Live fire exercise
A live fire exercise or LFX is any exercise in which a realistic scenario for the use of specific equipment is simulated. In the popular lexicon this is applied primarily to tests of weapons or weapon systems that are associated with the various branches of a nation's armed forces
Armed forces
The armed forces of a country are its government-sponsored defense, fighting forces, and organizations. They exist to further the foreign and domestic policies of their governing body, and to defend that body and the nation it represents from external aggressors. In some countries paramilitary...

, although the term can be applied to the civilian arena as well.

Armed services

Armed services usually use live fire exercises as an opportunity to use real ammunition
Ammunition is a generic term derived from the French language la munition which embraced all material used for war , but which in time came to refer specifically to gunpowder and artillery. The collective term for all types of ammunition is munitions...

 in a realistically created combat situation. The area in which these tests are conducted will be devoid of people to avoid casualties, and will likely be owned by the government which authorized the test in the first place. Most live fire tests are conducted either against derelict equipment, such as tanks and ships, or against remotely controlled drones.

The purpose of this type of exercise is twofold: First, it offers recruits the chance to get accustomed to their weapons so that they will know how to properly operate them. Secondly, this provides soldiers with an opportunity to fire live ammunition without having to worry about an actual enemy returning fire. This allows soldiers to get reacquainted with the feel and time of actually using and expending ammunition rather than simply simulating the experience. Live fire exercises of this type can be observed either by remotely controlled cameras or by long range telescopic
A telescope is an instrument that aids in the observation of remote objects by collecting electromagnetic radiation . The first known practical telescopes were invented in the Netherlands at the beginning of the 1600s , using glass lenses...

 devices, such as binoculars
Binoculars, field glasses or binocular telescopes are a pair of identical or mirror-symmetrical telescopes mounted side-by-side and aligned to point accurately in the same direction, allowing the viewer to use both eyes when viewing distant objects...



An army, being the main branch responsible for land combat, is perhaps the best known group that conducts live fire exercises. Most live fire exercises occur within the military base
Military base
A military base is a facility directly owned and operated by or for the military or one of its branches that shelters military equipment and personnel, and facilitates training and operations. In general, a military base provides accommodations for one or more units, but it may also be used as a...

 where the units conducting the exercise are located. In some cases one installation will host units from another for a larger live fire exercise. Equipment tested under these circumstances range from small arms
Small arms
Small arms is a term of art used by armed forces to denote infantry weapons an individual soldier may carry. The description is usually limited to revolvers, pistols, submachine guns, carbines, assault rifles, battle rifles, multiple barrel firearms, sniper rifles, squad automatic weapons, light...

 and assault rifle
Assault rifle
An assault rifle is a selective fire rifle that uses an intermediate cartridge and a detachable magazine. Assault rifles are the standard infantry weapons in most modern armies...

 fire all the way up to missile systems and artillery
Originally applied to any group of infantry primarily armed with projectile weapons, artillery has over time become limited in meaning to refer only to those engines of war that operate by projection of munitions far beyond the range of effect of personal weapons...

 fire. In the case of small arms, the tests are usually proficiency based and aimed at ensuring a soldier can fire their assigned weapons. In the case of the latter, missile systems may be test-fired at remotely controlled drones to simulate a situation in which enemy missiles or aircraft are launched at allied or friendly forces, while artillery units can take the opportunity to test new shells or to fire under adverse weather
Weather is the state of the atmosphere, to the degree that it is hot or cold, wet or dry, calm or stormy, clear or cloudy. Most weather phenomena occur in the troposphere, just below the stratosphere. Weather refers, generally, to day-to-day temperature and precipitation activity, whereas climate...

 conditions for a chance to see how the artillery pieces will perform.

Marine forces

For the most part marine corps live fire exercises are similar to the army's live fire exercises. One notable difference stems from the amphibious nature of a marine force's duty, which can lead the force to incorporate amphibious assault ship
Amphibious assault ship
An amphibious assault ship is a type of amphibious warfare ship employed to land and support ground forces on enemy territory by an amphibious assault...

s when they conduct live fire exercises.

Air forces

An Air force
Air force
An air force, also known in some countries as an air army, is in the broadest sense, the national military organization that primarily conducts aerial warfare. More specifically, it is the branch of a nation's armed services that is responsible for aerial warfare as distinct from an army, navy or...

, due to its nature, usually limits live fire exercises to the air, although bombing exercises can be conducted as well.

During live fire exercises dealing with air-to-air combat remotely controlled drones
Unmanned aerial vehicle
An unmanned aerial vehicle , also known as a unmanned aircraft system , remotely piloted aircraft or unmanned aircraft, is a machine which functions either by the remote control of a navigator or pilot or autonomously, that is, as a self-directing entity...

 are frequently used to simulate enemy aircraft
An aircraft is a vehicle that is able to fly by gaining support from the air, or, in general, the atmosphere of a planet. An aircraft counters the force of gravity by using either static lift or by using the dynamic lift of an airfoil, or in a few cases the downward thrust from jet engines.Although...

. In modern times the drones are fired on by planes loaded with some type of air-to-air missile
Air-to-air missile
An air-to-air missile is a missile fired from an aircraft for the purpose of destroying another aircraft. AAMs are typically powered by one or more rocket motors, usually solid fuelled but sometimes liquid fuelled...

, with the objective of the exercise being to destroy the drone. These test are usually done to ensure that guidance packages within the missiles will work, although they can be done to test other factors such as a missiles' susceptibility to jamming
Radar jamming and deception
Radar jamming and deception is the intentional emission of radio frequency signals to interfere with the operation of a radar by saturating its receiver with noise or false information...

 or to see if a new type of dodging technique will work against the missiles fired.

Live fire exercises involving air to surface work are usually centered around precision-guided munition
Precision-guided munition
A precision-guided munition is a guided munition intended to precisely hit a specific target, and to minimize damage to things other than the target....

s. In some cases tests involving bombs will make use of derelict
Derelict or dereliction commonly refers to:* Abandonment of property, then referred to as a 'derelict'* Derelict , property which has been abandoned and deserted at sea by those who were in charge without any hope of recovering it...

 buildings or, even more frequently, vehicles. Live fire bombing exercises are usually conducted with precision guided munitions to ensure that they work correctly, but are also used to test new and experimental weapons to ensure that they work as they were originally designed to. These test are usually monitored by chase plane
Chase plane
A chase plane is an aircraft that "chases" another aircraft, a spacecraft or a rocket during flight. Safety can be one function of a chase plane; others are to photo or video the target vehicle, or to collect engineering data from it...

s and by cameras to determine if everything worked as it was originally intended to.

Live fire exercises may also be conducted against planes for the purpose of testing a plane's susceptibility to SAM sites, or as a means to test a plane's stealth features.

Naval forces

Naval live fire exercises may use anti-ship missile
Though a missile may be any thrown or launched object, it colloquially almost always refers to a self-propelled guided weapon system.-Etymology:The word missile comes from the Latin verb mittere, meaning "to send"...

s and torpedo
The modern torpedo is a self-propelled missile weapon with an explosive warhead, launched above or below the water surface, propelled underwater towards a target, and designed to detonate either on contact with it or in proximity to it.The term torpedo was originally employed for...

es, although tests involving air-to-air and air-to-surface missile
Air-to-surface missile
An air-to-surface missile is a missile designed to be launched from military aircraft and strike ground targets on land, at sea, or both...

, guns and bombs are not uncommon. Navies conduct live fire exercises to test elements of an integrated defense system such as the US Aegis
Aegis combat system
The Aegis Combat System is an integrated naval weapons system developed by the Missile and Surface Radar Division of RCA, and now produced by Lockheed Martin...

; namely its ability to track and destroy enemy anti-ship missile
Anti-ship missile
Anti-ship missiles are guided missiles that are designed for use against ships and large boats. Most anti-ship missiles are of the sea-skimming type, many use a combination of inertial guidance and radar homing...

s. Tests can also include an integrated defense system’s compatibility to fire new missiles or newer versions of the same missile. Live fire tests are also conducted with a CIWS system, which is designed as the last line of defense for a ship. Surface ships also frequently testfire the various guns kept and maintained aboard the vessel, these can range from side arms and rifles up to the 16" guns of the mothballed US Iowa-class battleships
Iowa class battleship
The Iowa-class battleships were a class of fast battleships ordered by the United States Navy in 1939 and 1940 to escort the Fast Carrier Task Forces which would operate in the Pacific Theater of World War II. Six were ordered during the course of World War II, but only four were completed in...

. This is done to maintain the skill and knowledge needed to operate the weapon. In the case of aircraft carrier
Aircraft carrier
An aircraft carrier is a warship designed with a primary mission of deploying and recovering aircraft, acting as a seagoing airbase. Aircraft carriers thus allow a naval force to project air power worldwide without having to depend on local bases for staging aircraft operations...

s, the pilots assigned to the carrier may conduct air-to-air and air-to-surface missile exercises similar to those of the air force; additionally, these pilots may also conduct live fire exercises against derelict ships. Recent aircraft carriers have incorporated missile launching systems, and have taken part in live fire exercises involving missiles.

For submarine
A submarine is a watercraft capable of independent operation below the surface of the water. It differs from a submersible, which has more limited underwater capability...

s, both fast attack and ballistic missile (or "boomers"), live fire tests may include firing sea-to-land missiles at targets on shore or launching dummy ballistic missiles; however, the most frequent live fire exercises conducted by submarines involve firing torpedoes at a target. The best known tests of torpedoes are those conducted against a derelict ship, typically on ships from a Navy's own mothball fleet that has become too old or obsolete to warrant maintaining. The purpose of these tests is to ensure that the torpedo will work under combat conditions, and such tests can be used to determine whether or not noisemaker
A noisemaker is something intended to make a loud noise, usually for fun. The word may refer to:* Air horn, a device composed of a pressurized air source coupled to a horn, designed to create an extremely loud noise...

s or other decoy
A decoy is usually a person, device or event meant as a distraction, to conceal what an individual or a group might be looking for. Decoys have been used for centuries most notably in game hunting, but also in wartime and in the committing or resolving of crimes.-Duck decoy:The term duck decoy may...

s will have any effect against the unit when launched.

Use against training soldiers

Some forces, especially in more authoritarian societies, have also been known to use live ammunition against their own forces in military exercises, to ensure that the soldiers 'take their training seriously' and get accustomed to being shot at before facing actual enemies. This kind of fire is usually not intended to kill anyone, though practices such as firing into the ground close to a soldier going through an obstacle course pose obvious risks.

The Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

, just after Joseph Stalin
Joseph Stalin
Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin was the Premier of the Soviet Union from 6 May 1941 to 5 March 1953. He was among the Bolshevik revolutionaries who brought about the October Revolution and had held the position of first General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union's Central Committee...

 died in 1954, conducted live nuclear test
Nuclear testing
Nuclear weapons tests are experiments carried out to determine the effectiveness, yield and explosive capability of nuclear weapons. Throughout the twentieth century, most nations that have developed nuclear weapons have tested them...

 during the exercises at Totskoye range
Totskoye range
Totskoye is a military range established in September 1941 to the north of Totskoye village, about from Buzuluk in Orenburg Oblast, Russia under the jurisdiction of the South Urals Military District...

 against soldiers at the distance believed to be safe then in trench
A trench is a type of excavation or depression in the ground. Trenches are generally defined by being deeper than they are wide , and by being narrow compared to their length ....

es. Any immediate deaths can't be proven today, but Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

n human rights
Human rights
Human rights are "commonly understood as inalienable fundamental rights to which a person is inherently entitled simply because she or he is a human being." Human rights are thus conceived as universal and egalitarian . These rights may exist as natural rights or as legal rights, in both national...

 activists assert that long aftermath death toll counts by thousands.

Similar live nuclear test
Nuclear testing
Nuclear weapons tests are experiments carried out to determine the effectiveness, yield and explosive capability of nuclear weapons. Throughout the twentieth century, most nations that have developed nuclear weapons have tested them...

 was performed by USMC Marine Corps Test Unit
Marine Corps Test Unit
The Marine Corps Test Unit 1, or MCTU #1, was an experimental testing unit of the United States Marine Corps. It was established outside the Fleet Marine Force for the development of specialized tactics, techniques and organizational concepts, and to evaluate its tangible employment in the nuclear...

 and US Army Armored Task Force "Razor" during the exercises Teapot
Operation Teapot
Operation Teapot was a series of fourteen nuclear test explosions conducted at the Nevada Test Site in the first half of 1955.During shot "Wasp", ground forces took part in Exercise Desert Rock VI which included an armored task force "Razor" moving to within 900 meters of ground zero, under the...

 (Desert Rock VI) at Nevada Test Site
Nevada Test Site
The Nevada National Security Site , previously the Nevada Test Site , is a United States Department of Energy reservation located in southeastern Nye County, Nevada, about northwest of the city of Las Vegas...

 in 1955.

In some fictional scenarios such as the training of the soldiers in Robert A. Heinlein
Robert A. Heinlein
Robert Anson Heinlein was an American science fiction writer. Often called the "dean of science fiction writers", he was one of the most influential and controversial authors of the genre. He set a standard for science and engineering plausibility and helped to raise the genre's standards of...

's Starship Troopers
Starship Troopers
Starship Troopers is a military science fiction novel by Robert A. Heinlein, first published as a serial in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction and published hardcover in December, 1959.The first-person narrative is about a young soldier from the Philippines named Juan "Johnnie" Rico and his...

, a small fraction of the ammunition shot at the soldiers during exercises is real, and the shots are fully aimed. This again is intended to encourage soldiers to take their training seriously, knowing that failure is possibly deadly.

The British SAS
Special Air Service
Special Air Service or SAS is a corps of the British Army constituted on 31 May 1950. They are part of the United Kingdom Special Forces and have served as a model for the special forces of many other countries all over the world...

 and Royal Marines
Royal Marines
The Corps of Her Majesty's Royal Marines, commonly just referred to as the Royal Marines , are the marine corps and amphibious infantry of the United Kingdom and, along with the Royal Navy and Royal Fleet Auxiliary, form the Naval Service...

 are also known to use live rounds, for the former during the Jungle phase of training, and the latter using live rounds in their final exercise. The SAS also use live fire in regular close quarter combat training.

The civilian arena

Weapons tests are not usually conducted by civilian agencies; however, some civilian groups do conduct live fire tests of equipment to ensure that they work properly or to test new methods. Examples here would include law enforcement agencies
Law enforcement agency
In North American English, a law enforcement agency is a government agency responsible for the enforcement of the laws.Outside North America, such organizations are called police services. In North America, some of these services are called police while others have other names In North American...

 (shooting range
Shooting range
A shooting range or firing range is a specialized facility designed for firearms practice. Each facility is typically overseen by one or more supervisory personnel, called variously a range master or "RSO – Range Safety Officer" in the United States or a range conducting officer or "RCO" in the UK...

s) and controlled explosion
Controlled explosion
A controlled explosion is a method for detonating or disabling a suspected explosive device.Methods which are used to set off a controlled explosion include emptying out the area and moving the package into a confined space such as a telephone booth.Another classic method of controlled explosion...

s by demolition experts . Sometimes historical recreations, such as those done for the Battle of Gettysburg
Battle of Gettysburg
The Battle of Gettysburg , was fought July 1–3, 1863, in and around the town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The battle with the largest number of casualties in the American Civil War, it is often described as the war's turning point. Union Maj. Gen. George Gordon Meade's Army of the Potomac...

, will include live fire demonstrations so the general public can observe historical equipment in action.

Other types

Other types of live fire exercises include various nuclear tests
Nuclear testing
Nuclear weapons tests are experiments carried out to determine the effectiveness, yield and explosive capability of nuclear weapons. Throughout the twentieth century, most nations that have developed nuclear weapons have tested them...

 conducted by the world's nuclear powers. Also in this group are the live fire tests of new and exotic weaponry like the Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb, or "Mother of all Bombs". Also numbered among the unique weapons tests are test fires of intercontinental ballistic missile
Intercontinental ballistic missile
An intercontinental ballistic missile is a ballistic missile with a long range typically designed for nuclear weapons delivery...

s (ICBM) and multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle
Multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle
A multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle warhead is a collection of nuclear weapons carried on a single intercontinental ballistic missile or a submarine-launched ballistic missile . Using a MIRV warhead, a single launched missile can strike several targets, or fewer targets redundantly...

s. Recently, a new addition was made to this area when live fire tests began of the U.S. Strategic Defense Initiative, nicknamed "Star Wars
Strategic Defense Initiative
The Strategic Defense Initiative was proposed by U.S. President Ronald Reagan on March 23, 1983 to use ground and space-based systems to protect the United States from attack by strategic nuclear ballistic missiles. The initiative focused on strategic defense rather than the prior strategic...

". These live fire tests are aimed at intercepting incoming enemy ballistic missiles before they can detonate over their designated target.

Dangers of live fire exercises

One cannot address live fire exercises without addressing their potential dangers. In any situation in which hazardous materials are involved there exists the potential for a mishap to occur, and when these mishaps occur the results can be as spectacular as they are deadly. All forms of ordnance contain some type of explosive charge to launch and, in most cases, detonate, a weapon. If these charges are inappropriately stored or handled the result can be serious injury or death to the person and anyone in the immediate vicinity. Other dangers include faulty guidance and sensory information, which can cause guided ordnance to inadvertently target friendly or neutral units. Advances in technology have helped to reduce, and in some cases eliminate, problems with these materials; nonetheless, extreme care must be given when using or implementing them. For example, the handling of gunpowder
Gunpowder, also known since in the late 19th century as black powder, was the first chemical explosive and the only one known until the mid 1800s. It is a mixture of sulfur, charcoal, and potassium nitrate - with the sulfur and charcoal acting as fuels, while the saltpeter works as an oxidizer...

 demands the use of gloves and an area free of static electricity
Static electricity
Static electricity refers to the build-up of electric charge on the surface of objects. The static charges remain on an object until they either bleed off to ground or are quickly neutralized by a discharge. Static electricity can be contrasted with current electricity, which can be delivered...

and other potential sparks which could ignite the powder.
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