The Power of Next-Generation Rapid Prototyping

The Challenge: Virtual Weapons Training Lacked Realism

Soldiers in the Army conduct weapons training to build and maintain proficiency as part of their overall readiness. A key component of Crew Gunnery training, Table II, is virtual—soldiers employed as a vehicle crew engage targets in a simulated environment prior to progressing to live fire.

The challenge for the Army command was that soldiers could not use their actual crew-served weapons in the virtual training—they aimed and fired using a computer mouse connected to a laptop. The virtual environment was shown either on their laptops or on a large computer screen that several soldiers could see at once.

The Approach: Using Rapid Prototyping to Develop an Innovative Solution

To meet the challenge for the Army command—as well as for a broad range of Department of Defense (DOD) organizations—Booz Allen used its next-generation prototyping capability to develop a device that enables service members to use their actual weapons when training in game-type immersive scenarios.

With this device, a gyroscope and sensors are attached to the weapon and track all its movements, which are fed into the virtual environment. The service member views the virtual environment through a 7-inch screen attached to the weapon. Essentially the device—known as the Synthetic Weapons Attachment—converts the service weapon into a sophisticated computer mouse that enables the incorporation of organizational weapons into the virtual training environment.

The Booz Allen team designed, fabricated, and tested the prototype of the Synthetic Weapons Attachment in only 5 days. To do this, the team combined deep expertise in systems engineering, 3D modeling, virtual platforms, Table II Gunnery requirements, and rapid prototyping. Many of the kit components were produced using a 3D printer.

The device was one example of how Booz Allen is using its next-generation rapid prototyping to deliver innovative solutions to the DOD, including for virtual training environments.  

The Solution: Device Enables More Training Time with Actual Weapons

The Synthetic Weapons Attachment can be used with a wide variety of weapons, whether on land, in the air, or on the deck of a ship. For example, the kit might be attached to an M240 or 50-caliber gun on a vehicle.

One of the Synthetic Weapons Attachment’s most important benefits is that it enables soldiers to use their actual weapons in virtual training. This means that when they go into live-fire exercises, they have had more time with their weapon and so are more proficient.

The Synthetic Weapons Attachment can be used with any Windows-based gaming or virtual reality (VR) system. The kit is compact (it fits in a carry-on case), easy to deploy, and capable of being used in a classroom setting or in outdoor training. It can meet each unit’s unique training needs, from gunnery crew drills to live-fire rehearsals, and takes 5 minutes to set up for each training session.

Hundreds of active, guard, and reserve soldiers have already had training or are scheduled to be trained on using the Synthetic Weapons Attachment. The Contractor Performance Assessment Report (CPAR) for the Booz Allen team that was responsible for the Army project noted that “this effort is a superior example of innovation and excellence that [enables] soldiers to learn on the training field rather than bleed on the battlefield.” 

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