There is much discussion and idea exchange about the ASLAV replacement (CRV) and future Infantry Fighting Vehicles (IFV). These capabilities are a massive step forward, representing cutting-edge technology and superior battlefield features.
However, there have been many comments about the ‘intuitive’ nature of these vehicles such as ‘the new vehicle will save lives with its advanced protection packages’ and ‘these vehicles are so advanced that they can be operated with minimal training’.
These comments are potentially dangerous as they omit one critical fact: no matter how technically advanced the equipment is, the operator is still the most important feature of any vehicle. The vehicles need to be operated by tactically and technically intelligent soldiers otherwise the vehicles will be burning hunks of metal when we face an enemy on the battlefield.
Blending Technology and Tactical Brilliance
Are we putting too much faith into technology? Are the features that are designed to protect the crew slowing-down or impeding tactical decision making? Is there a way to ensure we can blend technology and tactical brilliance through innovative and evidence-based training methods so that we can create the ‘whole package’?
All too often I see vehicles enter the training area and continue to move without due consideration of the tactical environment. This includes moving in line ahead (snake green) and halting in the middle of the road, and not moving into cover and concealment (herring bone). As the major exercises for the year approach, this is a timely reminder that sound vehicle craft is key to successfully avoiding the professional embarrassment of being destroyed by the enemy.
Of course, the conversation about technology, tactics and survivability is not just for the arms corps – all vehicles across all corps need to operate tactically to increase survivability. Vehicle craft is an art that needs to be practiced, enforced and re-enforced through training. It is not just the business of the Royal Australian Armoured Corps; it is a skill which should be automatic for all vehicle operators.
Responsibility for Operator Training
The training of operators and crew can be achieved in a number ways. The most obvious method is live training on the equipment; however, using mud models, vehicle emulators, and simulation systems can all help bridge the training gap.
I believe training on the equipment is the gold card solution; however, resources, availability of platforms, and training areas is often problematic. Simulation centers or crew procedural trainers (CPT) are often under-utilised, yet they also provide a perfect platform to hone and develop these corps skills. Similarly, mud models and the use of vehicle emulators are an effective and tangible method for achieving the training.
However, I have not often seen these methods employed to their fullest extent. Perhaps the real problem is JNCOs and SNCOs not motivating their crews/operators to conduct the training (due to a lack of live training), and subsequently failing to enforce and assess the standards. This leaves the hard question of who or what is failing our soldiers: technology or NCOs?
Winning Against an Enemy
The CRV and future IFVs are, for the most part, automatic and the processes in-built: they are intuitive—to a point. Ultimately, in the armoured vehicle context, the crew that identifies the enemy and engages first, in most cases will win that battle.
Too many technological distractions may unintentionally influence the basics of shoot, move, communicate, decide and act. The crew commander still needs be able to control the crew, operate the systems, negotiate challenging terrain, coordinate or conform to formations and methods of movement, and finally, engage and destroy the enemy. No mean feat. How can we train our soldiers to fight through the complexity of technology whilst fighting the vehicle?
The vehicles that are entering into service are state-of-the-art and designed using specifications directed by senior leadership. These specifications are based on the role and type of vehicle with two common themes—crew/operator survivability (protection) and ability to conduct the specified task. I truly believe that the trialed CRV and future IFVs will achieve this through the incorporation of smart, intuitive programming, technologically advanced hardware, and innovative design.
None-the-less, the operator—whether crew or driver—need to understand the vehicle, know how to negotiate terrain and know how to use the terrain to best provide cover and concealment in order to increase survivability. Nothing else will do that sort of analysis or make those decisions for the crew. Therefore; training must be provided that facilitates and encourages the blending of technology and tactical acumen. The training we provide is only limited by our imagination: if you have an innovative training method to share then I encourage you to continue this idea exchange with your peers, subordinates and superiors, and pursue through your chain of command.
About the author
WO1 Jason Moriarty is the Regimental Sergeant Major of 12th/16th Hunter River Lancers in NSW.
Grounded Curiosity is a platform to spark debate, focused on junior commanders. The views expressed do not reflect any official position or that of any of the author’s employers – see more here.