The First FATS (Firearms Training System) system was shipped to the US Postal Training Center in Potomac, Maryland in 1985. Today, there are more than 6,000 Meggitt Training Systems in use around the world by law enforcement and military agencies. Of those, approximately 4,500 are used by LE personnel in the United States.
There are more than 1,000 training scenarios available for the Meggitt Training Systems LET (Law Enforcement Trainer), which comes pre-loaded with more than 272 scenarios. What’s even more impressive is that there are more than 400 “branching options.” This enables the instructor to alter the scenario based on an officer’s specific action (or inaction).
LET was designed to accommodate more than 200 weapon types, including various models of handguns and long guns, chemical agents, Tasers, even a flashlight that illuminates a portion of the screen at a time to simulate working in a dimly lit environment. This allows agencies to customize the training weapons to department specifications. The fact that officers can use training weapons that mirror their duty weapons adds an undeniable element of realism to the training.
LET BlueFire training weapons use wireless Blue-Tooth technology and are both surprisingly accurate and realistic. Recoil is achieved with a rechargeable magazine of compressed gas. Real-time weapon sensor feedback monitors the condition of the weapon’s safety, number of rounds remaining in the magazine, and whether or not a round is in the chamber. The instructor can even induce a malfunction, requiring the officer to clear the weapon and get back into the fight.
BlueFire weapon sensors detect butt pressure, cant angle, and trigger squeeze. This information allows the instructor to diagnose and correct errors in basic marksmanship such as grip, sight alignment, and trigger control. LET can even be programmed with an agency’s specific firearm qualification course.
LET requires the officer to choose an appropriate force option and escalate or deescalate their level of force during fluid and dynamic scenarios that may not be encountered often on the street and are difficult to simulate using more traditional training methods. This type of training encourages officers to think on their feet under simulated stressful conditions and then immediately account for their actions to the instructor, who asks them to articulate what they perceived and explain their thought process. This instant debriefs often sparks heated debate, which can serve to reinforce departmental use of force policy, case law, and ethics.
During the scenarios, an officer might control some situations using only verbal skills, while others require the use of a less-lethal options. The suspect reacts to being hit with the OC spray as would be expected, by raising his hands to his eyes, screaming, and falling to the ground.
Since an officer can’t actually strike the screen with a personal body weapon or a baton and these weapons aren’t equipped with sensors, many instructors utilize a training dummy or a second instructor wearing a protective suit to make the training even more realistic. When appropriate, the officer can approach the dummy and deliver empty handed blows, baton strikes, or employ a control hold. The instructor running the simulator can program the suspect on screen to react to the officer’s use of force on the dummy.
Hits from the firearm don’t result in the blood and gore reminiscent of many popular video games. Instead, the suspect reacts to well-placed hits by falling. Shooting the suspect in a non-vital target does not stop the threat. This is an excellent reminder for officers that shot placement is crucial and that shooting a suspect doesn’t necessarily mean the fight is over.
Simulated training is not a substitute for live-fire training. However, training simulators such as the LET are an excellent way to improve an officer’s judgment and decision-making ability during realistic, interactive scenarios. Immediately debriefing a scenario with regard to tactics, policy, and ethics keeps the training relevant and prevents it from digressing into a game. Find out more at fatsinc.com or call 800-813-9046.