Army

Paratroopers Put To The Test At New Cutting-Edge Urban Training Facility

A system of cameras above the facility in Colchester, Essex, allows soldiers to review their performance.

The British Army's global response force has been put to the test at a new urban warfare training facility, responding to threats generated at the touch of a tablet by an instructor.

Going door to door in the simulator in Colchester, 16 Air Assault Brigade were watched by cameras above as they worked through the facility, regarded as one of the most hi-tech simulators of its kind in the world.

The facility at Merville Barracks is designed to constantly test an already elite group of airborne soldiers, who maintain the Air Assault Task Force battlegroup for rapid deployment worldwide.

The walls and doors can be moved to reconfigure the space and create many different scenarios.

Sounds, from IEDs exploding, gunshots or people screaming, can be played to make the training more immersive.

With quick response at the heart of their missions, the paratroopers benefit from "repetitions" of dynamic, fast-paced scenarios, says Major Murray McMahon, Commanding Officer, C Company, 2 Para.

"Just like a boxer would hit a bag and a golfer would hit a golf ball – over and over and over again – we needed something that was a little bit hi-tech and available for the section commanders to bring them in and train those repetitions," he said.

The use of paintball ammunition also allows mock enemies to lie in wait in protective kit, ready to launch an ambush as troops enter a room.

The facility is provided by veteran-owned and operated technology firm 4GD.

Similar environments are also used by US forces and the Royal Marines

Instructors can control the whole immersive scenario from a tablet.

After completing the exercise, the soldiers head to a teaching room where they watch their performance back using the cameras installed at the facility. 

Reflecting on his experience, Private Fin Doherty, C Company, 2 Para, said: "You can do it 100 times over, change all these walls around, but every time it is different.

"To keep brushing up on these skills, you can never do too much, you can never prepare yourself too much."

The facility is roughly the size of an inside five-a-side football pitch and there are plans for it to be upgraded further by replacing wooden targets with sensor-enhanced mannequins to record the accuracy and fire rate of every soldier.