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Suwanee company helps Special Forces train for dangerous missions | News

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Suwanee company helps Special Forces train for dangerous missions
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SUWANEE, Ga. -- It is twilight in Kandahar.

An enemy convoy approaches its compound, as U.S. forces prepare for an ambush several hundred yards away.

A soldier picks up a bazooka and fires.

The lead vehicle explodes and burns. The rest come to an immediate stop, as combatants scurry for cover. In an instant, there are tracer bullets flying across the desert, as helicopters swoop in and deliver a death blow from the sky.

The firefight is over in a matter of seconds.

The instructor sitting at the computer at the back of the studio loads another attack scenario from an endless file of software. The scene now changes to urban warfare in a city like Tikrit.

The soldiers lift their weapons before a giant HD projection screen and prepare for the new virtual assault.

It is all part of the Meggitt Training System in Suwanee.

"Training in the virtual environment allows a soldier or a SEAL or special operations troops to train in the environment, to make the judgmental calls when he gets in the real world," explains Meggitt training expert Ray Barger. "It allows for target identification. It's the same thing in the virtual environment; the same thing in the real world."

Indeed, the terrain on the screen, the targeting scopes, and the weapons are all real. Many of the computer generated scenarios come from real life, and with a few clicks of a mouse, they can change to the next combat mission.

Before the raid on Osama bin Laden's compound in Pakistan, Navy SEALS reportedly spent weeks if not months rehearsing for the mission, using intelligence gathered by the CIA. While the details are secret, it is extremely likely that part of their training utilized virtual technology similar to systems designed by Meggitt, Inc.

Very often, before Special Forces troops graduate to live-fire training, they start with that virtual technology. The U.S. military, as well as our international allies and NATO all practice with Meggitt's CGI. So does local law enforcement.

"You learn it, you get the functionality and basic skills in a very safe environment," said Kirk Roetman, a live-fire Program Manager with the company. "You get an effective training environment in a virtual system. Then take that and escalate up to a live fire. It makes it an effective training tool for any of the forces that we market and sell our products to."

The guns are modified to use compressed air for 60% recoil. They are referred to as "blue-fire" weapons, because of the blue-tooth technology and lasers they use to acquire and eliminate targets on-screen. There are more than 300 weapons to choose from, including those popular with enemy forces, in case U.S. troops have to pick them up on the battlefield and use them.

The training scenarios can include weapons as big as tank killers and helicopter gunships.

One of the unique features of the system is that members of the squad don't have to be together to rehearse. They can be anywhere in the world training on the same program and then come together on the day of the attack and be on the same page.

Meggitt can adapt the program for just about anything real life can dish out, from bad weather and gun jams to night vision and thermal scans.

"The instructor can put targets in their way; they can have people you're not expecting coming around the corner," said Barger. "So you have to make judgment calls in the scenario just like you would in the real world."

More virtual training and rehearsals mean better chances that our troops come back alive from the real thing.

Just like they did in the attack on Osama bin Laden.

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