Changing the Army's Weapon Training Strategies to Meet Operational Requirements More Efficiently and Effectively

by James C. Crowley, Bryan W. Hallmark, Michael G. Shanley, Jerry M. Sollinger


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Research Questions

  1. What implications do changes to operational requirements and unit readiness processes have for unit weapon training strategies and standards?
  2. How can current and emerging training technologies enhance weapon training strategies and make them more efficient?
  3. What are the Army's current processes for developing and adapting weapon training strategies and how could they be improved?
  4. What directions could the Army take to improve its current weapon training strategies?

The ability of soldiers to engage the enemy effectively is fundamental to the operational success of the U.S. Army. As a result, the Army devotes considerable effort and resources to weapon training. The Army's current challenge is to adapt weapon training strategies to meet complex operational environments and changing unit readiness processes; take full advantage of training technologies; and, in an era of declining defense budgets, make weapon training strategies more efficient. This report documents the findings, conclusions, and implications of a two-year project supporting the Army's efforts to adapt its weapon training strategies and the processes through which they are developed. The potential of emerging technologies to make weapon training strategies more effective and efficient is also examined. The report outlines directions the Army could take to improve its weapon training strategies and the processes for adapting them. It concludes that improving the processes for adapting weapon training to new requirements can make them more effective and efficient, but that improvements should be made in the context of holistically improving the Army's training and leader development programs. In addition, while there are many potential benefits to increasing the use of technologies in weapon training strategies, there are many factors that act to limit the amount of improvement that must be considered before deciding on implementation.

Key Findings

Weapon strategy support of operational requirements and unit readiness processes

  • Current small arms training standards do not include many combat critical engagement tasks and skills.
  • Current weapon training strategies do not align with progressive unit manning and training readiness strategies, and better alignment could achieve needed readiness levels more efficiently.

Potential of training technologies to enhance weapon training strategies

  • Virtual technologies are already used extensively in weapon training strategies.
  • Training strategies could be improved through better use of training technologies, but such improvement will require effort and study.

Weapon training strategy development processes

  • Proponents develop weapon training strategies with little Army-level guidance and direction.
  • Processes are adequate to support evolutionary improvement but not the major changes that may be needed to support changed operational requirements and unit readiness processes and to exploit the potential of training technologies.
  • Processes for integrating weapon training strategies and the resources to support them internally (e.g., ammunition, ranges and targetry, and simulators) and with other training strategy components (e.g., mission command and tactical unit maneuver) are informal rather than systematic.
  • A lack of data on unit training practices undercuts the ability to make needed improvements.


  • Review and improve weapon training standards to ensure they include all combat-critical engagement skills.
  • Improve the alignment of weapon training strategies with changing unit manning and training readiness strategies.
  • Review and improve weapon training strategies to ensure that the mix of live and virtual simulator modalities supports greater effectiveness and efficiency.
  • Further define Army-level processes for developing, improving, and coordinating weapon training strategies.
  • Collect and analyze data on unit weapon training programs and proficiency levels to better support the development of weapon training strategies.
  • Develop and improve weapon training strategies as part of a larger, integrated training strategy development process.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One

    Introduction and Background

  • Chapter Two

    Weapon Training Strategies and Processes for Their Development

  • Chapter Three

    The Potential of Simulators to Improve Weapon Training Strategies and Make Them More Efficient

  • Chapter Four

    Current Small-Arms Training Strategies

  • Chapter Five

    Improving Small-Arms Training Strategies

  • Chapter Six

    Developing and Assessing Options for Making Weapon Training Strategies More Efficient

  • Chapter Seven

    Improving the Wider Range of Weapon Training Strategies &emdash; Conclusions, Directions, and Implications

Research conducted by

The research described in this report was sponsored by the United States Army and conducted by the RAND Arroyo Center.

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