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?
Can Simulators be considered FOF?
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?
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.
The Importance of the Pressure Testing in Training
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.
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.
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!
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
Other Modern Force-on-Force Training Technology
Paintball (.43, .50, .68)
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.
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.
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.
The "Kobayashi Maru" Starfleet Academy Simulation from the Star Trek Universe
The Paintball Training from Ep 4 "Revenge Road: from Bubblegum Crisis
The "Fighter" Target Training Dummy Robot and the Shield Training from DUNE (1984)
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.
The VR Firing Range from COD: Infinite Warfare
The "Famous Missions" from Space Hulk: The Vengeance of the Blood Angels
The Crucible from the Destiny Universe
The Pilot Gauntlet VR Training Sim from Titanfall 2
Hunt-the-Changeling Training from ST:DS9 "Way of the Warrior Pt. 1"
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
The Security and Combat Holodeck Programs from Star Trek
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
The FoF Training on Mars from Uchuu no Senshi No. 4 "Greg"
"The Danger Room" from The Uncanny X-Men
The FOF Training onboard the Defiant from DS9 "To The Death"
The Battleroom from the Battleschool from Ender's Game
The B5 Zeta Squad Force-on-Force Training From Babylon 5 "The Fall of Night"
The VR program by the U.S. Army Force XXI Program from the Metal Gear Universe
The FoF Paintball Scene SAS vs. OO Agents from The Living Daylights
The Force-on-Force Paintball Training from SAAB "Ray Butts"
The USS Hathaway vs. Enterprise D combat training simulation from "Peak Performance"
The "In'tar" from Stargate: SG-1
The FPS Center from The X-Files episode "First Person Shooter (7x13)"
Next Time on FWS...