Sets of Scale Models for Combat Identification and Recognition Training

By Sarah Hartshorn, exclusively for Model Making Knowledge Base

This article is a sole intellectual property of Gamla Originals, Inc. DBA Gamla Model Makers and therefore cannot be copied, printed and published without expressed writing permission from the owner.


Recognition training developed as the result of wartime ground and air troops being unable to discern enemy combat equipment, vehicles and aircraft from their own. Too often, military personnel instigated friendly fire upon allies causing a tremendous amount of unnecessary fatalities due to failed recognition attempts. As early as World War I (WWI), it quickly became clear that processes needed to be implemented to assist with identification in order to deter the loss of additional human lives. One of the simplest and most cost effective methods came from producing military scale models in conjunction with formalized combat identification and recognition training protocols.

Military history reveals that scale models and sandboxes were utilized for education, training and wargaming purposes to provide a mock terrain and applicable tactics to gauge field maneuvers. These miniature armadas played significant roles in the Roman Empireís territorial domination, as well as Napoleonís campaigns and invasions. Although scale models served more of a strategic purpose prior to the 19th century, they have been utilized to plan and execute some of the most notorious battles around the globe. Successful invasions forecasted enemy movement and troop displacement, proving that scale model functionality was invaluable for power-hungry dynasties.

Hard lessons were learned during WWI that revealed how inadequately prepared military personnel were in their ability to properly identify the enemy. Despite the extensive use of trench warfare, industrial advancements truly made this warfare segment about machines. Unfortunately, correctly identifying the enemy was limited by distance. Proximity posed a liability to pilots who subjected themselves to attack when they crossed into firing range to determine whether or not other aircraft was one of their own. Ground gunners faced similar challenges when searching the landscape or skies.
At the time, combat vehicles and aircraft were painted according to camouflage standards based on their location and season. With equipment sharing similar features and characteristics, recognition became even more difficult.

Around WWI it was decided that studying the outline of enemy military equipment would enable mission objectives to be achieved with fewer casualties. Scale models were introduced and personnel were trained to recognize the three point-of-view relative the modelís outline, head-on, side-on and planform. The progression of grasping pertinent outline elements evolved into using the silhouette as the standard for recognition training efforts with scale models. Nearly every modern country had their own identification manuals based on scale model silhouettes by WWIís end.

The progression of technology continued to transform tactics used in battle throughout other wars, namely World War II (WWII) and post-World War II campaigns. According to Otis Willie, Military News and Information Editor of The American War Library, 21% of all causalities sustained by US Military during WWII (both fatal and non-fatal) were caused by friendly fire, in most cases due to improper identification of enemy vehicles, aircraft and equipment was. Percent of US Military casualties from friendly fire was estimated at 18% during Korea War, 39% during the Vietnam War and reached scary 49% during the Gulf War. These heavy and tragic losses delayed counter measures and greatly impacted financial costs associated with the wars.

More recent wars, such as the Operation Iraqi Freedom and war in Afghanistan, have both also encountered numerous fratricides Ė friendly fire on friendly forces. According to Countermeasure, Vol. 27, March 2006, published by the Army Combat Readiness Center at Fort Rucker, Alabama, as of 31 January 2006 in Operation Iraqi Freedom the US Army has had 27 fratricides, twenty-six of which were from direct fire. Above statistics demonstrate that recognition training and combat identification is relevant and important like never before in a battle for reducing the number of war casualties.

Differentiating between friend and foe defines recognition and determining the type and modification of equipment, vehicle and aircraft is known as identification. Training aids, devices, simulators and imagery work synergistically to permit armed forces to recognize and identify, thus ensuring reductions in potential fratricide outcomes.

Situational awareness, appropriate target identification and digitized scale model utilization, are enabling personnel to evaluate and analyze vehicles, aircraft and equipment in multiple situations. Practicing a combination bare-eye verification and observation through targeting devices, is transforming how combat identification challenges are overcome. Accurate identification allows personnel to establish strategic and safe positioning, as well as assembly of intelligence on enemy movement.

Constructing scale models to supplement recognition and identification training initiatives provides tangibility to detailed replicas that can be studied and reviewed (this literally translates into hands-on training). Typically, military combat scale models are produced in 1:100 and 1:87 scales. However, aircraft can be constructed in 1:72 and in rare instances a 1:35 build can be used. The 1:35 is relatively large-scale, which is making it cumbersome to transport, but it renders intricate details that smaller scale models are unable to achieve. This distinction may be vital for instances where only a subtle difference exists in modifications between vehicles and systems from the same class.

Click here to learn more about Scale, Standard Scales and Scale selection.

Beyond individual scale models, entire scenic dioramas can be created for advanced training protocols. Matching scale models to standard scales unveils endless possibilities to recreate realistic environments that enhance the recognition and identification training process. Replicating terrain to scale unveils potential obstacles and opportunities that may go unnoticed or overlooked.

Improvements in technology have somewhat altered training and simulation techniques used for combat identification and recognition training. Robust software packages create 3D surroundings, digital models showcase substantial features and interactive gaming simulates heart-stopping combat training leaves little left to the imagination. Considering the onslaught of technology available, are scale model still relative? The answer is an unequivocal yes!

 - Something as timeless as a scale model cannot be replaced with software and digital technology. They are essential training tools, but they are unable to actualize a true sense and solid concept of what enemy warfare machines and aircraft actually are.

 - Technology is expensive. Purchasing software licenses, anti-virus protection, maintenance upgrades, service patches and testing and troubleshooting glitches costs time and money. Scale models are extremely cost-effective, energy efficient and simple and affordable to reproduce. Because scale models are unelaborate objects, they are malfunction resistant. Replacing a broken scale model is a quick fix.

 - Acquiring technology for training is one thing, but operating it is something entirely different. Not only are certain computer skills required, but familiarity with the digital interface needs to be developed. Conveniently, scale models are simply replicas and what you see is what you get. They donít require a learning curve and most importantly, theyíre accessible for everyone. Because of their size, scale models are compact and can be moved or deployed in any condition to execute field training sessions.

 - Incorporating scale models into any environment, including angles and lighting, is without limits. Software parameters restrict users program options and integrating additional combat conditions impact budgets. Furthermore, as new enemy equipment is introduced on the battlefield, software will scramble to integrate changes and updates into existing technology programs.

 - Conversely, scale models take less than 90-days for model designers to manufacture additional scale models and for distribution to training sets. These quick and cost effective turn-arounds have the capability of disseminating vital information to personnel and ultimately saving lives.

 - Scale models are physical objects and are absolutely the closest likeness to actual enemy equipment. Anatomically, scale models can be viewed in the same manner as confirmed enemy craft making recognition and identification instantaneous.

Traditional scale models will continue to have a place as long as there is a need for military combat identification and recognition training. The advantages of scale models compared to technology are evidently displayed and provoke some careful consideration toward the tools and instruments used in military training. Scale models work to empower personnel with knowledge and training needed to preserve lives and reach mission critical objectives.

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