ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (Sept. 2, 2014) — Brig. Gen. L. Neil Thurgood, Program Executive Officer for Missiles and Space at Redstone Arsenal, Ala., gave an exclusive interview to Army Technology Magazine on the future of lethality.
What is the rationale for increasing firepower and lethality?
The U.S. Army is undergoing a transformation. After a decade of war, Soldiers and equipment are returning to an environment of declining budgets, drawdowns and a shift in operational focus. The Army is facing difficult decisions regarding force structure and modernization divestment. Unfortunately, the threat continues to increase in complexity as we reset, modernize and transform. These challenges are addressed by the Chief of Staff of the Army’s Force 2025 initiative. Force 2025 will prioritize those technologies that support a leaner, more expeditionary force that exceeds current capabilities, allowing for increased firepower and lethality. In this fiscally constrained environment, modernization decisions will be balanced with technology investments to ensure readiness through the transformation.
How do you see technology empowering Soldiers with greater lethality in the future?
PEO Missiles and Space develops, produces, fields and supports U.S. Army, Joint and Coalition missile systems for air and missile defense, direct and indirect fires and aviation platforms. Several of the weapon systems that we manage include Patriot, Javelin, TOW and Hellfire. There is no doubt that the technologies of our missile platforms will be improved through the development efforts of tomorrow. There are several key areas of critical technology development that will empower Soldiers with greater lethality.
Warhead and fuze integration must be developed further. We need single warheads that are advanced enough to be scalable on demand as the mission situation dictates. In the future, the warhead and fuze development must be combined for a single resultant that will provide flexibility while reducing the burden to the Soldier and increasing the effectiveness of the missile system.
Advanced navigation systems that will fuse the single or dual navigation systems of today must be pursued. We must be able to reach off-board the missile system and draw information from other navigation sources that can aid in longer distance engagements and develop more technologies to improve accurate targeting, especially in the end-game.
The development of propulsion energetics should be accelerated. As we reach out further in distance and trend to faster in speeds, we need to reduce the size and foot print of our propulsion systems. This can be done through material synthesis and burn rate enhancement. While we develop these technologies, weapons must remain compliant with insensitive munitions regulations in the ever changing environment of missile applications.
Speed and amount of processing capacity must be increased. In this area, we should develop processing that will increase precision acquisition, especially at the “end game” of the missile engagement. We need to enhance our auto-tracking capabilities. Increased processing must be tied to the next generations of Seeker technology. If we are to combine our current platforms into a single integrated effort, where we can use any sensor to see the threat and the best missile to engage the threat – we need increased ability to process data in real-time. It requires multi-mission platforms with enough processing power and speed to provide a “defense-in-depth” using networked air, ground, naval and space platforms. This will enhance the speed of decision, reduce the kill timeline and subsequently increase the overall probability of success.