Army leaders discuss the Army of the future

Gen. Dennis L. Via, commander of Army Materiel Command, briefs the AMC Perspective at the 2014 Winter AUSA Symposium and Exposition in Huntsville, Ala. (U.S. Army photo)

Gen. Dennis L. Via, commander of Army Materiel Command, briefs the AMC Perspective at the 2014 Winter AUSA Symposium and Exposition in Huntsville, Ala. (U.S. Army photo)

AMC

To prepare the Army for tomorrow, the seeds must be planted today, according to Army leaders at 2014 Association of the United States Army’s Winter Symposium and Exposition in Huntsville, Ala., Feb. 19-21. More than 6,400 people attended the event as Soldiers civilians from across the Army joined with industry representatives to share information and talk about the future.

GEN. DENNIS L. VIA

“The theme for this year’s symposium is ‘America’s Army: Sustaining, training, and equipping for the future,’ and I think it is very appropriate,” said Gen. Dennis L. Via, commander of Army Materiel Command, during remarks at the event.

“As our Army continues its transition in Afghanistan, we must simultaneously prepare our Army for the next contingency — for this we can be sure, as history has taught us all too well, there will be a future contingency somewhere in the world that will require ‘boots on the ground,’” he said. “Our forces must be ready, trained and equipped to meet that contingency when the nation calls. Our nation expects and deserves nothing less.”

Diminishing fiscal resources and growing threats drive three priorities for AMC, he said.

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Exclusive Interview with Lt. Gen. Keith C. Walker

Lt. Gen. Keith C. Walker talks about the future.By RDECOM Public Affairs

How does the Army Capabilities Integration Center help shape the future Army?

Walker: ARCIC develops concepts and integrates capabilities across doctrine, organization, training, materiel, leadership and education, personnel and facilities — known as DOTMLPF — warfighting functions and formations. Concepts provide a vision of how the Army will operate and fight in the future. Concepts determine the capabilities future Army formations will need to operate in support of the joint force commander. We compare the required capabilities against the current Army, which serves as a baseline for capability needs analysis, to determine and prioritize future capability requirements. This also allows us to identify key areas for research and development that in turn identify the science and technology investments the Army needs to make today in order to deliver the capability solutions for the future.

What provides the basis for developing future concepts for the Army?

Walker: The future operational environment provides the foundation for concept development. We look at the challenges and threats we will likely face in the future, and through the Campaign of Learning – a series of seminars, wargames, experiments and studies – we assess how the Army can best meet those challenges.

We also adhere to defense planning guidance with 11 military mission areas. The Army is heavily involved in 10 of 11. Everything from defeat and deter, to defend the homeland, to conduct humanitarian and disaster relief. Since we no longer have nuclear weapons in our formations, nuclear deterrence is not an Army mission area. This guidance describes a very wide range of operations that Army formations must conduct. The breadth of missions reflects exactly what the Army does for the nation. Secretary of War Lindley Miller Garrison, addressing the West Point Class of 1914, stated, “The American Army has become the all-around handy man of the government.” He continued: “You may be called upon at anytime to do any kind of service in any part of the world – and if you would not fall below the standard your fellows have set, you must be ready and you must do it, and you must do it well.” You must ask if the Army cannot do all the various missions and tasks the nation needs us to do, what good are we.

Additionally, our adversaries will continue to leverage the proliferation of technology and the exponential increase in information exchange to challenge the United States in an asymmetric manner. Specifically, future adversaries will attempt to negate our nation’s technological advantage and long-range precision strike capabilities. That said, conflict has and always will be a human endeavor. The human aspects of conflict will remain the focus of the Army.

We do not have a crystal ball, and our best projections of the future will not be 100-percent accurate. However, the art and science of concept development attempts to be not too far wrong. Our goal is to develop concepts that lead to a flexible and adaptive Army that is capable of addressing emerging threats across the range of military operations even when those operations were not predicted.

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Military research aims to lighten the load through innovation

DARPA's Warrior Web program seeks to create a soft, lightweight under-suit that would help reduce injuries and fatigue and improve Soldiers' ability to efficiently perform their missions. DARPA provided photographs of three prototypes currently under development. (DoD photo)

DARPA’s Warrior Web program seeks to create a soft, lightweight under-suit that would help reduce injuries and fatigue and improve Soldiers’ ability to efficiently perform their missions. (DoD photo)

By David McNally

Dismounted Soldiers carrying full battle gear are pushed to their physical limits. Army missions demand speed, stealth and stamina with a Soldier often hefting 100 pounds or more of essentials. How will a Soldier of the future maintain the decisive edge in spite of this challenge? The answer may be in innovations developed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA.

“That load is a critical issue,” said Army Lt. Col. Joe Hitt, who until recently was Warrior Web program manager. “In Warrior Web, we want to explore approaches which make that kind of load feel, in terms of the effort to carry it, as if its weight has been cut in half. That’s the goal.”

DARPA launched the Warrior Web program in September 2011, seeking to create a soft, lightweight undersuit to help reduce injuries and fatigue while improving mission performance.

“The number one reason for discharge from the military in recent years is musculoskeletal injury,” Hitt said. “Warrior Web is specifically being designed to address the key injuries at the ankle, knee, hip, lower back and shoulders.”

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Special Operations Command leads development of ‘Iron Man’ suit

IRON MAN

By Donna Miles

The U.S. Special Operations Command is using unprecedented outreach and collaboration to develop something special with revolutionary capabilities.

The Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit, or TALOS, is the vision of Navy Adm. William H. McRaven, SOCOM’s commander. He challenged industry and defense representatives at a SOCOM conference in May 2013 to come up with the concepts and technologies to make the suit a reality. The goal is to offer operators better protection, enhanced performance and improved situational awareness.

McRaven spoke more recently at a February 2014 National Defense Industry Association Special Operations/Low Intensity Conflict symposium in Washington.

“The TALOS program is a collaboration of efforts,” McRaven said. “We are teaming with 56 corporations, 16 government agencies, 13 universities, and 10 national laboratories and we are leveraging the expertise of leading minds throughout the country to redefine the state of the art in survivability and operator capability.

“This innovative approach brings together the brightest minds in a national effort and we are already seeing astounding results in this collaboration. If we do TALOS right it will be a huge comparative advantage over our enemies and give our warriors the protection they need in a very demanding environment.”

Exactly what capabilities the TALOs will deliver is not yet clear, explained Michael Fieldson, SOCOM’s TALOS project manager. The goal is to provide operators lighter, more efficient full-body ballistics protection and super-human strength. Antennas and computers embedded into the suit will increase the wearer’s situational awareness by providing user-friendly and real-time battlefield information.

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Natick takes protective eyewear into the future

By wearing eye protection, Soldiers greatly reduce the number and the severity of injuries. (U.S. Army photo)

By wearing eye protection, Soldiers greatly reduce the number and the severity of injuries. (U.S. Army photo)

By Jane Benson

When it comes to the very best in vision protection for the Warfighter, researchers at the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center make sure the eyes have it.

“Eyesight is fundamental to a Soldier’s job, making vision protection of critical importance,” NSRDEC researcher Brian Kimball said.

A Warfighter’s vision can be impacted by dust, sand, fog and changes in lighting. There are also outright threats from blast and ballistic fragmentation and lasers.

NSRDEC researchers are working to find better ways to prevent sight impairment and eye injury, now and in the future. They are also working on cutting-edge technologies for vision enhancement and shared vision applications.

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Army software researchers develop MRAP simulator

 Soldiers experience realistic motions, and sounds, coupled with state-of-the-art graphics inside the new simulator. (U.S. Army photo)

Soldiers experience realistic motions, and sounds, coupled with state-of-the-art graphics inside the new simulator. (U.S. Army photo)

AMRDEC Public Affairs Army software engineers faced a challenge: Saving Soldiers’ lives. With the development of new simulation applications, Soldiers can now use advanced computers to train for worst-case scenarios.

U.S. Special Operations Command representatives visited the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center in the fall of 2012 to meet with Army engineers at Redstone Arsenal, Ala.

The SOCOM visitors saw a Humvee simulator in a SED laboratory where a vehicle traveled down roads simulated by large screens placed in front of the vehicle. Soldiers could ride in the vehicle and walk beside it while a simulated enemy engaged the Soldiers.

The AMRDEC Software Engineering Directorate is behind the popular America’s Army video game.

The experience was both realistic and helpful to the visitors, who asked for the possibility of an MRAP simulator, SED Director Dr. Bill Craig said. MRAPS are the Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles added to the Army inventory during recent conflicts.

Eighteen months later, the Army software engineers have delivered. The Army now has a new simulator called the Transportable, Reconfigurable, Integrated, Crew Trainer, or TRICT. It is fully operational to train Soldiers and save lives.

“The TRICT is a fully immersive crew trainer for the MRAP,” Craig said. “TRICT supports warfighter capabilities for training individually or collectively as a crew the skills required to operate features of the RG-33 and MATV variant MRAP vehicles.”

The TRICT features a realistic exterior and interior, including all vehicle controls for steering, gas, brakes, instrument panels, differentials and transmission control gauge for the MRAP. The main cradle is integrated with a pitch-and-roll assembly providing full-motion-based training and egress training during rollovers. All doors and windows are outfitted with LCD displays that create an immersive, computer-generated training environment using the Unreal 3.0 gaming engine.

“While inside the simulator, Soldiers experience realistic motions, and sounds, coupled with state-of-the-art graphics to ensure an immersive training environment,” said Scott Johnston, lead systems engineer for the project. “In short, it is a very realistic trainer.”

The design also allows for training on the joint tactical wheeled vehicles such as the Humvee, Joint Light Tactical Vehicle and RG31 MRAPs.

“We were able to develop this product in the amount of time that it would normally take to do the request for proposal,” Craig said. “The development of the TRICT Simulator is an excellent example of a product that is centered on the needs of soldiers and was developed inexpensively and rapidly.”

There are three simulators currently, and officials hope for more in the future.

 

 

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CERDEC enhances C4ISR product lifecycle data management capabilities

Members of TARDEC’s Ground System Engineering Assessment & Assurance HPC & Data Management Group conducted training for the CERDEC PRD PLDM implementation team the week of Feb. 24. (U.S. Army photo by Kristen Kushiyama)

Members of TARDEC’s Ground System Engineering Assessment & Assurance HPC & Data Management Group conducted training for the CERDEC PRD PLDM implementation team the week of Feb. 24. (U.S. Army photo by Kristen Kushiyama)

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The U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center and the Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center worked together to customize and implement a commercial software tool, known as Windchill, as part of the Army Materiel Command effort to establish the AMC Enterprise Product Data Management System.

CERDEC engineers collaborated with TARDEC to leverage its use of the Product Lifecycle Data Management system, along with existing modular engineering tools. The team accelerated implementation of its own Windchill-based PLDM scheduled to launch in spring 2014.

The Windchill-based system will provide increased capabilities to optimize product development and sustainment processes and achieve programmatic goals better, said Robert Vella CERDEC PRD deputy director.

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Benét Labs’ mortar redesign to help infantrymen become more lethal, safer

Apache Troop mortarmen fire the first round of the day for their mortar live-fire exercise at Combat Outpost Khilaguy, Afghanistan, Nov. 9, 2013. To properly emplace their system, two Soldiers must stand on the baseplate to help it set firmly in the ground. (U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Cory Titus)

Apache Troop mortarmen fire the first round of the day for their mortar live-fire exercise at Combat Outpost Khilaguy, Afghanistan, Nov. 9, 2013. To properly emplace their system, two Soldiers must stand on the baseplate to help it set firmly in the ground. (U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Cory Titus)

By John B. Snyder

 

The United States Infantry has some of the finest mortar systems in the world. They are lightweight, have great range, and provide a significant amount of lethal and destructive fire to close-range combat. And so, why would anyone think about tweaking something that has already been proven very capable in training and in combat?

“It is all about our troops maintaining the competitive edge over potential adversaries,” said Wayland Barber, chief of the Mortars and Recoilless Rifle Branch at Benét Laboratories, Watervliet Arsenal, N.Y. “Even without funding for new weapons research, Army scientists and engineers are always seeking opportunities to improve weapons systems that are in the field.”

Benét Laboratories is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command’s armaments center.

“No sooner than we field a new mortar system, our customers demand that we make it better in regards to extended range, increased lethality or capability, and reduced weight,” said Barber. “This triggers the entire Army research community, from those who improve the lethality of ammunition to those who design the delivery system, to work on parallel and converging fields of science to achieve a common goal.”

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Army testing combat boots, camouflage patterns

One of several jungle boots undergoing testing by Soldiers

One of several jungle boots undergoing testing by Soldiers features new technology to minimize slippage.

By David Vergun

 

Young Soldiers often want to wear a uniform that looks cool, while lawmakers want cost effectiveness, but the Army’s priority is protecting the Soldier from harm.

That’s what Col. Robert F. Mortlock, project manager for Soldier Protection and Individual Equipment, Program Executive Office Soldier, said he aims for, along with other important goals like comfort, fit, price, protection from the environment and durability.

JUNGLE BOOTS

As the Army pivots to the Pacific region, it is looking to develop a new jungle boot. Testing of some vendor-supplied prototypes could begin this summer, Mortlock said.

A good jungle boot, he explained, would shed water, meaning it can dry out fast after submersion. It also would be lightweight and breathable to minimize the effects of high temperatures and humidity. The lugs (tread) on the outsole would also be able to trek through mud with minimal slipping. Also, the leather should not dry out and crack from repeated wetting cycles.

The most important factor in the development of the jungle boot — or any new boot for that matter — he said, is Soldier feedback from real-use, rigorous testing.

“We do this rigorous user testing because we want Soldiers to trust and have confidence in their equipment so they can focus on their primary mission. And we’ve built up that trust over a number of years,” he added.

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Army chemists create human-on-a-chip technology

lab
By ECBC Communications

 

There was a time when the thought of manufacturing organs in the laboratory was science fiction, but now that science is a reality.

Army Scientists at the Edgewood Chemical Biological Center and academia collaborators have been conducting research of “organs” on microchips. ECBC is one of a few laboratories in the world conducting this research effort, but what sets ECBC apart is that its research will directly impact the warfighter.

The center houses the only laboratories in the United States that the Chemical Weapons Convention permits to produce chemical warfare agent for testing purposes. ECBC will test the human-on-a-chip against chemical warfare agent to learn more about how the body will respond to agent exposure and explore various treatment options for exposures.

While the center will be collaborating with the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Chemical Defense, Wake Forest, Harvard and the University of Michigan on the design of the chip, the testing will take place at ECBC.

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Army at tipping point of unmanned aircraft system capabilities

The RQ-11B Raven is a Small Unmanned Aircraft System. It is a hand-launched, unmanned aircraft system capable of 90 minutes of flight time with an operational range of approximately ten kilometers. It provides reconnaissance, surveillance, target acquisition, and force protection for the battalion commander and below during day/night operations. The RQ-11B Raven is a product of Program Executive Office Aviation. (U.S. Army photo)

The RQ-11B Raven is a Small Unmanned Aircraft System. It is a hand-launched, unmanned aircraft system capable of 90 minutes of flight time with an operational range of approximately ten kilometers. It provides reconnaissance, surveillance, target acquisition, and force protection for the battalion commander and below during day/night operations. The RQ-11B Raven is a product of Program Executive Office Aviation. (U.S. Army photo)

By David Vergun

 

“We’re on the tipping point of unmanned aerial systems’ ability to deliver capability to the Soldier,” said Col. Thomas von Eschenbach.

The unmanned aerial/aircraft system, or UAS, is no longer seen by Soldiers as a new system and as the months and years pass, it will “not just be used by a few, but will become integral to the Army fabric and how it fights and is used and understood,” said Eschenbach, who is the UAS capability manager for U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command.

Eschenbach and others spoke today at a media roundtable at Redstone Arsenal, Ala., where a celebration was held marking the Army’s milestone of 2 million UAS flight hours.

Col. Timothy Baxter, project manager, UAS, noted that it took 20 years for Army unmanned aircraft systems to reach 1 million flight hours. That milestone came in 2010. With increased use of those systems, it took just a few more years to reach the 2 million flight-hours milestone.

He said what is most impressive is that 90 percent of total UAS flight hours were logged in direct support of combat operations.

“Every one of those hours has meant something to a commander on the ground overseas engaged in combat,” Baxter said.

Baxter noted that of the total two million flight hours, Shadow UAS logged 900,000 of those. However, as more Gray Eagles are fielded, he said he expects it to be the system with the most impressive mileage.

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Soldier weapons: Taking the long view

Soldiers train on a new M2A1 .50 Caliber Machine Gun mounted on a new M205 Lightweight Tripod at Fort Bliss,Texas. The M2A1 includes modern features and design improvements that make it easier and safer to use. (U.S. Army photo)

Soldiers train on a new M2A1 .50 Caliber Machine Gun mounted on a new M205 Lightweight Tripod at Fort Bliss,Texas. The M2A1 includes modern features and design improvements that make it easier and safer to use. (U.S. Army photo)

By Debi Dawson

 

As the Army’s materiel developer for small arms, PEO Soldier’s Project Manager Soldier Weapons continues to enhance the capabilities of current weapon systems while it pursues future Soldier needs identified by user communities, such as the Maneuver Center of Excellence.

In 2013, PM SW began taking part in Army’s strategic modernization planning process, which incorporates an in-depth process to create a clearer picture of what the future looks like out three decades from now. The next generation of small arms that will arise from this process will be an outgrowth of coordinated efforts that align the identification of capability gaps with materiel development and the science and technology investments needed to bring the world of the possible into the realm of reality. The resulting weapon systems will be lighter and more accurate, durable, reliable, and ergonomic. Significant performance improvements will be seen through advanced weapon system enablers, including fire control, which integrates technologies such as ballistic calculators, range finders, target tracking, and environmental sensors.

“Looking to the future, fire control is a critical field for us to advance if we are to maintain our overmatch against a determined adversary,” said Col. Scott C. Armstrong, project manager Soldier Weapons. “These systems provide a way of realizing the full potential of our small arms weapon systems by helping Soldiers acquire and engage targets with precision.”

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Engineers explore future mobility, protection

TARDEC is exploring future mobility concepts, aiming for radical improvements that allow vehicles to drive over almost any terrain in any environment. (U.S. Army illustration by James Scott)
By Dan Desmond

 

When Gen. Dennis Via, U.S. Army Materiel Command commanding general, visited the Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center earlier this year, he said, “We don’t know where the next contingency will be, but there will be another contingency.”

Via emphasized that regardless of where, “they’re going to expect units to be ready to go with the equipment and materiel needed to accomplish the mission and come home safely.”

With that in mind, TARDEC engineers are surging forward with projects to support the Army of the future.

“By improving the current vehicle fleet and developing new capabilities, our engineers and scientists are making progress in shaping the Army of 2025 and changing the way Soldiers in the next generation will fight,” TARDEC Technical Director Dr. Paul Rogers said.

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Researchers develop hands-free, eyes-free navigation for Soldiers

Soldiers quickly learn the tactile systems, attaining proficiency with the signals within 10-15 minutes. Bruce Mortimer, director of Research and Development, Engineering Acoustics, Inc., Casselberry, Fla., provides training to the Soldiers prior to field assessments. (Photo courtesy Korey Mort, Engineering Acoustics, Inc.)

Soldiers quickly learn the tactile systems, attaining proficiency with the signals within 10-15 minutes. Bruce Mortimer, director of Research and Development, Engineering Acoustics, Inc., Casselberry, Fla., provides training to the Soldiers prior to field assessments. (Photo courtesy Korey Mort, Engineering Acoustics, Inc.)

By Joyce M. Conant

 

Researchers at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory continue to develop and evaluate methods for navigation and communication that are ‘hands-free, eyes-free and mind-free’ to aid Soldiers in the field.

Soldiers wear a lightweight belt around their torso, containing miniature haptic technology. The belt provides vibratory or tactile cues allowing a Soldier to navigate to map coordinates and receive communications while still carrying a weapon.

Research said initial feedback from Soldiers testing the device is positive. Soldiers say they liked being able “to concentrate on other things and not the screen.”

Soldiers are able to move and communicate while keeping visual map displays in their pockets and their eyes on the surroundings.

Vibratory signals are communicated through tactile actuators inside the device. Navigation signals correspond to vibrations or pulses that tell the Soldier which direction to go.

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Interview with James Lackey, Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center

lackeyrdecom

 

Since January 2013, James B. Lackey has served as director of Engineering Directorate, U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center at Redstone Arsenal, Ala. In January 2014, Lackey became acting technical director of AMRDEC. A native of Maryland, Lackey had a near 25-year career at the Naval Air Systems Command at Patuxent River, Md. He was a strike aircraft flight test project engineer for more than a decade. Between 1999 and 2008 he held a variety of program management assignments. His first senior executive service assignment was at the Pentagon in the Office of the Secretary of Defense supporting the under secretary of Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics as the director of Air Warfare programs.  He earned a master of science in engineering management from Florida Tech and a bachelor of science in aerospace engineering from Virginia Tech. Army Technology Magazine offered Lackey the opportunity to discuss the future.

With limited resources, how is the AMRDEC approaching the future? Is there an impact on the Future Vertical Lift program?

Lackey: Wherever and whenever there’s an opportunity to combine requirements into a joint service solution, that’s a great example of better buying power in action. Going forward, the Department of Defense acquisition community must be more open to these opportunities. It doesn’t necessarily have to be at the system level. Through open systems architectures, leveraging commonality of procurement at the component level is still beneficial. Anyplace we can collectively push the state of the art, drive down risk and realize win-wins is a good place to be. We must think positively and proactively on partnering and teaming. Even outside of DoD, we’re bridging academia and NASA for project collaboration and research. For example, we’re standing up an Additive Manufacturing Integrated Product Team with NASA Marshall Space Flight Center. This is where working-level engineers will collaborate on technology development and how we can leverage what NASA is already accomplishing in terms of facility investments. We clearly recognize the game changing aspects of 3D printing. It’s the next Industrial Revolution wave. In such a rapid evolving dynamic area of technology development, partnering with NASA makes great business sense and also helps us to locally foster what is notionally called “Team Redstone,” where cross-organizational partnerships are producing incredible results each and every single day.

Regarding FVL as a future program of record, from what I can infer based on both my discussions and what I’ve heard from the requirements community this effort appears to me to be on a solid footing in regard to budget planning. I say this with the caveat that I do not control the budget; any great plan is subject to change. However, many future operational concepts focus on increased distribution of forces and growing anti-access / area denial threats, known as A2AD. Ensuring dominance over A2AD equates to increased emphasis on mobility, speed and range ideally enhanced with a reduced, logistical footprint.  Beyond A2AD, the world will continue to see very dynamic unforeseen threats that must be responded to quickly and with overwhelming force.  Future rotorcraft platforms in a wide variety of mission applications against common core designs will help realize the expeditionary Army vision. The requirements of FVL are reflective of this quick response mission role. Today’s aging rotorcraft platforms just do not have the performance capabilities to meet these operational demands. Beyond performance, abilities to sustain aging systems will inevitably lead to higher operational and sustainment costs. New capabilities, smartly designed for reduced sustainability costs must be brought into the hands of the Warfighter in the 2030 timeframe. This is what FVL is all about.  I would consider it one of the key enablers of the future force.

To get to FVL we must reduce risk and mature technologies.  At AMRDEC, we are leading the Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstration program, known as  JMR-TD. This program is designed to show that new aircraft configurations populated with new technologies can help inform a future materiel program-of-record FVL solution. I say the word “inform” deliberately since JMR-TD should not be looked upon as some sort of prototype fly-off effort. The acquisition strategy is clear.  JMR-TD is to inform a future program effort. We are approaching this in a very holistic sense. It’s not just about an airframe. It’s the total rotorcraft system. This includes joint common architecture mission systems, multispectral sensors, energy efficient power and propulsion, as well as sustainment through prognostic and diagnostic novel technologies. We are also conducting cost analysis for future capabilities to help inform trades. AMRDEC’s value is our engineering excellence. Working side by side with contractor teams on the JMR-TD, we will help drive down risks, push technology developments and work toward systematically and affordably informing FVL program requirements to ensure future execution success.

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Insect-inspired technology seeks to extend situational awareness on the battlefield

ARL researchers envision the use of spatially distributed, multimodal, wide-field sensing based on the neurophysiology of insects for enabling navigation and obstacle avoidance on micro aerial robots. (ARL Public Affairs)

Army researchers envision the use of spatially distributed, multimodal, wide-field sensing based on the neurophysiology of insects for enabling navigation and obstacle avoidance on micro aerial robots. (U.S. Army photo)

By Jenna Brady

Soldiers’ missions frequently lead them to locations where they must assess the status of structures, and where the presence of threats is not immediately known or easily detectable.

These threats include ambushes and chemical and biological threats that could be lurking around every corner.

Current technology assists Soldiers in detecting these possible threats by allowing them to assess structures and threats through the use of teleoperated sensing systems.

“Think of it as a camera on wheels, where Soldiers have a one or two pound sensor that they can throw into a building to assess situational awareness,” said Dr. Brett Piekarski, chief of the U.S. Army Research Laboratory’s Micro and Nano Materials and Devices Branch within the Sensors and Electron Devices Directorate and Cooperative Agreement Manager of the Micro Autonomous Systems and Technology, or MAST, Collaborative Technology Alliance.

“The Soldier controls it like a video game to complete the task,” Piekarski added.

Though successful in getting the job done, current systems have their drawbacks.

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Researchers aggressively explore miniature robots to enhance capabilities

Enhancing strategic situational awareness in urban and complex terrain by enabling the autonomous operation of a family of small devices that walk, crawl, fly, communicate and work effectively with one another as a unit, and then share all the information with a command and control center, to save Soldiers lives and prevent them from going in harm's way.

Enhancing strategic situational awareness in urban and complex terrain by enabling the autonomous operation of a family of small devices that walk, crawl, fly, communicate and work effectively with one another as a unit, and then share all the information with a command and control center, to save Soldiers lives and prevent them from going in harm’s way. (U.S. Army illustration)

By Tracie R. Dean

A small team of elite special forces operators must hunt down a highly sought after terrorist leader.  This terrorist has taken refuge in an urban environment which offers concealment behind an array of structures, walls and other obstacles.

In today’s Army, this type of scenario may expose Soldiers to a very high level of risk while attempting to locate, identify and engage high priority targets. However, in the future Army, a team of miniature ground and aerial robots may be able to enter the high risk zones and conduct a coordinated search, communicating with one another, and ultimately conveying critical information to Soldiers who are far removed from harm’s way.

Micro Autonomous Systems and Technology offers this potential capability and is being aggressively studied by researchers at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory who are collaborating with both industry and academia under a collaborative technology alliance.

“The MAST program seeks to enhance the tactical situational awareness of the dismounted Soldier in urban and complex terrain by enabling the autonomous operation of a collaborative ensemble of multifunctional mobile Microsystems,” said Dr. Brett Piekarski, chief of ARL Micro and Nano Materials and Devices Branch within the Sensors and Electron Devices Directorate and cooperative agreement manager of the MAST CTA.

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Networking the future warrior

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BY BRIG. GEN. DANIEL P. HUGHES, DR. PAUL ZABLOCKY AND ROBERT ZANZALARI

Today, the Army has a tactical network that provides commanders and Soldiers with information down to the lowest echelons of the battlefield – but that is held together with the digital equivalent of duct tape and chewing gum.

After a remarkable effort over the past 12 years to rapidly deliver the communications technologies our forces needed in Iraq and Afghanistan, we now have a multitude of sophisticated systems that work well but were not built to work together, requiring significant integration and configuration efforts. Not only did this borne-of-necessity approach lead to increased size, weight and power requirements on our vehicle platforms, it also introduced a great deal of complexity in how Soldiers interact with the network. System startup and shutdown can be difficult. Users are required to memorize and enter multiple passwords and commands. Put it this way: a Soldier expecting the seamless, intuitive user interface of a commercial smartphone or tablet would be sorely disappointed.

As the Army continues to retrograde from Afghanistan and transition to leaner, more agile future Force 2025, we now have the opportunity to change. Our goal is to provide a simplified, integrated network that is robust, versatile and rapidly deployable so we are ready for the next fight. Building on what we learned from previous conflicts, the Program Executive Office for Command, Control, Communications-Tactical, known as PEO C3T, and the Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center, known as CERDEC have created a Network Modernization Roadmap that will help guide research and development efforts and smartly direct our limited modernization resources to technologies that will have the greatest short-, mid- and long-term impact on the end user. The road map unfolds in three interconnected phases that act as building blocks: Network 2.0 (fiscal 2014 to 2015), Simplified Tactical Army Reliable Network, known as STARNet (fiscal 2016 to 2020) and the Network After Next, known as NaN (2020 and beyond).

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Army imagines next-generation protective mask

Army researchers envision a fan embedded within the mask’s filtration system that uses less power, is lighter and is far less bulky than conventional respirators. (U.S. Army illustration)

Army researchers envision a fan embedded within the mask’s filtration system that uses less power, is lighter and is far less bulky than conventional respirators. (U.S. Army illustration)

By ECBC Communications

It’s hot. Humidity is near 100 percent, and you’re in full combat gear — including chemical-biological protection. Between your helmet and mask, your entire head is covered, leaving a sensation of suffocating heat. Sweat pours as you run, climb and crawl through enemy territory. How can you get through it?

A fan blows soothing air across your face, under the tight-fitted mask.

Technology brings this relief to a Soldier through a powered air purifying respirator, which consists of a hose connected to the face mask from a blower unit and battery pack hanging off the hip or back. A typical respirator is heavy and cumbersome, adding to the weight of the equipment troops already carry.

In 2013, Edgewood Chemical Biological Center scientists began designing concepts for the next generation of chemical, biological, radioactive and nuclear respirators. They developed a fan embedded within the mask’s filtration system that uses less power, is lighter and is far less bulky than conventional respirators. In addition to reduced weight and power requirements, this system offers major improvements to the level of comfort and effectiveness of the mask.

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Fire on more targets, more quickly, more accurately

Nick Serino, ARDEC Project Officer for Small Arms Weapons and Fire Control, holds a 3D printed M4 rifle representative of when the technology was still planned to be used on an individual weapon.  Currently planning for the the SAW & FC technology is to go to the M2 and the M240 however the software would work for any weapon.

Nick Serino, ARDEC Project Officer for Small Arms Weapons and Fire Control, holds a 3D printed M4 rifle representative of when the technology was still planned to be used on an individual weapon. Currently planning for the the SAW & FC technology is to go to the M2 and the M240 however the software would work for any weapon.

ERIC_KOWAL

Imagine you are a young Soldier on a deployment and you do not have an awful lot of experience in firing your weapon at great distances.  You are on patrol in a mountainous terrain with your fire team when suddenly you spot what appears to be the enemy.  You see them, but they do not see you.

How do you take the shot?  But more importantly, how do you take the shot and not miss so you do not get spotted and jeopardize your team’s position?

Advances in fire control technology are progressing toward making it possible for the shooter to not only determine the exact range on target, but also track and hit the target up to the weapon’s maximum effective range.

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