[Guest Post] The Australian Army’s Weapons Training Simulation System

[ I am pleased to present this guest post written by Brendan Leo, an Australian Army Cadet corporal. ]

As a corporal with the Australian Army Cadets, I recently had the opportunity to play with the Weapons Training Simulation System. As the name suggests, this is a fully featured simulation system. Trainees fire modified weapons at a cinema sized projection on a wall 10 meters away. Between the wall and the shooters are rocks, obstacles, and anything else you might find on a battlefield. Wind machines and lights provide for weather effects.

Army Cadets using the WTSS range.

The trainees usually fire modified F88 Austeyr rifles and F89 Minimi machine guns at the screen, but any weapon currently used by the Australian Army, as well as several of those used by an opposing force can be simulated. The scenario is controlled by a technician at a console behind the firing line, who sets the wind speed and direction, the weather, and even the number of round through each barrel. The weapon recoil is provided by a tethering line connected to a tank of CO2, and speakers in the butt replicate the sound. Everything down to magazine changes, and jams are simulated, and the weight of the weapon is almost identical to the real thing.

Reservists using a machine gun with the WTSS system next to 2 F88s.

The main utility in the WTSS system is in the many different scenarios that can be replicated, such as defending a position, quick reaction, and even the sudden appearance of a helicopter. The idea behind the system is that soldiers can be placed outside of their comfort zone, using their weapons against a range of targets in different conditions. Different accessories can also be used with the weapons, including but not limited to Ninox (night vision goggles), grenade launchers and reflex sights, in addition to the standard 1.5x scope on the Steyr.

Open day. Civilians loading the F88s.

At the end of the simulation, the simulated weapon is cleared in exactly the same way as the real thing; by locking back the bolt, removing and clearing the barrel, then replacing it and rendering the weapon safe. Scores are usually calculated by grouping, at the standard target range, the PASS mark for the Australian Army is a grouping of 200mm at 100m. A grading of sniper is achieved when a group of < 40mm is achieved with 4 groups of 5 shots.

Upon completion, a standard range declaration is carried out, and the trainees receive a printout of their score. The next detail then moves in to shoot. The convenience of having no brass to clean up and no targets to patch out is shadowed by the $15 million AUD price tag for each range.

Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


  • RicB

    WTSS…good idea, poor execution in my experience. Too many technical issues, for the time spent i would rather pick up brass and get real trigger time, But that doesnt suit every one i guess.

    But, its a good foundation that can be improved. i hope!

  • Jim

    Canada uses a system that looks practically identical. My biggest problem with it was you can’t rest the mag on the ground. There is a sensor that will give you a jam/stoppage when you pull the trigger if its resting on the ground.

  • Dom

    Does anyone know of any video anywhere of this thing in action? I’d love to see it. The CO2/speaker sim of the gun sounds pretty cool!

    You know, $15 million could probably be cut down if you lower the scale and weapons options. In a better economy, one could easily scare up venture capital to get one of these and open up a for profit, civilian one in the States. Such a thing would be like a mall ninja magnet.

  • subby

    Another future possible evolution of the system. Is a portable version with backpack. The backpack essentially identical in weight to what a soldier normally carries would contain the batteries needed to power the gun. And they could simulate environments with big ass lcd screens.

    Essentially a cheapo ‘hologram training’ room.

  • Ed

    If only the U.S. dollar was worth anything…I still wouldn’t have enough money for this system. But I want it.

  • Fred

    We’ve got the same thing for US troops too, but I’ve never been at one that simulates weather.
    The appeal is that the electricity and CO2 are a heck of a lot cheaper than ammo in the long run, and you can cycle guys through a lot faster. Not to mention the dynamic scenarios you can simulate. Can’t set up a checkpoint defense on a live fire range with moving vehicles and dismounted enemy troops very easily.
    I thought it was great because every time I went to one, it was around November or February, so a nice heated building beat the snot out of the static rifle ranges of Ft. McCoy, WI.

  • KP

    want: C02 simulation upper for AR.

  • CMathews

    The Marines have one at Mira Mar and then one at Camp Pen that is just for the 240. My buddy went through both of them, he equated it to a ” really expensive video game “

  • @RicB
    Agreed about the real trigger time, but the photos about only show a very limited application of the system.
    It also allows you to run training scenarios. These allow you to practice inter squad communication and teamwork. Scenarios I have seen range from full on fire fights to Checkpoint duty. No every scenario will even require that you shoot, but there will often be something that tries to get respond, i.e. someone reaching into his clothes.
    I found this type of training to be very useful. It is impractical to do with blanks as the firing distance would be too short for safety and the system can tell you who shot how many rounds and where.

  • KP

    know somebody who works for Lasershot. they do cool stuff 🙂
    they even have a setup that lets you shoot real ammo at a screen in an indoor range and “shoot” people in VBS2 (military game-simulator-thing)! so cool!

  • maptoground

    Not entirely accurate post:
    There is no speaker in the butt – any sound coming from the rifle is from the working parts inside being moved around by the CO2. The sound of the “gunshot” is played by speakers inside the hall.
    The stoppages the weapon system experience are limited to empty magazines. They are not effected by resting the magazines on the ground.
    I don’t know where the cadet got the idea that you get the grade “sniper” for 4x 40mm, 5 round groups. This is not even close to being the truth.
    Finally, the point about cost – $15m per system – while expensive to a high school kid, is far cheaper than having to run live fire ranges for subunit activities. All you’ve got after the initial 15 mil outlay is the cost of the WTSS operator’s salary, and the upkeep of the weapons (if any).

  • bob

    @maptoground: I was also told by the warrant officer running a session that the grouping for “sniper” is < 40mm. Maybe it's a AAC thing? Also, Jim was referring to the Canadian system, where he said stoppages were caused by resting the magazine on the ground.

  • Fred

    The one we used in the US Army would stop if you rested the rifle on the magazine wrong. There’s a magnet in the “magazine” and a sensor in the rifle, (or pistol, or a magnet in the dummy rounds on a belt, etc) to tell the system when the weapon is loaded, and adverse pressure on the mag would break the contact and the system would log it as a dropped mag.
    Downside is that with the M9 certain two hand grips would have the same effect.

  • Matt Groom

    We messed with a system like this when I was in boot camp at Paris Island. I think. All the early stuff’s kinda melted together. I remember the lower receivers were made by Bushmaster, which I thought was very cool. I think we did it before we went on the rifle range to make sure that people understood the basics of firearms handling. All I remember is I liked it because I shot extremely well, and you don’t get many “attaboys” in boot camp. We also had one in Camp Las Pulgas on Camp Pendleton, but as far as I know it was used as a storage warehouse and I certainly don’t know anyone who ever went inside. Just a lonely building on a hill next to the radar station. Ran past it enough times during PT to know what it was though.

    I can see how it would be a very effective training aid, if used. I hope the Aussies are getting more use out of theirs than we got out of ours.

  • Fred

    There’s an article in the December Special Weapons for Military and Police magazine (I think) about the convoy module the Army’s got that actually has the passenger section of a Humvee in the room so you can do mounted stuff and get used to shooting from a vehicle. It’s a great idea, except for being built off of a Humvee, since we’re moving up to different trucks these days.
    Still pretty cool though… it’s like the most interactive drive-by video game ever.

  • maptoground

    @ Bob:
    I suspect the WO1 was telling porkies. To get the qualification of ‘sniper’, you need to pass LF6 as a first class shot, then LF7-18 as a First Class Shot (doing this gets you your ‘crossed rifles’ – the qualification of ‘marksman’), and *then* go on and pass the sniper selection course, which is a whole other kettle of fish.

    The qualifying shoot referred to in this post is 4×5 groups for an average of 200mm or less for all corps except RAINF, which requires 150mm or less.

  • Fred beat me to it but we have the same thing. “Qualifying” on it is probably a waste of time but some of the scenarios are pretty fun. Target rich environments full of tango’s are real fun.

  • Michael

    Do they make it for Wii?

  • Jimmy S

    Brendan, ignoring the fact you’re a cadet, which is Australian Military terms is a pseudo boyscout playing army with your school chums, and not a member of the ADF, here’s a few end-user comments about WTSS that should be pointed out.
    Firstly we use it as a training aid, to consolidate weapons handling drills and marksmanship principles. Its not designed to replace live fire, although my observations from a posting in the resource poor army reserve, it’s been used increasingly to replace mundane LF1, AIRN qualification shoots, which would otherwise tie up ammunition and range allocations. Yep, its handy in that regard and from a coaching perspective, can help iron out some bad habits. However I can tell you now that it does not 100% replicate live fire and there are serious questions as to its accuracy. I know a number of diggers that have scored well at the WTSS, talked up a big game, only to require 3-4 reshoots at the range the next day because they’ve lost their shit after the first atempt . I’ve also seen certain lanes constantly return tight groups and others shoot loose. (I can crack 60mm groups off with out much effort live, but WTSS I’m happy to plonk anywhere under the pass mark/120mm)

    The one thing I’ll say for it, it’s a great way to keep non-corp pogues and REMFs off the MTR so real soldiers can refine their craft.

    • Kawalsky

      I agree with Jimmy, accept for his petty smart-ass comments about cadets and non-corp pogues. Those comments resemble someone who sound like a complete wanker.

  • george michaels

    hey I found the same kind of stuff in http://zentechnologies.com. they even made anti – tank guided missile simulators, hand grenade and 81mm mortart too.

  • David

    I used the same in Canadian Army Cadets, it was pretty cool, mine were usually Bushmaster ARs that were converted, it will jam if you rest the mag on the ground though, which was kinda a PITA

  • PhoeniX

    That training system was designed by french students and a french firm decades ago to replace an even older french system (projecteur Campana) and has been in use in France for decades too under the name SITTAL (look on google). Even if updated with the ability to move freely on some modern versions of it, seems outdated now in France considering what can be done with VBS, already beginning to replace that in some units. Brought to Australia by that same french firm that equips the Australian army in rifles. Or how to sell some “new” stuff by re-cooking antique one. Sorry for the price the Australians paid for that. Otherwise an excellent training aid to improve aiming and firing (sensors to measure, visualize and improve effects of trigger finger, respiration, position and other things on your precision).