SFS virtual marksmanship training produces authentic results

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Ethan Spickler
  • 445th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

With a mission that demands decisiveness in complex situations, Airmen assigned to the 445th Security Forces Squadron require frequency and consistency with regard to training.

While Airmen continue to be proactive when identifying training opportunities, security forces now have an additional tool in their training toolkit: a virtual firearms range/simulator.

This virtual technology provides further training opportunities and maximizes the ability for Airmen to feel comfortable behind their weapon systems.

“This gets Airmen used to looking down range,” said Staff Sgt. Daryn Weatherspoon, 445th SFS training instructor. “We can set up virtual targets at the max effective ranges of our weapon systems. It’s an extremely useful solution to alleviate potential anxiety about pulling the trigger and improve on fundamentals at the same time.”

The virtual firearms range/simulator consists of a high-tech projector that casts a realistic image on a projector screen. A computer feeds the scenarios to the projector and interfaces with realistic simulated weapon systems to track shots and provide feedback to instructors.

This system provides an array of unique advantages for individual shooters. Each shot taken with each weapon system is tracked by its placement and quality.

Instructors can use advanced real-time electronic data to identify shooter error relative to shot placement. For example, if a shooter has poor trigger or breath control (part of shooting fundamentals), an instructor can access that data and provide real-time feedback.

On a traditional live fire range, correcting shooter error can be difficult and can only be accomplished after the cycle of fire. With the virtual platform, errors and inconsistencies can be identified immediately, demonstrated by the data and subsequently corrected.

“We can track in real time the way people shoot and give them feedback that will help them when they shoot for qualification and when they are out doing their jobs,” Weatherspoon said. “We have so many options with this system such as running standard marksmanship drills and creating our own missions from the ground up. It really gives us the flexibility to challenge our Airmen and present them with scenarios they may face in the real world with the feedback necessary to make them more effective.”

While the virtual range facilitates efficiency, there is also a convenience factor with the virtual range that doesn’t exist elsewhere. It doesn’t require extensive cleaning and preparation of weapon systems, and ammo or multiple instructors to ensure the safety of the range.

With the virtual platform, the entire process is simplified exponentially. Multiple shooters can participate at a time. Additionally, the simulator is located at the squadron, so Airmen won’t need to travel far to get the opportunity to train.

“There is less fatigue with a system like this, which means we can cycle more troops through courses on the virtual range,” said Tech. Sgt. Jared Holliday, 445th SFS fire team leader. “In between qualifications, Airmen have the chance to improve and showcase the skills they have learned in an environment that allows for maximum flexibility.”