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07 August 2015

COMBATER – Constructive Simulation for the Brazilian Army

Santa Maria in Rio Grande do Sul province is home to the Brazilian Army’s 3rd Division – one of the largest units in the army. In July, forces from across the division took part in a wide-ranging exercise – Operaçao Liberdade Azul – that aimed to train commanders and staff in the complex art that is modern combined arms warfare. Four brigade staffs were involved, complete with ancillary and support units ranging from air defence and logistic support to reconnaissance and armoured units as well as an OPFOR (Opposing Force) provided from within the division.

Almost every subordinate unit of the Army’s 3rd Division contributed to Operaçao Liberdade Azul. (All photos via MASA Group)

While not the only exercise on this scale the Army has conducted, “it is a challenge and a very useful one, that allows us to learn from mistakes and improve our procedures,” according to the division’s commander, Gen. José Carlos Cardoso.

Training is one of the seven priority projects embodied in the Brazilian Army’s current transformation programme. As such, the enhancement and modernisation of exercises such as Liberdade Azul are critically important to the desire to instil the techniques and tactics of a wide range of potential operational requirements across the widest possible spectrum of the Army’s considerable capabilities.

The exercise therefore took full advantage of the COMBATER constructive simulation programme, recently purchased under a $7 million contract that included customisation of the original software for Brazilian doctrine and tactics, as well as support over a five year period.

The COMBATER system is based on the SWORD artificial intelligence-based simulation software developed by Paris-based MASA Group, now in use with the armed forces of fifteen nations worldwide. Aimed at bringing the very best in command and staff training to large scale exercises, SWORD has given COMBATER a capability the Brazilian Army has not hitherto been able to exploit.

Almost every subordinate unit of the Army’s 3rd Division contributed to Operaçao Liberdade Azul. (All photos via MASA Group)

Of particular effectiveness for 3rd Division has been the capability to integrate command training across all the component brigades and battalions, according to participants in the exercise. The ability to inject unexpected events and make the OPFOR a much more comprehensive threat than might be expected from its small size has made learning some of the essential lessons very hard for some commanders. “Evil has no limits!” said one of the exercise coordinators, with a particularly wicked smile.

The three and a half day exercise encompassed a considerable number of events and activities – scheduled pretty much 24/7 throughout its course. Using the compression techniques that COMBATER allows for, the exercise coordinators were able to provide an exercise that represented a time period three times as long, to the ultimate benefit of the entire divisional staff.

COMBATER is a powerful training aid for the Brazilian forces. It remains to be seen what further benefits it will bring as the Army institutes at least two further integrated Combat Training Centres as part of the ongoing transformation programme.
Tim Mahon

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