Site trains soldiers on battlefield IDs

An Army scientist is seeking funding to expand an Internet site that trains soldiers to recognize the infrared signatures of combat vehicles used by potential adversaries.

The Web site, known as the Simulated Infra Red Earth Environment Lab (SIREEL) and located at https://208.27.18.206, is accessible only to .mil and .gov users and has been online for nearly a year with a limited capability.

It is the brainchild of Stacie Taylor, a physical scientist at the Army's National Ground Intelligence Center, Charlottesville, Va. Taylor built the site after receiving requests for information regarding the infrared signatures of combat vehicles, such as tanks, trucks and helicopters.

"I was getting requests from various schools — gunnery schools, aviation schools and unmanned aerial vehicle schools — who were hearing that we had thermal imagery data for vehicles," Taylor said. "So after sending many compact discs and videos on thermal energy signatures, I decided [to build] a Web site where they could concentrate on specific vehicles and specific countries."

Soldiers using infrared sensors cannot easily identify vehicles as friend or foe, increasing likelihood of fratricide, Taylor said. Infrared signatures can change dramatically based on such environmental conditions as location, time of day, weather conditions and season. Warm metal on a T-72 tank, for example, might appear white during the heat of the day but be black at night.

SIREEL includes two major links, Education and Deployment:

* The Education section shows soldiers what particular vehicles look like through infrared sensors and teaches them why things look the way they do in infrared.

* The Deployment section features areas of interest, specifically Korea, Iraq and Bosnia, which enables soldiers to click on a specific area and learn about the geographical details and different types of vehicles in the area.

"The Web site is designed for any warfighter who is required to view the world through a thermal optical site and will show them threat vehicles under different operating conditions, weather conditions, time of day, time of year, other things that affect the optics," Taylor said. "If they're being deployed to a particular country, they can view a map of the world and choose the country of interest they need to view, and they can view images of those vehicles they're likely to see."

So far the site focuses only on vehicles used for ground combat, but Taylor said she would like to expand it further.

"Right now we're concentrating on helicopters and ground vehicles. I would very much like some help and to make it a joint project," Taylor said. "I'd like to make sure the training programs are aware of this. I know there are mission planners literally around the world who could benefit just from seeing the terrain scenarios."

The site has cost about $225,000 over the past year, with funding coming from the Army's modeling and simulation office.

The site offers still photographs and video of moving vehicles, but for additional identification training, Taylor would like to add sound so that soldiers can hear the vehicles. She said she also hopes to add various modeling and simulation scenarios.

"The funding issues are always an important concern for me. The Web site isn't that costly, and I'm really trying to pull some things together. The more funds I have, the more models I can build more quickly," Taylor said.

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