Marines are looking to first upgrade and eventually replace laser shooting simulators. The FoFTS-Next system will allow Marines to move away from decades of semi-accurate laser weapons systems that can often be defeated by standing behind a leafy shrub and cannot replicate the trajectories, drops, shooting experience or effects on target that are desperately needed for live training. “I think this is going to revolutionize the way we conduct force on force training,” Col. Luis Lara, program manager for Marine Corps Systems Command training systems, told Marine Corps Times.

I appreciate that FoFTS-Next addresses the limitations of Instrumented-Tactical Engagement Simulation System (ITESS) and Multiple Integrated Laser Engagement System (MILES). That’s all well and good, however, but the biggest limitation is how any of this equipment is implemented.

Having used MILES and MILES 2000, I found it common for units to either not use or not have the Small Arms Alignment Fixture (SAAF) to zero the devices before use. If you were in the Army or Marines and used MILES, read this Technical Manual to check if your unit failed to do this:

Even worse than this is how Force on Force is conducted in the military, or rather, how it too often isn’t conducted. Instead of setting up and running focused and intelligently designed FoF exercises using whatever simulator system might be available (properly set up or not…) many units just stumble around the field for days at a time with this extra gear, ensuring it gets beaten and abused to a point of non-usability for the next unit that borrows it from the Training Aids Service Center or Training Support Center.

Smart troops and good leaders using ancient but properly-setup MILES gear will remain better trained than typical units with FoFTS-Next. Better equipment is only as good as the people using it.