The sniper and spotter have been lying in their concealed position for hours observing the handful of windows and doors. Luckily they were shaded from the heat by the hide chosen in the rear corner of the room looking thru a hole in the wall caused by earlier combat in the area. Intelligence had indicated that the insurgent commander was in the area and likely using the observed structure as a safe house. The team had inserted by dropping off the back of a patrol sweeping thru the area. Range was not going to be a problem as the spotter and sniper had lasered the target at 286 yards. The hardest part of the mission was staying alert and then placing the shot on the head-size target that would not stay stationary for long. The team had trained for this type of scenario for years. Discipline was the key. Normal procedures of taking turns watching for the target was not practical given the fleeting nature of the adversary and having to place a shot in seconds once identified. A flicker of movement in the first floor window brought a jolt of adrenaline. There was the target! The sniper confirmed identity with his spotter viewing thru the high powered spotting scope. He eased the safety off of his rifle, centered the scope’s cross-hair, controlled his breathing, and broke the shot. The team was rewarded with the satisfying sound of a 7.62x51mm Match bullet smacking into the metal head plate. The realistic day long training evolution was over. The exercise was a culmination of a week long refresher course that the team had participated in at an undisclosed location. What had made the entire week different was the use of a computer controlled steel target system. Training took on a much more realistic feel based on the targets shot and scenarios employed.
The target system referred to is the Honestas Ltd.’s Gemini Reactive Steel Target System (GRSTS) G6 MkIII. The scenario described above is only one of many possible uses for the innovative target system made in Finland. The Gemini utilizes the best steel for almost limitless round strikes up to and including 30.06. Never mind handguns: the system has been designed to handle medium machine gun fire at point blank range. It has a head plate feature that can be programmed to appear and disappear within .6 seconds either upon instructor command or pre-programmed. The size and configuration of the base unit simulates a chest shot. The Gemini system can be used as a single target or a complex series of units all controlled from a laptop via wireless. It is not limited to a stationary role. It is man-portable and has a self-contained power source allowing for field use and ease of deployment. The Gemini has been tested in Finland’s Arctic conditions and is a true all-weather system designed to function in temperatures ranging from –40 degrees Fahrenheit to plus 100 degrees. Written descriptions do not do it justice until it is seen in action. Honestas labels the Gemini MkIII as one of the most durable and high tech target systems available. As with any target system, the GRSTS G6 MkIII is not an end all solution for producing competent personnel or shooters; it is a tool to be used by competent trainers combined with other methods to get the most out of students within a prescribed time.
While full-scale introduction to the US market is pending State Department import licenses, the Gemini has already found use with different Finnish security agencies. The Gemini’s deployment in Finland has shown it delivers what it promises in terms of longevity, multiple uses, and simplicity of operation. The Gemini maximizes training time with its ease of operation and the numerous configurations it can transform itself into. It can serve as solitary pistol target, long range precision rifle target, reactionary steel popper, multiple weapon stations for dynamic tactics, and even allow a full squad to practice fire and maneuver tactics, including medium machine gun elements. The Gemini’s secret rests in the integration of cutting edge software and communication gear with rugged, simple to operate, long lasting field components. The Gemini can be configured to satisfy any training scenario or role needed. This is an important nuance. Many target systems have constraining characteristics such as size, mounting methods, portability, power requirements, caliber restrictions, range of control/monitoring, and resets needing to be accommodated that limits a program’s imagination for deployment and training scenarios.
The GRSTS consists of the reactive steel Target Unit, Command and Control Computer containing the Basic Operating System software, and the Server Modem Package. The main target type in the Gemini system is the G6 Target Unit. The G6 Target Unit’s simplicity and ease of maintenance is defined by it six major parts: 1) chassis; 2) plate; 3) electronics package; 4) electrical engine and power source; 5) sensor package, and 6) protective armor. The chassis is welded, corrosion resistant, steel tubing. The chassis with armor attached and battery installed weighs 265 lbs. However, the armor, which is made up of three sections (upper frontal, lower frontal, and side armor), and the battery is easily detachable allowing for easy handling and relative portability. Ease of cleaning and maintenance was also considered. Soldiers are notoriously hard on equipment; something taken into consideration for all components making up the Gemini MkIII. The movable head plate appearing from within the chassis measures 20cm (7.8 in.) in diameter to resemble a typical infantry target – a human head. The plate is 16mm (.63 in.) thick armor steel. The G6 is rated up to 10mm handgun and submachine guns, 7.62×63 (.30-06) rifles, and shotguns (not including slugs).
The Target Unit’s electronic package is the basis for the entire Gemini system. The electronics package contains circuitry to operate the Target Unit and register and transmit hits along with maintenance logs to the Command and Control Computer. The weatherproof casing is IP67 rated allowing for flawless functioning of the G6 Target unit year around.
The Gemini is powered by a dry cell battery, which is rated for 1,200 plate presentations. This is a conservative estimate given that field tests have achieved over 2,100 plate presentations with used batteries. Recharge time for a battery is 3-5 hours based on ambient temperature and battery life. Allocating multiple batteries for an individual target unit will allow for almost constant use without having to worry about batteries running down during a training exercise. The plate’s presentation time is .3 seconds. The maximum up and down time is .6 seconds to emulate real-life target behavior. Longer times are easily programmed and manual manipulation from the Command and Control Computer is possible. The field tested electrical engines are virtually maintenance free and were designed to optimize battery life.
The G6 Target unit’s sensors are inductive and contain no moving mechanical parts. Light and sound kits are also available and can be customized to simulate muzzle flashes and real world sounds such as threatening language or a weapon cocking. Everything with the Gemini target system is designed for the most realistic training possible whether for a new recruit, seasoned operator, long range tactical engagement, CQB drill (spall hoods are available), or squad size fire and maneuver training.
The frontal and side armor are detachable without needing tools. The frontal upper armor is the same thickness as the headplate (16mm/.63 in.) and measures approximately 16×13 inches and weighs 44 lbs. The lower frontal armor is .39 in. thick measuring 16×20 inches and weighs 37 lbs. The frontal armor is designed to withstand the same pounding as the headplate and is analogous to a human torso. The side armor is .24 in. thick with 19×32 inches in dimension and weighs 29 lbs. each side.
The key to the Gemini is the integration of the cutting edge electronics and communication technology allowing for simple operation, yet maintaining automatic maintenance updates based on round strikes, from potentially miles away. The basic operating system contains a graphical user interface allowing for user specific password log-in, designing and running of personalized programs, download of predesigned programs from CD, trainee information files, automated registering and saving of results from field exercises and maintenance updates.
The server modem package is the communication link between the Command & Control computer and individual G6 target units. The modem is small, designed to fit in an assault rifle magazine pouch, and weatherproof. The standard operating range of a modem and Command & Control laptop is 400 meters with the ability to handle 20 individual G6 Target Units. However, the range can be extended to over 20 miles with the use of a Server Modem Repeater Package and unlimited Target Units are possible in theory by expanding the Single User License to a multiple range license allowing the Command & Control computer to control multiple ranges. The sophisticated electronics and communication systems used in the Gemini system enables other target types, such as squad weapons, armor, artillery, seaborne, and airborne, to be integrated into the system. The different targets will show up on the Command & Control computer as different icons. Only imagination, time, and funding will limit the application of the Gemini GRSTS MkIII Target System.
Logistically, the Gemini MkIII system will find favor with purchasing agents due to its rugged, simple construction and ability to notify training staff when particular kinds of maintenance procedures are due. These procedures consists of minor lubrication, battery re-charge, inspection of headplates and armor for excessive spalling. Honestas offers an instructor’s course that personnel can be sent to for training and familiarization on the Gemini MkIII system. This is highly recommended so that the full capability of the Gemini system can be fathomed and taken advantage of along with learning how to best maintain the equipment. The Gemini MkIII system is a significant investment and should be treated as such by having competently trained staff operating it in support of the overall mission of training personnel to their full potential. Honestas Ltd. is familiar with government procurement procedures and can answer specific questions regarding what is needed to maximize the Gemini MkIII system in terms of training regimens and also maintenance procedures.
The Honestas Gemini MkIII is definitely categorized as a high end target system reserved for military and law enforcement agencies with well developed budgets matched to administrators committed and willing to invest in the best equipment for training its personnel. Pricing for the baseline Gemini system is in the $175,000 range. This gets the end user ten target units, server modem, Command & Control computer, batteries and chargers. In other words, a complete range system with ten computer controlled and linked targets that can be configured in ways that best suit an agency’s or units training needs
Gemini will be available the end of 2008 once all export licenses and permits are approved. The US distributor for the Gemini system will be Special Tactical Services, LLC located in Virginia Beach, VA.