Local official hails Whitewater manufacturer's training weapons

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Saturday, April 28, 2012
— Law enforcement training is required, but the quality of training can vary depending on training sites and equipment.

Whitewater manufacturer irTactical, a division of Universal Electronics, aims to improve that process by making training weapons that meet three critical qualifications:

-- Realistic looks and behavior.

-- Real-time data acquisition.

-- Universal application regardless of the training site.

“Early versions of training weapons were little more than paintball-type weapons,” said Andy Rasico, a product manager at irTactical.

“Our weapons are based on laser beams and can be used in any location. Imagine trying to have a realistic hostage training situation inside a courthouse with paintball weapons.”

The Rock County Sheriff’s Office held a training session April 6 at the Rock County Courthouse using irTactical weapons patterned after M4 military rifles.

“These training weapons have very sophisticated electronic and radio gear internally, but they look, feel and fire much like the real thing,” said Ocie Mathenia, the irTactical product manager who assisted at the courthouse session. “When used with our vest and data pack, information is available to trainers instantly.”

The M4s have radios inside to provide instant feedback of the training exercise as it unfolds. All data is fed into a computer for trainers to analyze instantly.

“Training is expensive, so we have developed these training weapons to minimize any delays,” Mathenia said. “This is a rapid response system that provides valuable information instantly.”

The training was “most definitely” a valuable experience for the Rock County Sheriff’s Office, said Capt. Curtis Fell, who is in charge of the office’s SWAT and firearms training.

“With the irTactical weapons, we can train beyond just going through the motions,” Fell said. “We can stage realistic training exercises and have immediate data available.”

Fell said the office will consider renting irTactical weapons for future training sessions, including one coming up at Volk Field. The office might consider joint purchases of the practice weapons with other agencies, including Blackhawk Technical College and the police departments in Janesville and Beloit.

Universal Electronics employs 310 workers at plants in Whitewater and East Troy. President Richard I. Jensen said the company plans on sales of $60 million this year.

The company specializes in the assembly of circuit boards for client’s products. Most jobs are confidential along with client names.

“This is a very competitive business, and we have a handful of competitors both here and abroad,” Rasico said. “We protect our work by building to the highest quality standards.”

Universal Electronics competes at all levels, including products serving the medical industry and other clients where products cannot fail.

“Failure is not acceptable with heart monitors, for example,” Mathenia said. “Assembly of circuit boards for these products requires constant monitoring during the assembly process.”

Rasico could not be specific, but he had another example of a circuit board related to a product we all use from time to time.

“We work with circuitry related to safety switches on elevators,” he said. “That’s a product that cannot fail. Those are products we work with, and we’ve earned a reputation of quality in those areas where failure simply can’t be tolerated.”

Last updated: 8:03 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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