Modeling the human factor in military simulations

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The simulation of military engagements, or wargaming, has become a preferred tool for training the technical and tactical minds of military personnel, and more particularly officers. However, if the technical precision and immersion of these simulations have increased considerably in recent years, thanks to increasingly powerful computer tools, the human factor, although central in the conduct of military operations, is significantly under-represented. In this article, we will study how it would be possible to introduce this factor, to best bring the user experience during simulations closer to those they will encounter in the field of operations.

Modeling the effects of the human factor in military engagements

Today, the majority of combat simulations used to train personnel are based on modeling the performance of the equipment used, in a linear approach to the capabilities and performances of the units formed on the basis of the equipment available, and, generally, the logistics flow supporting the power delivered. However, this approach suffers from many operational counter-examples, where units equipped with high-performance equipment, and having an established logistics flow, had performances much lower than those that could be achieved.

Leopard 2A4 of the Turkish army destroyed Defense analyzes | Military training and exercises | Land Forces
Turkish Leopard 2A4 destroyed during Operation Olivier Branch in February 2018

Thus, in February 2018, in the first days of Operation Olivier Branch in northern Syria, the Turkish forces, although equipped with the very efficient tank Leopard 2A4, were routed by battle-hardened Peshmerga units with only light weapons and RPG-type anti-tank rockets. Several Leopard and M60 were destroyed or abandoned by their crews, following an intense but short engagement. In the same vein, several Iraqi T72 heavy tank units, although entrenched and superior in number and firepower, were also routed, then destroyed, by US Army Bradley units during the first Gulf War. In both cases, the units' effectiveness was largely compromised by the lack of experience of its personnel.

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Conversely, the Chechen forces, during the first Chechen war in 1992, decimated the Russian armored forces even though they were equipped with T80s and the BMP-2. If the Russian forces did not struggle, the Chechen forces, composed mainly of veterans who participated in the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan, were very seasoned, and made the best use of the characteristics of the terrain, in this case the city of Grozny, to eliminate Russian armored forces. Similarly, the British expeditionary forces gained the upper hand over their Argentine adversaries during the Falklands War, not because of more efficient equipment, but because of the commitment of professional forces against forces composed mainly of conscripts.

In these examples, the key factor seems to be the hardening of the forces, an aggregation between combat experience and the training they had before the engagement. But hardening alone is not enough to model all of the effects linked to the human factor during engagements.

Israeli Centurion Yom Kippur Defense Analysis | Military training and exercises | Land Forces
The Israeli armored forces equipped with British Centurions managed to stop the Egyptian T55 and T64 units, although they were very well trained, in particular thanks to their heightened combativeness.

Thus, during the second Iraq War, in 2002, the units of Saddam Hussein's Republican Guard only demonstrated very limited combativeness in the first phase of the conflict, unrelated to that which they demonstrated ten years earlier. . However, the forces had not lost in toughness, at least not in a uniform manner and in such a massive manner as one could deduce from observing the clashes. Conversely, during the Yom Kippur War in 1972, the Israeli forces, who faced Egyptian forces as experienced as they were, gained the upper hand thanks to extraordinary combativeness, which many explained a posteriori by the reminiscence of the Shoah in the minds of fighters. In fact, although inferior in numbers, and sometimes in technology, Israeli combativeness and will to defeat ultimately make the decision in this conflict.

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It is possible to model this behavior in the form of a moral factor, aggregating the combative will of the forces, which would apply to all the units in the simulation.

Modeling exogenous effects on the human factor

The human factor could therefore be modeled via two parameters. Hardening would be specific to each unit in the simulation, and would be fixed over the entire duration of the exercise, while morale would apply uniformly to all allied units engaged, and could change during the exercise, under the influence of exogenous factors, such as the death of a leader, or endogenous, such as high losses or rapid progression.

op chammal tirs caesar08031704 Defense analyzes | Military training and exercises | Land Forces
Even for seasoned units, the experience of an artillery barrage can induce modifications in the response to orders, or in the precision of the military action carried out.

But the human factor is also conditioned by external elements applying to personnel and units. Thus, a weakly battle-hardened unit will be able to hold a position as long as it is not under enemy fire, but will break as soon as losses accumulate. But even the most seasoned units will reach their breaking point under long, heavy fire. In fact, it will be appropriate to add a tension parameter in the evaluation of the effects of the human factor, to have relevant modeling. This setting would act as a modifier when evaluating the effects of hardening or morale in the simulation, to expand or diminish the effects. These markers of tension would have a limited duration conditioned by the causes which gave rise to it, and would be cumulative between them. The higher the tension score, the more the negative effects on the evaluation of hardening and morale will be exacerbated. Conversely, the lower the tension score, or even negative in certain particular cases, the greater the positive effects will be.

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The unweighted human factor simulation model

The model presented is therefore based on 3 parameters, hardening, morale, and the tension modifier, acting at different times of the simulation, to best reflect the human factor in the conduct of operations.

Evaluation of the effects of morale

Morale being a global data acting at the strategic level, its effects will be evaluated according to a cycle defined for all units (every hour, each 'turn', etc.). These effects will be determined by a random jet of low amplitude, with effects corrected for voltage modifiers applied to unity over the duration of the cycle. This approach does not create immediate effects on morale, but an alteration of its overall resistance during engagements, as well as its ability to follow orders and act with method and precision.

Screenshot 2019 07 31 a 16.55.58 Defense Analysis | Military training and exercises | Land Forces
The table below shows the possible weighting of the effects of the morale test on units

Evaluation of the effects of hardening

Hardening occurs at the level of unit commitments, to determine the variable consequences. When the unit is subjected to enemy fire, the evaluation of hardening makes it possible to moderate the effects on losses, but also the variations on the tension modifier, which intervenes there as a recursive criterion: One effect, the verification of the The hardening is evaluated as compensated for voltage modifiers, and can result in new modifiers. But unlike the morale evaluation, the hardening evaluation can also generate firepower modifiers, positive or negative, modeling the combativeness of the forces; “morale failures” leading to a total loss of combativeness (the unit surrenders), withdrawal or flight of the unit; loss modifiers to model the experience of forces facing fire.

Screenshot 2019 07 31 a 17.03.02 Defense Analysis | Military training and exercises | Land Forces
An example of weighting the effects of the hardening test, evaluated when a unit comes under enemy fire

When the unit comes under enemy fire, the modified tension hardening test also acts as a modeling of the human factor, by integrating human errors in the following of orders, in the conduct of support fire, in its positioning, and in maintaining communications. Obviously, the weighting grids depend on the equipment of the units, and the environment in which they operate. A unit with a GPS will be less likely to get lost or give incorrect tactical coordinates than if it operates in an environment where the GPS signal and communications are jammed.

Model weighting

The weighting of the effects of this model depends above all on the nature of the simulation, and its constituent parameters. The objective here is to propose a model that can be easily implemented in existing simulations, and therefore dependent on the parameters used by these simulations. Furthermore, depending on the scale of the simulation, or its purpose, the effects cannot be modeled in the same way: we do not determine the effects of variation in the human factor at the scale of the combat group as at the scale of the SGTIA, or as on the scale of a combat ship or air units, which are also exposed there, although differently.

tacops4demo Defense Analysis | Military training and exercises | Land Forces
Tactical simulations rarely take the human factor into account – here the excellent TacOps 4, although a reference in the field.


Modeling the human factor in wargames and military training simulations can be approached in a simple and pragmatic way, to significantly extend its precision, with limited recourse to randomness, too often used excessively when we wants to tackle the problem. Through 2 weighted criteria, strategic morale and hardening, which are also quite simply weightable when creating simulations, a parameter in the form of a stack representing the tension modifiers active on the unit, and a few effects grids designed to respond to the observed or anticipated operational reality and acting on the constituent parameters of the simulation, the human factor can even become an axis of simulation or even a tactical and strategic approach on its own, opening up very exploratory possibilities. interesting for officer training.

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