ORLANDO, Fla. — An armed police officer guarding an office parking lot questions a driver who has just pulled up.
He doesn’t have identification but it turns out he has a warrant for his arrest due to domestic abuse.
While the officer is trying to get the driver to cooperate and exit the vehicle, a bystander shows up and starts recording the incident, loudly shouting he has a right to record and that the cop is live. The officer repeatedly asks the man to stand back until the man complies.
Then the angry girlfriend of the driver shows up with a baseball bat and the officer must deal with her, too.
Suddenly, amid the chaos, a man with a gun approaches from behind the officer and fires the weapon. The officer turns and neutralizes the threat.
The only real person in the entire scenario is the officer. Everything else is playing out via interactive video on large screens that fan out to 300 degrees as part of Meggitt Training Systems’ Firearms Training System 300. Life-size video footage appears on the screens and surround sound is projected from relevant angles.
Meggitt, which has produced small arms fire training systems for 90 years to law enforcement and the military, debuted FATS 300 at the Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation and Education Conference.
Meggitt has roughly 5,000 fielded FATS 100 training systems worldwide and has produced systems for law enforcement and the military since the early 1980s, according to Michael Paulk, Meggitt’s director of virtual systems.
“FATS is almost a universal name for something that does small arms training — they call it a FATS,” much like Xerox is synonymous with photo copies and Kleenex with tissues, Paulk told Defense News in an interview at I/ITSEC.
Meggitt’s training covers everything from basic marksmanship to “judgement training,” where videos are streamed to provide surroundings and scenarios, to — in the case of the military — collective training in a virtual battle space through flat, single screens.
The company films videos to depict various scenarios in various environments and has built up a library of footage for judgement training that it is constantly updating to keep scenarios relevant with the times and to reflect incidents that have come up in the recent past.
But Meggitt is taking it further with FATS 300, combining multiple screens to cover a 300-degree, live-size field of view.
“It’s an immersive judgemental trainer; law enforcement over the years has cried out for the need of an immersive trainer,” Paulk said. While he acknowledged other companies make immersive trainers, the name Meggitt has earned for itself with FATS is enough to keep the company confident that orders will come in.
“If I have an existing system in the FATS 100 family and I see this, I go: ‘Wow, I really want that.’ We have an upgrade path,” he added.
The 300 system is designed for advanced, immersive, proficient shooters, Paulk said, that want to do reaction drills. The 100 systems will still be relevant particularly for basic marksmanship, he noted.
Meggitt has taken pains to ensure the environment is as real as possible. “ If you get in that immersive environment, if you are not feeling uneasy, then we didn’t do it right,” Paulk said.
And it’s also real enough that you can’t game the system.
“You can’t learn the pattern,” he said. A trainer, depending on reactions or lack thereof in the simulation, can take the scenario down different paths. “He has branches and sequels in the video that he can take you down. ... He can escalate it or he can deescalate it or he can do anything in between.”
The result of that design is roughly hundreds of different scenarios, he added.
Additionally, the system is designed so that users can make their own video and edit it with branches and sequels. “Your area on Earth is going to be different from my area. [The Los Angeles Police Department] is different from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania,” Paulk said.
And if users take their own film and don’t want to edit it, Meggitt can finish the work for them. The company is known for the service it provides after the sale, particularly to keep training scenario videos fresh and relevant, according to Paulk.
Meggitt is also able to record the training procedures, which allows for thorough after-action evaluation.