By Nathan Pfau, Army Flier Staff WriterOctober 25, 2012
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (October 25, 2012) -- The Army is often at the forefront of innovation when it comes to technological advances and training, and Aviation training is no exception.
The Digital Air-Ground Integration Range is the newest addition to Army ranges that is focused on air-ground integration, according to Ron Moring, Sustainable Range Program Army Training and Doctrine Command capability manager.
"Not only does [this digital range] provide a relevant venue for aircrew qualification, but it also enables integration with ground platforms and dismounted Soldiers," he said. "It also enables those dismounted Soldiers to get into urban terrain and call in Aviation fire to nearby targets, which is something that has been very difficult to do on installations in the past."
The DAGIRs are live-fire ranges that use digital means to measure a gunner's performance, and Moring said the program also incorporates unmanned aircraft systems, dive-and-fire targets and full-sized 3-D targets.
"This is a live-fire training range that enables crew qualifications," he said. "Our Aviation crews have to qualify annually, and the current ranges aren't optimized for Aviation use."
Moring said on current ranges the protective walls in front of the targets aren't high enough, so when a crew does their dive-and-fire exercise at a particular target, they actually damage the target structure and lifter.
"Now, when we build the ranges for a moving target, the protective wall is six feet tall, and for stationary targets the protective wall is 54 inches tall, so it's better protected," he said.
Building the ranges to better accommodate Aviation training is just one way DAGIR enhances the program, said Moring. It also provides a more detailed and thorough after action review.
The AAR is when the master gunner, who is looking over a gunner during gunnery training, reviews that particular gunner's performance during the training exercise using video footage, he said.
"After they shoot gunnery, they bring the aircraft tape back and they sit down with the master gunner and go over their performance on that particular qualification," said Moring. "We do that now the same way we did back in 1992 -- on a seven-inch screen."
Moring said the master gunner will review the tape and point out the things that he sees on a score sheet that he must interpolate with what he's seeing on the footage.
"There is just a better way of do it," he said. "With a digital range, it's a very robust system. There is through-site video, tactical situation display with a birds-eye view of where the vehicle is at, where the turret is pointing and in-cab cameras of what the crew is doing.
"That is all part of AAR today, and unfortunately, Aviation was left out of that," Moring continued. "Now we're working to integrate Aviation into the digital range training system to bring the same level of fidelity for the after action review."
Moring said that a key component to being able to provide this level of training is to have all of the people involved in the program on the same page when it comes to integration and equipment.
"What we're trying to accomplish is to be able to transmit the aircraft data from the aircraft to certain instrumentation systems," he said. "These systems allow you to know when and where your aircraft is on the map, and what it's weapon systems are doing. In order to accomplish this, we felt that we needed to get all the right people together to get a common platform device or component."
Currently, two ranges are being built at; one Fort Bliss, Texas, and the other at Fort Knox, Ky. to accommodate two Combat Aviation Brigades at Fort Campbell, Ky., according to Moring.
Having different components at different ranges that aren't compatible with the program could hinder the training when comparing data and sharing feedback, he said.
"What we don't want is to have a separate type of component for every venue, and we don't want each agency to go after a different solution because it's very expensive and complex," said Moring. "We're looking to get one component that can be put on an aircraft that supports all of the different architectures."
The integrated concept team, which is the team made up of aircraft capability managers, material developers and different Aviation representation, has since evolved into an integrated product team since the meetings began, according to Moring. This particular meeting is the eighth time the team has met, and meeting on Fort Rucker is integral to its success, he said.
"We want the proponent to be the center and [Aviation] requirements come from Fort Rucker," said Moring. "They come directly from the proponent, and we want to make sure we keep the proponent in the driver's seat."