Support: January 13, 2004

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The United States Army revolutionized the training of ground combat troops in the 1980s with the development of MILES (laser tag) equipment for infantry and armored vehicles, and the use of MILES in a large, "wired" (to record all activities) National Training Center (NTC) in the California desert. Other countries soon realized the importance of these innovations and a few built their own NTC clones. One of the best of these is in Israel, the Tactical Training Center (TTC) at Ze'elim. In addition to wide open areas for the training of armor, infantry and artillery units, there are several villages and urban areas wired for training troops to fight in close quarters. 

U.S. troops have trained at the TTC for over two decades, but this is usually done in secret to avoid diplomatic problems with Arab nations. American Special Forces and commandoes are regular visitors to the TTC, to look into new Israeli techniques and compare notes. 

Israel is now offering to allow foreign armies to train at the TTC, for a fee. Despite all the international ill will Arab nations have generated against Israel, this has not slowed down Israeli weapons exports. Many nations will probably be eager to pay for some time at the TTC. The training there will probably include advice from the Israeli staff that run the place. Running troops through the TTC is the next best thing to actually getting combat experience. This was the major benefit of the original American NTC. The exceptional performance of U.S. Army troops during the 1991 Gulf War was largely attributed to the realistic training exercises they had gone through at the NTC. The media didn't pick up on that in a big way, but professional military types world wide did. 

Now Israeli is offering that edge, for a price (negotiable, but at least several hundred dollars a day per soldier). Many nations will be tempted to send their elite units (commandoes, paratroopers and key infantry battalions) to the TTC. Some may be so pleased with the results that they will build their own training centers. This is an expensive proposition, however, costing over a hundred million dollars, and require the training of a staff (including skilled "opposing force") troops to run it. 

Unless you can afford to use it full time, it's better to buy time at someone else's training center. This is what the U.S. does with it's European training center, which got a lot less use once the Cold War ended and most American troops in Europe went home. The Israeli defense budget has also taken a hit, partly because of the three year battle with Palestinians. This is thought to be the main reason that Israel is now renting out the TTC, to raise additional money to pay for Israeli troops to use it. TTC training for Israeli reserve units was cut back recently because of lack of money.

 


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