Commentary: Future Lethality

Director's Corner: Dale A. Ormond, U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command

Commentary by Dale A. Ormond
Director, U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command

The Army of the future will have fewer Soldiers but will be more lethal. Technology will make that possible, and our scientists and engineers are – and have been – redefining the art of the possible to make this enabling technology a reality.

The Soldier and squad are the foundation of the Army. Our strategy is to build from the Soldier out, equipping our squads for tactical overmatch in all situations. They will connect to an integrated network to give them greater awareness and increased speed for decision-making beyond their adversaries, and they will operate in vehicles that make them more mobile, more lethal, and at the same time, better protected.

The U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command is bringing solutions to these challenge at every point. From aviation to ground vehicles, our researchers and engineers at Redstone Arsenal, Ala., and Detroit Arsenal, Mich., are developing and testing the best technologies to make ground and air vehicles more protective of our Soldiers while providing increased efficiency, affordability and lethality.

At Picatinny Arsenal, N.J., and also at Redstone Arsenal, Ala., our researchers are constantly on the hunt for improving our weapon designs to pack more punch into our rockets, artillery and mortars. They work closely with the Army Research Laboratory to apply knowledge gained from a powerful new avenue of science, disruptive energetics, to get a bigger bang out of a smaller package.

Energetics research holds the promise of a tenfold increase in range and explosive punch through new materials and chemical compositions. Imagine being a commander in the field with 10 levels of scalable lethality. Options increase exponentially. A strike need only be as lethal as necessary to accomplish the mission. As our sensors, targeting and associated technologies match our improvements in lethality, commanders will have fine-grained control to minimize if note completely avoid collateral damage.

The Army invests about $250 million annually in lethality research and development. The lion’s share of this funding goes to Army Research Laboratory, the Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center and the Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center. In addition, a lot of emphasis also goes into our partner command, the Space and Missile Defense Command, where they are focused on developing the High Energy Laser Mobile Demonstrator. This innovative concept uses directed energy to achieve what can only be described as sci-fi results.

Lethality research is not just about more options to strike. It’s also about increased security for our base camps. Our air defense science and technology initiatives include counter unmanned aerial surveillance/cruise missile and counter rockets, artillery and mortar systems. Our AMRDEC researchers are working closely with industry on the Extended Area Protection and Survivability Integrated Demonstration. The EAPS ID program involves firing a small interceptor missile at inbound rocket, artillery and mortar fire using a “hard-to-kill” approach. In January 2014, testing showed promising results.

The Edgewood Chemical Biological Center, Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center, Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center and Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center work in concert to support lethality initiatives. ECBC engineers work on solutions to enable our warfighters to fight even in deadly chemical-biological environments. CERDEC develops electronics solutions for guidance systems and sensing systems critical to getting lethality on target. NSRDEC and TARDEC work together to put Soldier needs front and center in weapon design and integration initiatives.

The Army is seeking affordable extended range precision technologies for current and future weapon systems. We will continue our efforts to meet the Chief of Staff of the Army’s strategic priorities to provide our Soldiers with precision long-range fires, defense against threats, guidance in GPS-denied environments and new technologies for propulsion and warheads.

I am confident that our success on the R&D side will provide greater force protection and ensure survivability across all operations. It will also create operational overmatch through enhanced lethality and accuracy. Finally, it will reduce life cycle cost of future Army capabilities.

This research is vital to the Army of 2025 and beyond. If we are to have a smaller footprint with greater than or equal lethality, we must develop the options through science and technology investigations. We owe it to our Soldiers to do everything we can. As we deliver technology solutions designed to empower, unburden, sustain and protect, we will provide our Soldiers with the decisive edge.

On a personal note, this will be my final column. The Army announced my reassignment to the position of deputy assistant secretary of the Army (Plans and Resources) in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Army (Manpower and Reserve Affairs).

I know the RDECOM workforce will continue to do great things for the Army and for the command. I have wholeheartedly enjoyed serving you, a world-class workforce, as the director of RDECOM. I truly believe in the potential and capability of this enterprise as a national asset. What you do every day directly empowers, unburdens and protects Soldiers and because of that, and you have the best job in the world.