Battlespace Tactical Acuity

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Reconnaissance, surveillance, and target acquisition (RSTA) operations are dynamic. As advanced weapons systems are deployed, they become less effective as opposition forces adapt and evade. Recognizing and interpreting less distinct threat intelligence broadens real-time intelligence, extends standoff distances, and helps profile innovative threats.

Our philosophy:

 “Operators with acute visual perception are formidable weapons. They are force multipliers, and our greatest asset to insure control of ground and threats.”


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There are four methods of gathering less distinct threat intelligence which enhance battlespace situational awareness:

       *   Long Range Reconnaissance and Surveillance 

       *   Combat Tracking

       *   Target Profiling 

       *   Human Terrain Dynamics

   Each method provides unique intelligence that addresses different problems, threat behaviors, and terrain conditions.

   When used together, controlling threats is simpler and more effective.

   Not utilizing this process results in inaccurate threat assessments, and compromised situational awareness.





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Battlespace Visual Acuity

No one is born with trained vision. It can only be developed with experience. Consider the training required to read simple text on a high contrast background. Recognizing concealed threats, camouflaged targets, IED indicators, and distant targets in cluttered battlespace, is more problematic and requires disciplined observation. Our research shows most operators only utilize 20-50% of their vision. Visual perception provides limited acuity that must be directed and controlled. While scanning battlespace scenes, the average observer’s vision quickly fatigues and interprets a fraction of images reaching the eye. These deficiencies in perception limit intelligence collected, compromise situational awareness, and force operators to conduct observation at closer, more hazardous standoff distances. We train operators how to secure visual dominance over battlespace by collectively exploiting vision, optical systems, and environmental conditions.




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Systematic Optical Surveillance (SOS)

Conventional surveillance often fails to detect less distinct targets and threat indicators. SOS fills acuity voids between binoculars and spotting scopes and exploits visual skills used by professional hunters, athletes, and competitive shooters. SOS doubles and triples standoff distances, and provides 3-5 times more coverage per hour. Integrating Combat Tracking provides additional tactical intelligence, which greatly enhances situational awareness.

USMC Company Commander:                                       

In all cases, pre-deployment and deployment tracking and optics training played a vital, day-to-day role. Specifically, the training and equipment hoisted the Company from an inside the wire, stand-in-the-tower element to a fully functional, counterinsurgency Company that conducted full-spectrum missions ranging from raids to village engagement to Iraqi Police training. Combat Tracking and Systematic Optical Surveillance used each aspect – from the Marine’s naked eye to long-range optics and beyond (UAVs and high tech camera systems) – to deliver safety to the FOB and execute missions in a highly volatile and dangerous AO.”          












Advanced Tactical Acuity Chart

In 2001, we recognized the need to evaluate operators’ optics scanning techniques before conducting rigorous target acquisition exercises. We experimented with USAF resolution and modified Snellen charts, but found they didn’t address several issues or mimic the density of shapes common in battlespace environments. An associate professional hunter and competitive shooter, Tom Vujovich, suggested creating a dynamic (field of view) target acquisition chart. Tom’s idea worked, and our first chart (VATAD) assisted operators in developing visual acuity, target acquisition, and designation skills. In 2011, while collaborating with former A-10 pilot Jon Boyd and Combat Tracking instructor Jason Brokaw, we realized other tactical observation skills could be incorporated to improve training. Our Advanced Tactical Acuity Chart (ATAC) now addresses 25 observation skills essential to RSTA operations. Most importantly, it allows operators to experiment with scanning techniques, observe dynamics of vision, and instantly analyze results. 

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ATAC simulates large, visually cluttered mountainous and urban terrain. Conducting effective reconnaissance and surveillance in these environments requires high acuity, wide field of view, overlapping coverage, and constant terrain orientation. ATAC contains over 75,000 images which simulate 2”, 5”, 10”, 20”, and 30” target indicators, and crowded background shapes. While scanning with optics, images not instantly recognized demonstrate a significant loss of acuity needed to identify human and threat shapes; e.g. heads, weapons, facial recognition, IED indicators, etc. While conducting ATAC exercises, operators evaluate acuity, scan wandering, and orientation. When performance is inadequate, operators self correct using SOS techniques and develop team observation skills which enhance battlespace visual acuity.

Dispelling optical performance myths


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Surprisingly, today there are many myths about reconnaissance and surveillance optics that waste time and resources. We address these myths and demonstrate how to maximize any systems capabilities. Once visual perception is aligned with optical performance, detecting targets and gathering intelligence becomes easier and observation endurance increases exponentially. Operators learn how to select mission essential optics and apply techniques that double and triple standoff distances. Also, they discover that cost and weight are not always relevant to performance. Some light weight optics outperform much larger systems at similar, to half the cost. Unlike weapons systems, few agencies evaluate optics’ capabilities, and problems exist within the industry due to this lack of awareness. We’ve evaluated over 150 military, high resolution, night vision and thermal IR systems and realize many aren’t purchasing value. To address this, we recommend conducting basic tests with samples before procurement. We don’t represent any manufacturer and only recommend the highest quality systems.

Integrated Battlespace Tactical Acuity FTX’s

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During day 2 and 3 training, operators conduct SOS exercises from 200m to 5km and experience the effects of target distinctness (camouflage, concealment, target movements) and environmental conditions. While conducting exercises, operators are always surprised by how much their vision is unconsciously suppressed and how easily it is enhanced; e.g. training vision to recognize barely visible target indicators, controlling vision, and optics scans. Once fundamental skills are developed, training transitions to force-on- force exercises where RSTA and Combat Tracking teams analyze incident sites, profile target behaviors, exploit terrain, and conduct long range surveillance, target acquisition, and handoff to interdiction teams from 1-5km. By the end of training, operators develop various skills essential to RSTA, Counter-Sniper, Counter-IED, and Combat Tracking operations.

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