CATT: Synthetic technology enhancing soldiers training

Together with its sister site at the Land Warfare Centre in Warminster, Wiltshire, the Combined Arms Tactical Trainer (CATT) at Sennelager in Germany has created a unique approach to training for soldiers of the British Army.

Sennelager is a centre of excellence for military training. Not only can the training area cater for live-firing exercises up to Battle Group level, it is also a premium computer assisted facility that consists of over 150 networked simulators designed to replicate the interiors of armoured vehicles. The simulators can be adapted to mirror anything from a Land Rover to a Challenger Tank to a helicopter or even a fast jet.

“We can look at what may have been missed or where the crew should have communicated better. You have basically got the ability to capture everything from start to finish. We can gather all the data so we can provide an after-action review. Afterwards we then analyse and discuss all elements with the crew and work on the good points and bad points of what they’ve been doing.” Captain Richard Pask MC, 1st Battalion the Royal Welsh

The CATT is a huge complex, the size of nearly three football pitches and is the largest and most sophisticated battlefield simulation trainer in the world. Within its walls you will find simulators replicating many of the Army’s armoured vehicles. As technology evolves and new vehicles become available, programs will be written so that they also become integrated as part of the CATT catalogue of simulated vehicles ensuring this facility always remains cutting edge.

Once initial Training Objectives have been achieved, personnel will then go on to take part in specifically tailored written exercises for the battlegroup mission with an Order of Battle formulated. The crews are then put to the test interacting with computer-generated scenarios such as encountering minefields or enemy snipers, engagement with enemy hardware or adversaries or interacting with friendly forces. In fact, just about any type of scenario could be formulated and programmed that a simulator team would then be required to react to.

Staff at the adjoining Exercise Control Room will watch and evaluate how the simulator crew is performing and provide feedback on their actions.

Captain Richard Pask MC, Second in Command of Delta Company, 1st Battalion the Royal Welsh explains:

“We can look at what may have been missed or where the crew should have communicated better. You have basically got the ability to capture everything from start to finish. We can gather all the data so we can provide an after-action review. Afterwards we then analyse and discuss all elements with the crew and work on the good points and bad points of what they’ve been doing.”

This technology is so clever that it can also cater for large scale training over a simulated combat area of 10,000 square kilometres. Under future soldier, the Army will look to use more synthetic or simulated training facilities like CATT, saving money on the costs and wear and tear of using actual armoured vehicles, keeping soldiers safe whilst providing this advanced training platform.

Brett Halford is Chief Analyst at the CATT in Sennelager:

“This really is the ultimate training aid. We can link from here to troops on the ranges and even interact with the CATT in Warminster. We’ve now gone beyond this being a battlegroup trainer, we can now train a brigade inside and outside the facility, it is just getting better and better.”

And he adds the feedback from those using these simulators has been very positive:

“From infantry to fast jet pilots, most people think this is absolutely brilliant for training. They love the idea that you can come in here, do all the build-up training prior to going out and doing the live fire element.”

The CATT has been around for several years now and has provided invaluable training to thousands of personnel from the British Army and many of its NATO partners too.

Captain Richard Pask added:

“This type of training is invaluable because you can get a birds-eye view of the whole battle. If we were doing this outside, although you would have observer mentors present you wouldn’t be able to see everything that is taking place. The more opportunities we get to work on our strengths and weaknesses ahead of the real thing the better.”