Rheinmetall has partnered with a Russian company to build a Russian army training center (RATC) in Mulino, 350 km (217 mi.) east of Moscow. The project began in June 2011 and the facility is expected to be ready for training in June 2014.

The RATC is based on the Bundeswehr's GUZ army training center operated by Rheinmetall. The company will supply equipment for the RATC to its Russian partner, JSC Oboronservice, which will run the training center for the Russian armed forces.

Rheinmetall will develop and supply the live combat-simulation system and be in charge of technical implementation of the project, including commissioning and quality assurance. It is delivering the training management and information system, laser engagement systems for 1,000 players—both vehicles and soldiers—the exercise control center, Tetra data communication system, instrumentation for three military operations in urban terrain (MOUT) facilities, and the warehouse and fitting facility.

The 500-sq.-km (193-sq.-mi.) training center will comprise a MOUT “city,” two MOUT “villages,” live combat simulation area, live and tactical training areas, live firing ranges and RATC headquarters.

The Mulino facility will be the most advanced system of its kind in the world, according to Rheinmetall. Michael Kriewitz, vice president of sales for land simulation, says it will be the first training center combining live, virtual and constructive training.

The live training will involve soldiers and vehicles moving in a 200-sq.-km exercise area, which includes the MOUT facilities. Before conducting this training, laser simulators, GPS and communication systems will be mounted on the players' original equipment and their tactical vehicles in the warehouse and fitting facility. Eye-safe laser simulators will be used to simulate weapons ranging from small arms and light anti-tank weapons to tank guns, artillery and vehicle-mounted automatic cannons. Battlefield events will be transmitted to the exercise control center in real time and displayed on an electronic map. Virtual training will be added: Using vision equipment, soldiers in vehicle replicas or the exercise area will have the impression they are on the exercise.

Constructive simulation (using software agents, not real troops or weapons) will be provided for commander training, with battlefield events calculated in real time by simulators and represented by symbols on electronic situation maps displayed on workstations. Officers can give commands through their keyboards and mouse clicks.

For the first time Mulino will use a rotation principle, allowing training to take place simultaneously at a variety of stations. An electronic identification badge worn by each participant tracks and records his activities over several weeks.

Before rotation, participants will take part in an introductory qualification phase involving practical and theoretical objectives using computer-based training modules. Only after basic qualification will participants be allowed to move to other training stations, including live combat simulation, commander training and marksmanship at Mulino's firing ranges.

Mulino will be capable of training 30,000 troops a year. The training center will be designed to train a reinforced motorized infantry or tank brigade. After several weeks of training, each brigade will have attained a certified level of proficiency. Use of RATC is expected to be a big advance over the Soviet-style choreographed set-piece battles of past exercises.

Ironically, GUZ (the basis for RATC) is a military exercise area used since the 1930s, including by Soviet forces in then-East Germany during the Cold War. In some ways, Mulino will be more advanced than the GUZ; for example, MOUT instrumentation will permit precise detection of soldiers in buildings, which was not a Bundeswehr requirement.

Construction of the training center started at the beginning of the year and is scheduled to last two years, in parallel with the development and production of software. Personnel will be trained in Germany at the beginning of 2013 and on-site in Russia later that same year. Installation and commissioning will begin in mid-2013 until Mulino is ready for training in mid-2014.

Valued at €100 million ($123.6 million), the Mulino contract represents the first major breakthrough by the German defense industry in Russia. Rheinmetall foresees opportunities for follow-on orders as Russian forces modernize. Four training centers are envisioned, one in each Russian military district, Kriewitz says.