. In this training VR environment, there are enemies that will return fire. Then Cooper moved to Titan combat practice with his instructor in a VR Titan FoF. In the game itself, the VR training was used to instruct the player in the movement of the pilot and their weapons.  

Hunt-the-Changeling Training from ST:DS9 "Way of the Warrior Pt. 1" 
In the dynamic opener to the 4th Season of DS9, we see the crew of the station sweeping room of the habitat ring for a changeling by using wide-beam phasers to locate and flush the shapeshifter in his liquid state. The episode shows the key characters going  room-by-room in close quarters conditions flushing out their prey...who was hiding as a blanket on a chair. After escaping, the changeling hid as a wall display on the main promenade and tagged Dr. Bashir. This is when it was revealed that hunt was a FoF training for Odo. This was an operation to counter the threat of changeling agents that would be engaged in political engineering and sabotage after the events of season 3. This training and tools developed would be taken across the Federation as seen when Earth was "attacked" by "changelings" and later on, the Dominion War.  

The Kerberos Panzer Kill-House Force-on-Force Training from Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade
One of the most brilliant and just odd military science fiction anime titles that came to America is 1999's  Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade. FWS will discuss this title in much more detail than here, but when the main character of Fuse who is an elite member of the Japan police special Kerberos Squad. They don the impressive and fearsome protective gear.  After he was found unable to kill a girl terrorist carrying a bomb, Fuse was sent back to training. During on training, he and his mates are clearing a kill house with Haenel MKb 42(H) assault rifles loaded with training rubble rounds that seem to be larger than the standard 7.92x33mm rounds of the STG family. The FOF training in the kill house goes wrong when a senior (and badass) Keberos member takes them to school with lots of rubber rounds. These rubber rounds hit this some power as we clearly see pieces of the armor being shredded off. 

Jedi FOF from Star Wars
In the very first Star Wars film, we see Luke Skywalker being trained with a real lightsaber with a repulsor equipped drone that fired non-lethal, but painful, blast bolts to teach the art of blaster deflection. The use of drones, like the Marksman-H combat remote droid and others allowed for Padawan Jedi to train in lightsaber combat with a reactive target. This training was seen onboard the Millennium Falcon was an echo of the extensive FoF training conducted for the youngling Jedi at the Temple and Jedi training schools during the Old Republic Jedi Order. 
Younglings would have their eyes blocked to forced them to use the Force to counter the drone incoming fire with a number of practice lightsabers. Some of these practice sabers were wood or even low-power lightsabers as seen in the SW III: Revenge of the Sith. Later onward in the journey of a Jedi, the Padawan would be assigned to a Master Jedi and the level of FoF lightsaber training would increase to working with a lightsaber wielding droid and even their master to prefect their skills and response. Throughout their long journey from youngling to Jedi Knight, there is a pattern  of Force-on-Force (insert joke here) training to promote smart fighting Jedi monk-warriors, however, the Clone Wars painfully demonstrated how lacking Jedi combat training was due to the relative peace of the Old Republic. 

The Security and Combat  Holodeck Programs from Star Trek
Since the introduction of the HoloDecks in the first episode of TNG, it has been a game charger, for both the sci-fi community at large and the world of Trek. This opened a whole world of possibilities of stories that creators of the concept could not imagine. One element that the HoloDeck was used for besides forbidden fantasies and Klingon exercise programs is training.  Through the run of Star Trek that featured Starfleet in the 24th century and beyond, the HoloDeck provided an accessible training technology that would be unlike any tool for training in combat/security situations seen in history. We see throughout Trek TV shows that Starfleet (and some non-Federation aliens) used the Holodeck for Force-on-Force training that could be as close as possible to the real thing...and with the Holodeck safety protocols turned off, could be lethal. All manner of trainings could for Starfleet personnel could be generated via the HoloDeck. From combat scenarios, to emergency response, to medical training, and even ground school for pilots. 
The HoloDeck allows for more dynamic training well beyond traditional simulators and video games for actual tests of their skills, thinking, and talent. For example, rescue operations can be planned and practiced in a kinetic FoF environment that is as close to the real thing as possible that would not be possible today. It is hard to underestimate how effective a training tool that the Federation HoloDeck would be for FoF. We can see how the Hirogens took their hunts into the captured Holodecks of the USS Voyager when they captured it in the excellent "The Killing Game" for the show's 4th season. 

The Training Programs from The Matrix
In the three Matrix films (there is no 4th film!), we clearly see how those humans that were liberated from the Machine Battery Farm use their cerebral plug to upload information and new skills. This allows the human freedom fighters to quickly adapt to the situation in the world of the Matrix. During one of the key scenes, Neo and Morpheus square off in a FoF training of Neo's hand-to-hand skills along with the mental training of operation in the fake world of the Matrix. It is uncertain how the other training work since they were not seen on screen, or even if there is more FoF training within the firearms and combat training areas beyond Kung-Fu fightin'. I seem to remember that there were training programs for the APU suits that defended the docks at Zion and there were gunnery training programs for the ships as well. 

The FoF Training on Mars from Uchuu no Senshi No. 4 "Greg"
In the 1988 six-part OVA retelling of the 1958 book Starship Troopers by Bandai Visual, we do get an paintball Force-on-Force training on Mars. Just after the alien attack on New Buenos Aires, the recruits of the Mobile Infantry are needing to be rushed trained for the upcoming war against the alien threat. One of the final training simulations for the new MI troopers is a massive force-on-force war game engagement on Mars against other MI troopers playing the OPFOR. The standard compact rifle of the MI troopers is now loaded with red hued paintball rounds. This becomes a serious issue when alien spores attach themselves to a Martian sentry vehicle and attack the Martian Occupation base. At the same time that the base personnel are being slaughtered, the wargame unfolds with the armored troopers slinging paintballs at one another. When Johnnie’s squad hits to the Mars Occupation base to reload, they discover bodies everywhere and are ordered to investigate. Once it is confirmed that the aliens are here, they request for Sgt. Zim to send armored MI troopers to deal with the aliens. Before they can follow orders and pull out, the ETs jump Rico and Greg. Rico orders Greg to get out and obey the recall order. He disobeys and attempts to rescue his comrade, but is cut in half and Rico was next until armed MI suits show up and deal with the pink angry aliens with a hail of lead and not paintballs. After the rescue, Zim lectures the squad about following orders and that Greg will not be buried with military honors due to disobeying direct orders. He orders them to collect Greg’s gear and it is there that they learn that Greg had a girlfriend. 

"The Danger Room" from The Uncanny X-Men 
One of the most famous FoF training in science fiction is the "Danger Room"in the Marvel Comics The Uncanny X-Men. Designed by Charles Xavier to test his students for the coming combat that was coming their way. In addition, the Danger Room forced focus of their mutant mental and physical abilities along with possibly bring more to the surface. The original Danger Room was akin to the advanced native Terran technology, but the training room was upgraded with alien Sha'ri holographic technology, similar to the HoloDeck. The incorporation of the Danger Room into X-Men lore was found in issue #1 way back in 1963. The Danger Room has been featured in major storylines of the various X-Men comics, animation series, and even the live action films. In the amazing and shocking Marvel Comics Strikeforce Moritori, of the 1980s, the people in charge of the Moritori project used the concept of the Danger Room, that was mentioned they had read from the actual comic books! In 1994, during the broadcast of the X-Men cartoon series, Pressmen released a Danger Room themed video game. 

The FOF Training onboard the Defiant from DS9 "To The Death"
One of the best DS9 episode was the 1996 "To the Death" (4x23), where a rogue Jem'Hadar unit was attempting to reactive one of the Iconian gateways and live free as warriors away from the Founders, but not the White (more on that drug in the next article). During the Defiant search for the attackers of the station, they came across a nearly destroyed Jem'Hadar attackcraft and they took on the passengers. It was decided for the two groups to pool their resources to attack and end the threat. During the journey to the Iconian gateway, it is decided that the Jem'Hadar and Starfleet crews train in FoF in mixed teams.  

The Battleroom from the Battleschool from Ender's Game
In the history of science fiction, there are few more famous or inventive Force-on-Force training methods than the Battlerooms from 1985's Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card. For the human war against the "buggers", the Terran military trains children in a orbital military space station called the Battlestation, and one of the tools to train the next great military leader is the Battleroom. There were nine of these large micro-gravity combat simulators that allow the teams of cadets to square in a sport that trains them and their team leaders into saviors of the human race. Each team pits themselves against another by either capturing gates or immobilizing the other team via their stun pistols. This was the environment were Ender's gifts were discovered and was watched by the military. The key Battleroom scenes of the book were lovingly recreated for the big screen in 2013. The battleroom scenes become the star of the film and one of the most memorable scenes of the entire movie. 

The B5 Zeta Squad Force-on-Force Training From Babylon 5 "The Fall of Night"
One of the few FoF scenes that does not involve infantry or starship combat is from Babylon 5's "The Fall of Night", the 22nd episode of the show's critical 2nd season, when the show switched captains of the station. When Cpt. Sheridan joined the station, there was increased tensions due to the Centauri/Narn War. In preparation for the likely scenario that B5 would be dragged into the conflict, the in-house EarthForce Starfury squadron, "Zeta Squad" trained in Force-on-Force engagements with each other to defend the massive station. It was a cool sequence that I remembered from watching the show originally in high school and it showed how future space fighter pilots might use "laser tag" like FoF systems to train. This training was put to the test when   

The VR program  by the U.S. Army Force XXI Program from the Metal Gear Universe
One of the biggest video games of all time was Metal Gear Solid on the original PlayStation way back in 1988. For many of us that grew up with the original Metal Gear title on the NES, this new title was a welcome change that was actually fun to play. After the titanic success of the 1998 title, there was a 1999 release that focused on the VR mission that helped train the player and the future supersoldiers seen in the game. While there were a few VR mission on Metal Gear Solid, there was another game packaged with just VR missions for sale outside of Japan. The Japanese release of MGS came packaged with the VR mission contained on the MGS: The VR Missions. This title was designed to extend the life of the game until a proper sequel could be developed. In-game, the VR system was designed to be used as an FoF training simulators for operators in the FOXHOUND unit and the GENOME soldiers. 

The FoF Paintball Scene SAS vs. OO Agents from The Living Daylights
Okay, it is not a sci-fi example, but it needs to be discussed. One of the more widely seen examples of early "paintball" for Force-on-Force training was seen in the first film of Timothy Dalton's run as James Bond in 1987's The Living Daylights. During a training exercise between the SAS and the 00 agents of MI6 at Gibraltar, one of the 3 00 agents is an traitor and assassin that is there to kill the rest of the 00s assigned to the training mission. In the opening pre-title scene, the SAS and presumably the 00s are armed with H&K MP5A3s that fire paintball rounds with a gas source. 
This is, of course, completely false, especially for the time. At the time, paintball was newer, especially to the general public and the idea of using the technology for FoF training in the military and LE was a hot topic. One of the elements of paintball, as discussed above, is that PB markers are NOT 1:1 with real steal guns, even more so when it comes to SMGs and pistols. My magazine fed PB pistol marker is the size of the Desert Eagle! This scene was designed to fool the audience for a second and most would not know that the paintballs on-scene were not real paintballs due to the clumping and powder seen when these things hit targets. According to the Doc's Machine site, he believes that the paintball impacts in the film were made by the SFX department. Also...if these were paintballs...where was the face/eye production? 

The Force-on-Force Paintball Training from SAAB "Ray Butts"
One my favorite episode of Space: Above & Beyond, the FOX one season military sci-fi 1995-1996 show, was the 5th episode "Ray Butts". In the episode, we see a Marine Recon officer arrive under strange circumstances to the USS Saratoga and he requested the use of the 58th squadron, the Wildcards, royally pissing off Colonel MacQueen. At one point, Butts puts the members of the 58th through a game of paintball through some closed off sections of the space carrier. Like many paintball examples here on this list, there was no safety gear worn by actors which would be a massive violation of safety rules for any paintball field or game around the world. Here, Butts stalks and "kills" the Wildcards one by one with some interesting tactics. To their credit the paintball pistol sounds realistic and similar to my own experience with paintball pistols and the paintball explosions on the Marine uniforms seem close.
 They could have used real paintballs in these scenes. However, Nathan West was hit on the forehead by a paintball and he was not wearing any protection...in fact, none of them are. All of the hits scored by Butts were way too close for field regulations...well within the surrender rule. The paintball pistol used in the 1995 episode was the GZ1000. This simple .68 paintball pistol market was based on one of the most famous paintball markers of all time: the Splatmaster from the old Survival Game. This was the first mass produced paintball marker specifically developed for the new sport of paintball and was sold for $80 in 1984. When early rental players came to National Survival Game (NSG) franchise fields, they rented a Splatmaster for a game of "splatball". A spin-off company called GZ Paintball Sports of New Hampshire used the Splatmaster design and developed the GZ1000. I actually owned a Splatmaster and carried it as a sidearm and much like the NSG Splatmaster, the GZ1000 was a single-action marker that feed from a plastic cigar tube...which was missing in the episode.  

The USS Hathaway vs. Enterprise D combat training simulation from "Peak Performance"
In the 2nd season of TNG, the threat of the Borg and the reemergence of the Romulans caused Starfleet to offered more combat training to starships and the D was one of the first to accept. One of the foremost Federation strategists, the great Zakdorn Sirna Kolrmai, came onboard the D and was to run the wargame. For the prey of the Galaxy class explorer was the 80 year old USS Hathaway, and Constellation class explorer that also counted Picard's first command, the USS Stargazer. The decommissioned Hathaway and other older Federation vessels of the fleet were towed to the Barsiota star system for Operation: LOVELY ANGEL. 
This was the official Starfleet name for the FoF ship-to-ship combat training of in-service starships by crews using the older ships as OPFOR. Both ships in the first exercise of Operation: LOVELY ANGEL would take simulated damage with systems going off-line that were damaged by the laser pulse simulated beams used by ships. This new combat training operation did not get off to a good start. The first wargame was halted due to a incoming Ferengi Marauder class that attempted to profit from the exchange. Given that failure of the first exercise, it is unknown if Operation: LOVELY ANGEL was continued after the events of the episode. This was an interesting example of a live-action of using starships for FoF rather than simulators, as seen in Star Trek: II TWOK. The rather oddball name for the operation that Starfleet rolled out to train starships for the coming threats came from the anime Dirty Pair, which was a popular title among the TNG production crew. The planets in the Brasiota system were name from the three main characters of Dirty Pair. Honestly, this episode is far weaker in some ways than I remembered and while interesting in concept, it fails in delivery.   

The "In'tar" from Stargate: SG-1
This is a Goa'uld technology that is used to train the young warriors of the their serpent gods in Force-on-Force simulation. The crystal-based In'tar grows into the desired weapon, either friend or foe, and the new In'tar weapon fires a directed energy bolt to stun combatants in simulation combat with an adjusting power level that can lightly stun or knock you out. After this alien technology was acquired by Stargate Command, the In'tar crystals were used to be grown into various Terran weapons for Force-on-Force training and these training weapons were turned up to their max setting during an assumed attack on Cheyenne mountain complex. These were seen or mentioned several times in the series and are an interesting concept. 

The FPS Center from The X-Files episode "First Person Shooter (7x13)"
Mid-way into the 7th season of the X-Files, we got an odd one, were Mulder & Scully met the world of TRON mixed with DOOM. Before we shit on the episode, we must first say that First Person Shooter has a few standout elements: it was written by William Gibson, the SAAB M-590 is used by Mulder and Scully, there are some funny lines, the stripper (played by Krista Allen) is hot, and Scully looks damn good firing the M-590. Other than that, the episode is one of the worst in the entire run of the show due to its dumbass concept that could have been good...save for Mulder and Scully being "lost" in the game...how the fuck did that happen?!
Anyways, there is this startup gaming company called F.P.S (ugh!) and they have something like a Holodeck where players get their hands on guns and enter into a virtually generated environment into a real-world space. This allows for the players to be their own Doomguy without the use of controllers. In some of the dialog of the episode, it seems that the company and their backers think there maybe military and law enforcement applications. If this technology existed, it would kick any current simulator right in the microchips. I rewatched this episode for this article and I want my hour back.   

Next Time on FWS...
Throughout human conflict, there has been a need to take drugs all of types to numb the suffering of combat, to block the pain of being on the battlefield, to stay awake during that cold guard shift, or to give courage against fearful odds. In the realm of science fiction, creators have turned to real and imagined drugs to fuel, control, and enslave warriors of all time on the future battlefields. In the next written installment of FWS, we will be exploring and explaining the world of military drugs...both real and imagined.