Military and Strategic Journal
Issued by the Directorate of Morale Guidance at the General Command of the Armed Forces
United Arab Emirates
Founded in August 1971


Raising the Bar in Marksmanship

Marathon Targets enables soldiers to become pre-combat veterans by rapidly developing skills in combat marksmanship. Robotic targets allow for the creation of tactical live fire scenarios capable of simulating realistic combat environments. Compared to this, traditional fixed, pop-up, or rail mounted target systems lack the realism of human like behaviours, and often only present a front facing profile that tracks sideways. Marathon Targets’ robotic system helps soldiers to develop realistic marksmanship skills required to engage moving targets. In an exclusive interview, Stuart Norman, Director of International Sales MENA & Asia, Marathon Targets LLC, Abu Dhabi, shares with Nation Shield the many advantages of the robotic system that is being favoured by many countries.

By: Sakha Pramod

How will robotic targets enhance combat skills?
The robots benefit a wide range of skills from marksmanship through to leadership training. Marathon receives much feedback as to the innovative ways our military and law enforcement clients are employing robots in different types of training and it is often in ways, which were not envisaged during the robots early stages of development as a marksmanship target.

Prior to their widespread adoption of robotic targets in 2017, the U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) carried out extensive testing for 2 years. The USMC Warfighting Laboratory at the Weapons Battalion based at Quantico, Virginia, assessed that Marines of all skill/experience levels (Recruit to Veteran) demonstrated a 104 per cent improvement in marksmanship after a single day of training with robotic targets. The robotic targets are now a major enabler to the USMC new ‘Table 7’ moving target marksmanship practice, which all Marines must shoot and qualify annually. 

What advantages do robotic targets provide military instructors?
Robotic Targets provide military instructors with a very powerful tool to train and assess trainees across a broad spectrum of skill sets.  The robotic targets can replicate basic through to advanced movement patterns and replicate tactical scenarios allowing the instructor to escalate or deescalate the training required to teach, reinforce or assess trainees’ abilities to achieve their training outcomes.  The robotic targets differentiate and record non-lethal and lethal impacts to the torso mannequin providing the instructor with assessable data on the trainees’ accuracy.  

The robotic targets can be used in live fire tactical 'scenarios' where they appear to be enacting a role similar to a role player or human Opposing Force (OpFor). 

How many countries have employed robotic targets as part of military or security training?
Marathon robotic targets are employed in the UAE, U.S., Canada and Australia with both military and law enforcement users. In the UAE, we have exclusively partnered with the local firm International Golden Group. 

How does Marathon Targets’ system help soldiers compared to traditional systems?
Robotic targets address a fundamental gap in marksmanship training. Traditional two dimensional (2D) fixed or 'pop up' targets including those moving laterally on rails do not accurately reflect the changes in orientation and speed of a human enemy on the battlefield. Forward facing two dimensional targets commonly represent an enemy target 'crabbing' sideways when moving laterally, which is something soldiers are unlikely to ever see in reality. Generations of soldiers have trained on marksmanship systems, which lack realism necessary to refine marksmanship skills for combat. Robotic targets allow soldiers to be trained in marksmanship and manoeuvre warfare to a level described as 'pre-combat veterans'. 

What is the ‘Dynamic Warfighting” scenario you are trying to create?
Dynamic Warfighting refers to the robotic targets’ ability to manoeuvre in real time in the live fire training environment. Traditionally, in live fire training, tactical commanders and soldiers practice their tactics and formations against fixed enemy targets or static 'pop up' targets.  Once contact with the 'enemy' occurs, the human soldiers will manoeuvre to defeat the enemy. The limitation with traditional static targets is they are expected to remain and die in place. This is not the reality of warfare where the enemy is often an agile and elusive combatant. Traditional targets do not counter-manoeuvre against friendly forces.  Robotic targets allow tactical commanders and soldiers to exercise their ability to respond to the dynamically changing battlefield.

What is the role of “Robotic Opposing Force” in your training?
Robots can emulate the movement, formations and tactics of an enemy soldier or enemy force for training in the live fire environment.  Traditionally, human Opposing Force is used in training with laser based simulation or in reality based training employing man marking ammunition.  Marathon robotic targets replace the human Opposing Force and allow soldiers to exercise in the live fire environment against a dynamic target which can manoeuvre in real time in response to friendly force movements or tactics. Employment of a Robotic Opposing Force (ROPFOR) in live fire activities further enhances the training and the training outcomes.

Can your robotic system operate in the existing shooting ranges?
Yes.  Robotic targets are deployable and can be employed on existing ranges without modification to the range environment.

Is your system widely used by USMC?
Marathon Targets are employed across the United States Marine Corps' major live fire training ranges and are used in a wide range of applications including moving marksmanship practices, field and urban operations exercises.  The robotic targets can be employed as standalone targets for marksmanship or as a Robotic Opposing Force.

You have also started trials of custom-built delivery robots. Can you elaborate?
Marathon has conducted several trials for 'Last Mile' delivery services in Australia with Domino Pizza and also the Australia Post.

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