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Posted: 10/7/2004 9:58:25 AM EST
Issue Date: October 11, 2004

High-tech targeting
Parris Island’s new rifle ranges offer improved targets, scoring

By Gordon Lubold
Times staff writer

Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., is upgrading the second of two rifle ranges, replacing silhouette targets like those used since World War II with automated pop-up targets and computerized scoring.

The enhanced ranges, one of which was completed last year, give training officials a much clearer picture of how Marine recruits’ marksmanship skills are developing during field training.

“Now we know recruits are hitting the target at nearly as high a rate as we thought or hoped,” said Maj. Chris Casados, executive officer of Weapons and Field Training Battalion at Parris Island. “It’s made a world of difference.”

The Hue City range, an unknown-distance range used for field-firing exercises, is undergoing a $425,000 upgrade set to be completed in November. On the new range, drill instructors will benefit from computerized scoring when running recruits through the field-firing portion of the marksmanship program, which includes firing in low light and darkness, multiple-target and moving-target exercises.

The hit-sensitive targets use sensors to register where a round strikes, then transmit the data to a computer system. Users can print reports for an individual or a unit showing strengths and weaknesses. For example, each shooter will be able to get a percentage score for each course of fire he shoots on the 16-lane range.

This project follows one completed last year at another unknown-distance range on Parris Island, the Khe Sanh range. That $700,000 enhancement allows range personnel to use “smart-card” technology to track scores on multiple targets for Marines firing from four positions, including a bunker, a window, a rubble pile and a rooftop. The pop-up targets operate using a pneumatic system and glide on rails.

The field-firing portion of marksmanship training is not a graduation requirement, but plenty of recruits — and Marines assigned to Parris Island — use the range to improve their shooting skills. But because scoring techniques were crude, depot officials were never quite sure how reliable the paper scoring system was.

Bull’s-eye?

Range personnel previously used another remote scoring system, but it was considered unreliable, and Marines couldn’t always tell if they had hit their intended target or not. Marines had to move targets manually and replace them if they were shot too many times. Beyond that, the scoring system required that Marines get a buddy to look downrange with binoculars to determine whether a target had been hit.

“Now we’ve given the Marine Corps a tool which guarantees 100 percent accuracy,” said Chris Taylor, a spokesman for the company building the new range, Blackwater Target Systems, a division of Blackwater USA of Moyock, N.C.

The scoring for the new targeting system is “99.99 percent accurate,” he said.

“The neat thing about the software is it gives real-time data,” said Taylor, a former Marine reconnaissance staff sergeant who got out in 1999.

The software also is flexible enough to allow range personnel to add data that may help future training, he said.

Better known for its security consulting work, Blackwater also builds rifle ranges for the armed forces and for other clients, including some who want mobile ranges in Iraq.

Blackwater’s range software is already used at ranges at Camp Pendleton, Calif., Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, and Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C., Taylor said. But the ranges at Parris Island are the first two fully automatic ranges Blackwater has built for the Corps.

Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., has a similar rifle range. That facility, developed by ATA Defense Industries Inc., of Tennessee, also features computerized scoring and separate banks of automated targets.

The range incorporates sensors, rifles and computers in a scoring system that tracks data for the 40 known-distance and eight unknown-distance target lanes.
Link Posted: 10/7/2004 3:33:51 PM EST
bump
Link Posted: 10/7/2004 3:39:36 PM EST
My son will be graduating later this month, I'll pay the new ranges a visit.
Link Posted: 10/7/2004 3:44:13 PM EST
They must be talking about the unknown distance course that is shot during basic combat training. That course was SHITTY!! The targets weren't falling that day so we just fired off rounds at them with absolutely no idea what we were hitting. It was definitely time for an upgrade.
Link Posted: 10/7/2004 3:44:58 PM EST
about time they catch up to the Army
Link Posted: 10/7/2004 3:47:57 PM EST

Originally Posted By lokt:
about time they catch up to the Army



Thats what I was thinking.....
Link Posted: 10/7/2004 3:50:09 PM EST

Originally Posted By lokt:
about time they catch up to the Army



The course they are talking about is an extra course shot a week or two after the REAL marksmanship training where recruits learn to score consistent hits at 200, 300, and 500 yds.
Link Posted: 10/7/2004 3:59:50 PM EST

Originally Posted By Cypher214:

Originally Posted By lokt:
about time they catch up to the Army



The course they are talking about is an extra course shot a week or two after the REAL marksmanship training where recruits learn to score consistent hits at 200, 300, and 500 yds.



So long as this is used in conjunction with the traditional KD course I'm OK with it. It IS time the Marine Corps got a realistic combat shooting range like the Army has. Just make sure the traditional shooting instruction isn't dicked with.
Link Posted: 10/7/2004 4:06:37 PM EST
Welcome to the Army, 1990. Fort Jackson had them in 1988. the rest of the army followed suit. Marines just now getting them?
Link Posted: 10/7/2004 4:08:02 PM EST

Originally Posted By Tortfeasor:
Welcome to the Army, 1990. Fort Jackson had them in 1988. the rest of the army followed suit. Marines just now getting them?



Marines have had something similar for a LONG time that is used in conjuction with the known distance course of fire. The problem was, the old system didn't work and I don't think they bothered fixing it. Now they have a new improved system.
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