What is the cost of training those who protect us? What is the cost of empowering our fighting men with innovative training solution. Skiftech provides these answers. We spoke with Skiftechs’s cofounder Yuri Lavrenov, and he explained why Skiftech’s innovative tactical training solution will improve the training regimen of African forces.
The Importance of Military Training for African Military Forces
Military training is the process of preparing soldiers for the physical, mental and tactical challenges of war. Military training can take many forms, such as basic training, specialized training, joint training and multinational training. Military training is essential for any military force, but especially for African military forces, who face a variety of security threats and challenges in their continent.
One of the benefits of military training is that it enhances the readiness and capability of African military forces to respond to different scenarios, such as conventional warfare, asymmetric warfare, peacekeeping operations, counter-terrorism operations and humanitarian assistance. Military training also helps to improve the professionalism, discipline and morale of African soldiers, who often operate in harsh and complex environments. Military training also fosters cooperation and interoperability among African military forces, as well as with their regional and international partners.
However, military training is not without its challenges and limitations. Some of the challenges include the lack of adequate resources, equipment and infrastructure, the diversity of languages and cultures, the political instability and corruption, the interference of external actors and the impact of climate change. Some of the limitations include the difficulty of measuring the effectiveness and impact of military training, the risk of human rights violations and abuses, the possibility of creating dependency and resentment and the potential for exacerbating existing conflicts and tensions.
Military training is a vital component of enhancing the security and stability of Africa. By improving the quality and effectiveness of military training for African military forces, Africa can better cope with the current and emerging security threats and challenges, while advancing its peace and development goals.
Enters Skiftech, Ukraine has been in a high-intensity conflict with a powerful military force for almost two years. The war requires armies to pay attention to how Ukraine adapts its equipment, doctrines and industry to the situation, and to learn from its experience.
One example of how Ukraine has adopted local technological solutions to train its soldiers effectively and quickly is Skiftech. Skiftech produces laser tactical simulators for various types of military equipment, such as explosive devices, armoured vehicles, artillery, mortars, ATGMs, MANPADS, and others. The company has created equipment that functions as a single ecosystem and enables different types of troops to train together on the same military training ground.
Can you provide an overview of Skiftech and the role your simulators have played in military training, particularly in Ukraine?
Skiftech is a full-cycle manufacturer of tactical simulation systems based on laser technology from Ukraine. Every element of the training system, from the body and electronics to the software and applications, is created by a team of experts in our own production facility. Over the past 9 years, we have developed and provided various direct (laser-based) and indirect (STE) immersive training systems to military and law enforcement training centres in Ukraine and worldwide.
Skiftech has created personal kits for fighters, equipment for armoured vehicles, simulators for SPAAG, MANPADS, MANPATS, artillery, “anti-snipe” systems, mortars, and explosive simulators. All of this equipment is integrated into a single ecosystem through software and can be used in a unified training scenario. It’s important to note that each Skiftech simulator is created according to customer requirements. We take into account the specific features of armament and other factors to maximize the effectiveness and realism of training.
Tactical simulators indeed play an essential role in the military training of Ukrainian servicemen, who are engaged in a full-scale war. Last month, Ukraine’s Commander-in-Chief, Valery Zaluzhny, posted a video on his page showcasing our military’s training, featuring the use of Skiftech simulators. General Zaluzhny emphasizes that laser technology enables training to closely simulate combat conditions and allows for effective practice of each exercise.
How do Skiftech’s laser-based tactical training simulators replicate real combat conditions and prepare soldiers for real battles, especially in high-stress situations?
All Skiftech tactical simulators are based on digital signal transmission technology. Electronic units are installed on standard weapons or military equipment to simulate realistic firing. Special sensors are used to detect simulated hits on soldiers and armoured vehicles. During training, each serviceman wears a tactical helmet cover with a hit sensor, a vest with hit sensors, a stress belt, and a weapon with a laser emitter. The military engages in various combat operation scenarios, facing an intelligent adversary rather than stationary targets. The integrated or attached emitter simulates the firing of personal weapons. When someone is hit, sensors on the helmet or vest cover record the impact. Hits are indicated with sounds and a pulse on the stress belt.
The training closely resembles actual combat, as the weight and characteristics of the weapons are close to real ones. Also, it takes place in an open area in conditions that are as close as possible to combat, in contrast to training with the systems that take place in classrooms — VR or laser shooting ranges. This approach facilitates the development of coordination among military personnel, benefiting not only individual specialists but also improving the overall interaction of military units.
Following the training, the instructor can conduct a detailed analysis of each fighter’s actions and movements using a software program that records all actions and movements of servicemen during the training process.
According to your company, thanks to dry-fire technology, it is possible to save more than $30,000 on training for one platoon. Also, the overall tactical training benefit for just one infantry platoon is more than $200,000 per year due to the ability to conduct dry firing.
Could you explain the cost-saving advantages of utilizing dry-fire technology in tactical training, as mentioned by Skiftech?
This is not according to our company; the military provided us with data indicating that more than $30,000 is spent monthly on blank cartridges for a single platoon. Training with tactical simulation systems based on laser technology and indirect simulation such as STE eliminates the need for blank cartridges.
Let’s consider another example. Suppose the military needs to conduct anti-tank-guided weapon training. A single anti-tank or anti-aircraft missile can cost anywhere from $20,000 to approximately $80,000. However, with laser simulators, you can practice hitting skills with as many “shots” as needed. In other words, thanks to the tactical simulator, you can save several thousand dollars for just one training session.
I understand Skiftech likely supplies equipment based on the customer’s requirements. However, what is the average cost to equip a battalion strength of infantry with your laser-based tactical training solution?
What is the cost difference for a military force to carry out a real-time training exercise for an infantry battalion lever versus using live ammunition?
Figures can vary greatly, from $900,000 up to several million, depending on the configuration and specialization of the trainees. Our system can be supplied in modules that support different types of troops and weapons. The cost depends on the variety of weapons used and the size of the training ground where the training will take place. Also, it’s important to consider not only the number of personal kits for fighters but also factors such as the training scenario, network coverage, and other variables.
Furthermore, it’s essential to remember that training with tactical simulators, based on laser technology, can be repeated as many times as needed. Simulators only require charging and do not necessitate the use of any live ammunition. The dry-fire mode allows for endless repetitions of training exercises.
The difference between live ammunition and tactical simulators extends beyond the economic aspect; it also has tactical implications. In tactical training with blank cartridges, the experience resembles a “war game.” Soldiers engage in physical simulations of combat, followed by an instructor who determines who is wounded or killed. Fighters become accustomed to the sound of gunfire and the scent of gunpowder, but they do not experience genuine stress because they know that no one is firing live rounds at them.
Conversely, training with TESS (Tactical Engagement Simulation Systems) replicates real combat scenarios. Soldiers genuinely engage with one another, firing shots, while damage sensors ascertain whether the target has been hit or “killed”; not by the instructor’s decision but because they were actually struck. An instructor monitors all activities in real time on a screen and can address mistakes after the training session. Such training is effective at all levels, from the soldier in the trench to the commander.
Skiftech is seeking new partners in Africa. How do you envision your simulators being used in African military contexts?
In Africa, the security of the population faces several significant challenges, including internal threats such as criminal groups and terrorist organizations of various sizes. The military must address both of these issues. Traditional training, in line with existing military doctrines, often falls short in preparing for modern threats, particularly in the context of National Security and law enforcement functions.
Currently, aside from special police units, the army conducts patrols in villages and cities. When encountering armed criminal or terrorist groups, they are required to respond effectively. This situation often involves Fight in the Built-up Urban Area (FIBUA) scenarios, including Close Quarter Combats (CQC). These skills are crucial for military and law enforcement agencies to master at the highest level. This differs from the traditional approach of sitting in a trench and waiting for a frontal attack.
Today, terrorists often hide in houses, making CQC training essential. Training with blank cartridges is insufficient for this purpose. Airsoft equipment is an option, but it has a high risk of cheating, as it’s challenging to verify hits, and participants may not take it seriously, perceiving it as a game. Another option is paintball, but the weapons used are essentially toys and not suitable for serious training. Marker rounds are a more expensive solution, but their constant purchase is delayed due to bureaucracy. Furthermore, they do not provide comprehensive training statistics.
The solution provided by Skiftech realistically simulates real shots and hits, while the software enables instructors to record and analyze all actions, offering comprehensive statistics on platoon performance. Instructors can conduct after-action reviews, monitor ground movements, and track skill improvement over time.
Terrorists employ not only small arms but also drones and various explosive devices, ranging from homemade to traditional mines. Additionally, terrorists operate in small mobile groups. Traditional methods are inadequate for practising resistance against these threats. Modern technologies are essential. Skiftech manufactures simulators not only for personnel but also for military equipment, including armoured vehicles and tanks. We also offer RPG and mortar simulators, enabling the military to conduct comprehensive training with diverse scenarios and various weapon systems.
With the ongoing conflict in Europe, African militaries may be wary of investing in a technology that may not guarantee long-term sustainment. Would Skiftech be willing to offer long-term training, and sustainment support to African customers?
Our company is diversified with branches in Europe and the USA. This means that if there are changes in the operations of one office, the other office continues to function. Our technical support system is also diversified, featuring a robust network for independent fulfilment of warranty obligations and maintenance. Post-production support, incidentally, is consistently valued by our customers, who appreciate that we are always accessible and responsive.
Could you share any success stories or examples of how Skiftech’s simulators have positively impacted military training in recent years?
For the 9th year, we have been manufacturing equipment for training military personnel with direct military experience. Currently, our systems are in use by the Armed Forces of Ukraine, the National Guard of Ukraine, the State Border Guard Service, Special Operations Forces, and other state military organizations in Ukraine. Since 2017, we have also collaborated with the US Department of Energy to provide tactical simulators for training National Guard units at nuclear power plants.
For the past two years, the Ukrainian military has been engaged in a full-scale war with an adversary that outnumbers them significantly in terms of both personnel and military equipment and ammunition. Innovative technological solutions have played a significant role in the Russians’ failure to achieve their objectives.
Skiftech mentions the adaptability of its simulators to various models and types of weapons. Can you elaborate on this flexibility?
Each simulator is customized according to the customer’s requirements, with careful consideration of weapon features and other relevant factors to optimize training effectiveness. Skiftech equipment can be installed on standard weapons or military equipment, but we also specialize in creating bespoke solutions tailored to the specific needs of the military. This includes customized solutions for specific weapons, as well as tailored exercises and training programs. As a result, we currently boast the most extensive product portfolio among tactical simulator manufacturers. Our advantage lies in the fact that we handle development, production, and supply in-house, ensuring rapid and efficient communication. Additionally, all our engineers are part of our in-house team.