British Paratroopers Hone Urban Warfare Skills at New Facility

The facility is a recognition that the nature of warfare is rapidly changing the world.

After announcing a handful of projects involving autonomous technology-driven weapon systems focusing on city fighting, the British Army recently unveiled the Urban Training Facility (UTF) at Colchester, Essex, designed to prepare paratroopers for combat in complex, built-up areas.

The cutting-edge facility is a recognition that the nature of warfare is rapidly changing the world over as military operations take place more frequently in urban areas such as in Iraq or Afghanistan.

“We’ve invested in this innovative facility to give our soldiers the best training possible for the urban battlefield,” said Colonel Martyn Wills, Deputy Commander of 16 Air Assault Brigade, in a statement.

Troopers Train in Simulated Global Locations

The facility being utilized by the 16th Air Assault Brigade has “moveable walls; interactive smoke, light, and sound effects; and a video monitoring system for soldiers to be able to review their performance,” the UK Ministry of Defense (MoD) stated.

The ministry further revealed that rifle-wielding soldiers can practice their maneuvers in the facility, which is designed to simulate a range of locations — thanks to its ability to change layouts, light levels, and the soundscape— from a “Middle Eastern shopping center at night or an African jungle village in a heavy rainstorm.”

Train to Avoid Collateral Damage

The aim is to provide a small number of paratroopers with the expertise in how to fortify and defend a building with a large number of civilians, restricting the use of heavy firepower.

“It allows soldiers to really focus on getting their skills and drills right, starting simply and then adding complexity through the built-in effects system,” Colonel Wills explained.

“These effects make training a more immersive experience, adding extra pressure to what the soldiers are doing. We can then take the skills that have been perfected here into more challenging training in the villages built on the Army’s training areas, adding the scale of larger units operating together.”

UK Invests in Indoor Military Operations

The training facility has arisen a few months after the MoD announced the development of a drone prototype armed with a twin-barrel stabilized shotgun specifically for indoor operations.

The meter-long (3.2 ft) unmanned aerial vehicle uses a camera powered with “machine vision,” similar to how a driverless car senses its surroundings, to identify people and objects inside a compound.

About a month after the announcement in October last year, the UK Royal Marines tested a lightweight reconnaissance robot that can be lobbed over walls or into a building to get live footage of what’s going on inside the structure.

Although the “throwbots” were being tested as a part of an exercise to protect the nation’s nuclear arsenal at the Clyde Naval Base, they are also ideal for urban warfare.

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