On August 18, at the direction of the President, the Department of Defense (DoD) initiated the process to elevate U.S. Cyber Command to a Unified Combatant Command (UCC). The decision is consistent with Title 10 of U.S. Code, section 167b, and the recommendation of the Secretary of Defense.
The elevation will mark a significant evolution in the way the department organizes to execute cyberspace missions and comes as a direct result of the efforts of the entire DoD cyber workforce.
Elevation of U.S. Cyber Command from its previous status as a sub-unified command under U.S. Strategic Command reflects the growing centrality of cyberspace to U.S. national security. Raising the organizational status of U.S. Cyber Command is intended to demonstrate visibly DoD’s long-term commitment to cyberspace as a warfighting domain. It also signals the department’s resolve to embrace the changing nature of warfare – thus helping to reassure partners and deter adversaries.
U.S. Cyber Command has matured since its establishment in 2009. This step will make the command even more agile and strengthen its voice in the department.
Today, the Cyber Mission Force is making significant contributions in meeting the department’s toughest challenges, including the fight against Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). This progress has been possible thanks to the hard work and commitment of the employees of U.S. Cyber Command and the cyber workforce across the department.
As one of the first Soldiers to shoot a powerful 30-mm cannon from a new Stryker combat vehicle, Staff Sergeant Randall Engler was excited about what the weapon could do for his infantry squad.
«It’s empowering», said Engler, of the 2nd Cavalry Regiment, which has asked the Army to give its Stryker fleet more lethality to deter Russia and other near-peer threats. «You’re laying that hate on a target with a bigger round. It’s doing a lot more damage and you’re getting better effects».
Engler and 14 others from the regiment recently traveled from Germany to Aberdeen Proving Ground as part of a six-week test and training event on the new Stryker Infantry Carrier Vehicle, which is nicknamed «Dragoon» after the unit.
The Soldiers also tested the new CROWS-J system, a Common Remote-Operated Weapons Station that allows troops to fire Javelin anti-tank guided missiles from the safety inside existing Stryker models.
«We try to get users on the platform early on, that’s why there are crews from 2nd Cavalry here now», said Colonel Glenn Dean, the Army’s Stryker program manager, during a media event Tuesday at Aberdeen.
Six Stryker vehicles from each 30-mm cannon and Javelin variant are slated to head to Germany this January, where more 2nd Cavalry Soldiers will be able to share their input. The Army hopes to field the combat vehicles in a forward location next summer when the regiment’s 1st Squadron is expected to go to Poland, Dean added.
The regiment requested more firepower for its 81 Stryker Infantry Combat Vehicles (ICVs) due to the recent military operations of Russia, which has shown hostility in parts of Eastern Europe.
«This capability coming to 2nd Cavalry is directly attributable to Russian aggression and we are actively working with our foreign partners in how to help shape our formation», said Lieutenant Colonel Troy Meissel, the regiment’s deputy commanding officer.
The limited number of American forces stationed in Europe also led to the request. Back in the Cold War, there were roughly 300,000 U.S. Soldiers in Europe. Now, there are only about 30,000, he said.
«How do we, as an Army, make 30,000 Soldiers feel like 300,000»? he asked. «This new ICV-D Infantry Carrier Vehicle-Dragoon is one of the ways that can help us do that».
While the weapon upgrades are not meant to change the Stryker into a fighting vehicle, the new vehicles can help infantrymen be more effective in battle. «It allows us to get to the right place at the right time to close in and destroy the enemy», Meissel said.
The acquisition of the 30-mm cannon-equipped Stryker, which began in the fall of 2015, was a relatively quick process. It took about 15 months from the receipt of funds to the delivery of ICV-D prototypes, said Major General David Bassett, program executive officer for the Army’s ground combat systems.
«You’re seeing an acquisition timeline that was not driven by bureaucracy, but was driven by the actual activities and underlying tasks that we needed both our contractors and the Army team to do together», Bassett said.
The Dragoon vehicles also incorporated equipment from other Stryker variants, such as a mature turret that didn’t require much software development and a mature chassis with a suspension that was already proven by the Stryker double-v hull program.
«One of the ways you make acquisition go faster is by picking things that don’t require as much as those activities», he said. «It’s not too long before you’re hit with a very low probability of success if you’re bringing in too many new things that are unproven».
The process, he added, demonstrated his office’s commitment to get systems to Soldiers in a timely manner. «I’m not interested in developing systems, I’m interested in delivering them», he said.
While additional resources have already been asked to equip a second brigade with the new vehicles, the general expects there could be modifications to the vehicle as more 2nd Cavalry Soldiers give their feedback.
«It would be more efficient in terms of resources to wait but our adversaries aren’t waiting», he said, «so we’re looking to lean forward to provide capabilities sooner rather than later».
Cost savings in hardware, though, as well as novel approaches to business operations and leveraging partner investments in the Dragoon vehicle program, have freed up money for the regiment to add another weapon system to its arsenal – the remote Javelin system.
Stryker vehicles with the CROWS-J system will roll out to the regiment at the same time as the ICV-D vehicles, according to Dean, the program manager. «I didn’t have to go back to the Army or Congress and ask for another dollar to execute this», he said.
TIGHT SHOT GROUP
During the recent 30-mm cannon testing at Aberdeen, Soldiers saw a vast improvement in accuracy compared to the .50-caliber/12.7-mm machine gun, which is mounted on many Stryker vehicles.
«With this, we’re seeing a shot group about the size of a basketball», Sergeant 1st Class Nicholas Young, senior NCO of the Army’s Stryker program, said of the remote-operated cannon hitting a target at 5,905.5 feet/1,800 meters away. «If I aim at something, I know I’m going to hit it and I’m going to do damage to it».
Soldiers do lose some situational awareness after designers had to accommodate the large cannon on the unmanned turret. Vision blocks in the front of the Stryker have been added and there’s the possibility of putting cameras on future vehicles, depending how 2nd Cavalry formations react to the vehicles in testing.
«It will take some getting used to», Young said of the loss of situational awareness, «but eventually we’ll be able to find some solutions to integrate into the vehicle to assist with that».
If given the choice between a hatch to look out of and a 30-mm cannon capable of shooting 200 rounds per minute, many Soldiers may prefer the extra lethality.
«I know it makes me feel more comfortable out there because it’s a bigger round», Engler said, adding it could force enemies to think twice before attacking. «It’ll make them second guess because now it’s going to be a substantially different fight».
Army Stryker vehicles with 30-mm cannon & Javelin upgrades
US Army Soldiers of the 3rd General Support Aviation Battalion, 10th Aviation Regiment, 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, 10th Mountain Division and the 175th Wing, Maryland Air National Guard trained with NATO Allies during a combined aerial-ground exercise near Jagala, Estonia on August 10, 2017.
The exercise consisted of US CH-47 Chinooks, escorted by US UH-60L Black Hawks, dropping off infantrymen with the British Army’s 5th Battalion, The Rifles, 20th Armored Brigade on their mission to secure a civilian highway. They were able to practice these specific air maneuvers the day before during a separate exercise that seized an objective and acquired a high value target at Saase Training Area, Estonia.
The 3-10 CAB is currently in country as a part of Operation Atlantic Resolve, a NATO mission involving the US and European Allies and partners in a combined effort to strengthen bonds of friendship and to deter aggression.
This event was an opportunity for US, British, and Estonian soldiers, as well as local law enforcement, to come together under a unified command to successfully land A-10 Thunderbolt II «Warthog» planes in a civilian area. British Army Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Ridland, commander of the Enhanced Forward Presence Battle Group, explained the importance of combined events like this.
«This is all about air-land integration. This exercise comes a week after Vice President Mike Pence visited Estonia and spoke about how Enhanced Forward Presence is the embodiment of NATO in many respects. What we’ve got today is my soldiers working with American helicopters and planes demonstrating operations with our Allies», he said
This marks the third time the Maryland Air National Guard has been able to complete this event successfully, thanks to the teamwork between US, British, and Estonian forces on the ground. US Army Lieutenant Colonel Spencer Burkhalter, deputy chief of the Office of Defense Cooperation in Tallinn, Estonia, spoke on what needed to be done to make this mission viable.
«The planning took over six months to make this happen as successfully as in the past. On the Estonian side, there was a lot of ground work to cover. Their military police worked with local police to close this road. On the American side, the A-10 pilots planned the flight mission. In addition to those elements, the British component provided security for the airfield in an assault exercise conducted before landing», he said.
After the British infantrymen created a defensive perimeter around the area, the Warthogs began their descent, and after landing were assessed by a maintenance crew before taking off on the same strip. Ridland spoke on how this military display affects the public perception in Estonia.
«Here you have many people, families and the like, and for them this is an exciting thing to see. It’s also a reassurance to the public that NATO is here, their country is secure, and they don’t need to worry about anything», he said.
After eight months of intense training, members of the 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade successfully completed a Patriot missile defense system modernization effort that will provide continued protection from potential North Korean aggression.
«In coordination with contractors from Raytheon and the Lower Tier Project Office, the brigade carried out the largest Patriot modernization project ever conducted outside a continental depot facility», said Steven Knierim, Raytheon project manager.
«The purpose of the battalion netted exercise was two-fold. First, it was to validate the systems to ensure everything worked and met the industry standard for performance», said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Tara Gibbs, 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade Patriot modernization project officer. «The second was to qualify the Soldiers and crews on the new equipment».
As part of the training, the batteries networked into the battalion data link architecture from geographically dispersed locations around the peninsula and conducted air battles. Each battery crew was required to complete a series of competency tests to demonstrate proficiency.
«Prior to the exercise, we spent three weeks split between formal classroom training and hands-on learning», said 2nd Lieutenant Nathan Jackson, Company C, 6th Battalion, 52nd Air Defense Artillery Regiment fire control platoon leader. «The contractors taught us how to isolate faults in order to better diagnose problems in case the equipment goes down».
According to Jackson, one of the biggest benefits of the modernization overhaul was the replacement of many legacy systems and updating outdated technology. The combination of the two improved the tactical capabilities and reduced maintenance requirements for the missile defense system.
«For the Soldiers that work in the engagement control station, one of the smaller but more comfortable enhancements was the ergonomic improvements», said Jackson. «Touch screen maneuverable displays, along with improved adjustable seats, make long shifts more endurable».
Throughout the modernization process, the brigade carefully balanced the ‘Fight Tonight’ mission in the Korean theater of operation while rotating batteries through the improvised depot at Suwon Air Base.
The brigade is scheduled to modernize their platform of Avengers in the coming months as part of an ongoing plan of enhancing air defense capabilities on the Korean Peninsula.
Readiness and modernization remain fixtures among the Army’s top priorities, both of which are initiatives 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade is addressing as the brigade upgrades their Patriot fleet. Upon completion of the largest Patriot modernization project ever conducted outside a depot facility, the Dragon Brigade will operate with the most technological advanced equipment within the Air Defense Artillery community. Furthermore, the brigade will execute a comprehensive new equipment training cycle to maintain Fight Tonight readiness throughout the transition. This article is part of a three-part series that will follow the modernization and readiness effort as it materializes.
Lockheed Martin has delivered the first Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) missile to the U.S. Army from the company’s new production facility in Camden, Arkansas.
Lockheed Martin is under contract to deliver 124 new ATACMS missiles to the U.S. Army and an international customer. The ATACMS program is in full-rate production at Lockheed Martin’s Precision Fires Production Center of Excellence in Camden.
Concurrent with production efforts, Lockheed Martin is nearing completion of a development contract with the U.S. Army that further enhances existing ATACMS missiles. The modifications include upgrades to the missile electronics, and complete the qualification of a height-of-burst proximity sensor, which provides increased area effects on targets.
«ATACMS has demonstrated unparalleled system performance and reliability for our customers», said Scott Greene, vice president of Precision Fires at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control. «These latest ATACMS rounds will support Army readiness, and provide a critical new precision engagement capability to our international customers».
ATACMS is the U.S. Army’s only tactical long-range, deep precision-strike surface-to-surface weapon system. ATACMS missiles can be fired from the entire family of Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) launchers, enabling battlefield commanders the capability to operate in contested environments.
Lockheed Martin has produced more than 3,800 ATACMS missiles, with more than 20 years of on-time deliveries. More than 600 ATACMS missiles have been fired in combat, and the system has demonstrated extremely high rates of accuracy and reliability while in theater. Each ATACMS missile is packaged in a Guided Missile Launch Assembly pod.
The development of advanced learning technologies for training is underway. Linking augmented reality with live training will enable units to achieve the highest levels of warfighting readiness and give valuable training time back to commanders and Soldiers.
The U.S. Army must train to win in a complex world that demands adaptive leaders and organizations that thrive in ambiguity and chaos. To meet this need, the Army has developed Force 2025 and Beyond, a comprehensive strategy to change and deliver land-power capabilities as a strategic instrument of the future joint force. The successful implementation of this strategy requires a new training environment that is flexible, supports repetition, reduces overhead and is available at the point of need.
A joint effort between the U.S. Army Research Laboratory and several entities – University of Southern California Institute for Creative Technologies, Combined Arms Center-Training and Program Executive Office for Simulation, Training and Instrumentation – are working to research, prototype and eventually deliver the Synthetic Training Environment, otherwise known as STE.
STE is a collective training environment that leverages the latest technology for optimized human performance within a multi-echelon, mixed-reality environment. It provides immersive and intuitive capabilities to keep pace with a changing operational environment and enables Army training on joint combined arms operations. The STE moves the Army away from facility-based training, and instead, allows the Army to train at the point of need – whether at home-station, combat training centers or at deployed locations.
«Due to the rapidly expanding industrial base in virtual and augmented reality and government advances in training technologies, the Army is moving out to seize an opportunity to augment readiness», said Colonel Harold Buhl, ARL Orlando and ICT program manager. «With STE, the intent is to leverage commercial advances with military specific technologies to provide commanders adaptive unit-specific training options to achieve readiness more rapidly and sustain readiness longer».
Buhl said the intent is to immerse Soldiers in the complex operational environment and stress them physically and mentally, in order to «make the scrimmage as hard as the game», as General Martin Dempsey, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, once remarked.
This training environment delivers the next generation of synthetic collective trainers for armor, infantry, Stryker and combat aviation brigade combat teams. These trainers will result in lower overhead costs and will use advanced learning technologies with artificially intelligent entities to simultaneously train BCT-level and below. This multi-echelon collective training will be delivered to geographically distributed warfighters, at the point of need, for both current and future forces.
«As the Army evolves with manned and unmanned teams and other revolutionary battlefield capabilities, STE will be flexible enough to train, rehearse missions and experiment with new organization and doctrine», Buhl said.
Leveraging current mixed reality technologies, STE blends virtual, augmented and physical realities to provide commanders and leaders at all levels with multiple options to guide effective training across active and dynamic mission complexities. STE will provide intuitive applications and services that enable embedded training with mission command workstations and select platforms.
«This capability coupled with the immersive and semi-immersive technologies that bring all combat capabilities into the same synthetic environment, add to this quantum leap in training capability, the geo-specific terrain that STE will use in collaboration with Army Geospatial Center and you have the opportunity to execute highly accurate mission rehearsal of a mission and multiple branches and sequels», Buhl said.
STE adaptive technology supports rapid iterations and provides immediate feedback – allowing leaders to accurately assess and adjust training – all in real time. With a single open architecture that can provide land, air, sea, space and cyberspace synthetic environment with joint, interagency, intergovernmental, and multi-national partners, Army multi-domain operations are inherent with STE.
An increasingly complex element of the land domain is the expansion of megacities. In the coming decades, an increasing majority of the world’s population is expected to reside in these dense urban areas. Technologies in development by ARL for STE will provide the realism of complexity and uncertainty in these dense and stochastic environments. STE is intended to evolve and enhance readiness in megacities by replicating the physical urban landscape, as well as the complex human dynamics of a large population.
«It enables our formations to train as they fight using their assigned mission command information systems, and all other BCT and echelons above BCT warfighting capabilities», Buhl said. «Operational informative systems and the training environment systems will share an identical common operating picture; enabling seamless mission-command across echelons».
Ryan McAlinden, director for Modeling, Simulation and Training at ICT, said his team has been working with ARL, the TRADOC capabilities manager, Combined Arms Center for Training and PEO STRI for the past year to help inform the requirements process for the STE.
«The team has been researching and prototyping techniques and technologies that show feasibility for the one world terrain part of the program», McAlinden said. «The hope is that these research activities can better inform the materiel development process when the STE is formally approved as a program of record».
By leveraging technology to provide the means to train in the complex operating environment of the future, integrating technologies to optimize team and individual performance, and providing tough realistic training that is synchronized with live capstone events and gives commanders options for accelerated and sustained readiness, STE is transforming Army training to achieve readiness and win in a complex world.
«As we develop, demonstrate and transition technologies across the U.S. Army Research Development and Engineering Command that provide solutions to tough Army problems, we never lose sight of focus on Soldiers and commanders», Buhl said. «These men and women deserve the very best in technology and more importantly in our respect for their leadership, initiative and ingenuity in the use of that technology. STE has tremendous opportunity for the Army if we develop and deliver with that focus».
The U.S. Army Research Laboratory, currently celebrating 25 years of excellence in Army science and technology, is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to provide innovative research, development and engineering to produce capabilities for decisive overmatch to the Army against the complexities of the current and future operating environments in support of the Joint Warfighter and the Nation. RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command.
On August 8, BAE Systems introduced iMOTR, an innovative, mobile Multiple-Object Tracking Radar (MOTR), which uses Commercial-Off-The-Shelf (COTS) solutions to provide military test and evaluation ranges a higher degree of accuracy in tracking Time, Space, and Position Information (TSPI) for objects in flight.
The solution was unveiled at the annual Space and Missile Defense Symposium in Huntsville, Alabama.
BAE Systems developed the iMOTR solution over the past two years using the company’s internal research and development funding. The project focuses on leveraging existing in-house radar designs matched with COTS components – including those improving gallium nitrate, radio frequency, and analog-to-digital technologies – to design a highly capable, yet affordable multiple-object tracking radar.
«The successful design of iMOTR leveraged industry advances in performance, availability, and affordability for both hardware and software», said Mark Keeler, acting president of BAE Systems’ Intelligence & Security sector. «It will deliver a multiple-object tracking radar solution best matched to meet the ever increasing demands of test and evaluation ranges worldwide».
The iMOTR features a C-band or X-band active electronically scanned array antenna and enhanced clutter suppression for improved accuracy assessments of object launch data, which provides more precise flight-path tracking for objects travelling close to the ground. Tracking information can be shared with other radars or data collection sensors in real-time. The radar is also equipped to provide higher precision TSPI data on a greater number of multiple objects in flight above today’s test range radars. These added capabilities will allow the test and evaluation community to test larger, more complex scenarios that are critical to developing the next generation of solutions to enhance national security.
«Our iMOTR solution is inexpensive compared to the legacy multiple-object tracking radar systems currently in use on test ranges», said Keeler. «Yet, it delivers the enhanced radar performance capabilities necessary to meet today’s test range requirements and will also reduce test range operation and sustainment costs».
The iMOTR is mounted on a commercial trailer optimized for enhanced mobility. It is also ruggedized and weather-proof to resist shock, dust, sand, humidity, and rain to improve performance and sustainability.
BAE Systems, a worldwide leader in test range solutions for more than 40 years, delivers a broad range of solutions and services including intelligence analysis, cyber operations, IT, systems development, systems integration, and operations and maintenance to enable militaries and governments to recognize, manage, and defeat threats. The company takes pride in supporting critical national security missions that protect the nation and those who serve.
Lockheed Martin will unveil its next generation air and missile defense radar demonstrator at the annual Space & Missile Defense Symposium this week in Huntsville, Alabama. The Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) Radar for Engagement and Surveillance (ARES) is a representative full-scale prototype of the technology to support a modern, 360-degree capable sensor that the U.S. Army will use to address current and emerging air and ballistic missile threats.
This fractional array is representative of Lockheed Martin’s potential Lower Tier Air & Missile Defense Sensor (LTAMDS) solution, built on a modular and scalable architecture to scale to the Army’s requirements, once finalized, to replace the aging Patriot MPQ-65 radar. The array on display in Huntsville will be used to mature technology and verify performance to ensure uniform 360-degree threat detection and system performance.
«Incremental upgrades to the existing Patriot radar no longer address current sustainment issues, current threat performance shortcomings, or provide growth for future and evolving threats», said Mark Mekker, director of next generation radar systems at Lockheed Martin. «Lockheed Martin is prepared to offer a next generation missile defense system that will leverage advances in radar technology to provide a modular, scalable architecture and reduce the total cost of ownership well over its 30-year lifecycle».
Lockheed Martin’s active electronically scanned array (AESA) technology incorporates Gallium Nitride (GaN) transmitter technology and advanced signal processing techniques including recently developed and proven 360-degree sensor/fire control algorithms based on advanced threat sets. These technologies and concepts have been fully integrated into both demonstration and production systems resulting in the industry’s first fielded ground based radars with GaN technology.
The AESA technology is also in use in the AN/TP/Q-53 radar system, which Lockheed Martin designed, developed and delivered to the Army on an urgent need timeline in under 36 months, and which continues to be scaled to address emerging threats.
«Our solution for the U.S. Army’s new air and missile defense sensor is not a new-start program. It’s a combination of technology maturation over several years and includes capability leveraged from our current development programs and battlefield-proven radars. We rely heavily on our modern radar systems such as the Q-53 and the Long Range Discrimination Radar (LRDR) to rapidly bring low-risk, proven technology to the warfighter», Mekker said. «We look forward to the opportunity to participate in this competition that will ultimately drive up performance and reduce costs for the U.S. Army».
As a proven world leader in systems integration and development of air and missile defense systems and technologies, Lockheed Martin delivers high-quality missile defense solutions that protect citizens, critical assets and deployed forces from current and future threats. The company’s experience spans radar and signal processing, missile design and production, hit-to-kill capabilities, infrared seekers, command and control/battle management, precision pointing and tracking optics, as well as threat-representative targets for missile defense tests.
In the next 18 months or so, the Army expects to field two new systems to dismounted Soldiers that will allow for more rapid acquisition of targets, even those hidden by darkness, smoke or fog.
First out of the gate will be the Enhanced Night Vision Goggle III (ENVG III), expected to be fielded sometime between April and June of 2018. Shortly after, the Army hopes to field the Family of Weapons Sights – Individual (FWS-I), between January and March of 2019.
The FWS-I and ENVG III are unique in that the FWS-I, which would be mounted on a Soldier’s weapon, wirelessly transmits its sight picture to the ENVG III, which a Soldier wears on his helmet.
Additionally, the ENVG combines thermal imaging with more common night vision image intensification technology, which is recognizable by the green image it creates.
Under starlight, targets may blend in with the background. But with the thermal capability overlaid on night vision, targets can’t hide in smoke or fog. They «really pop out with that contrast», said Dean Kissinger, an electronics engineer who is currently assigned to Program Product Manger Soldier Maneuver Sensors at Program Executive Office Soldier here.
Lieutenant Colonel Anthony Douglas, who serves as product manager for Soldier Maneuver Sensors at Program Executive Office (PEO) Soldier, said the two sensors have benefits beyond helping dismounted Soldiers better visualize targets. By paring the two systems wirelessly – allowing what the weapon-mounted sight is seeing to be beamed directly to the Soldier’s eye –- these systems also help the Soldier acquire a target faster.
RAPID TARGET ACQUISITION
«The capability gap that we were tasked with closing by developing this was the rapid target acquisition capability», Douglas said. «We are allowing the Soldier to actually see what is on their weapons sight, saving them time from having to bring the weapon to his eye».
Master Sergeant Lashon Wilson, the senior enlisted advisor for product manager Soldier Maneuver Sensors, explained how the system will work and make it easier for a Soldier to acquire a target.
«This weapon-mounted system talks wirelessly to the smart battery pack that is on the Soldier’s head, that then transmits a signal to the ENVG III, which now displays a reticle onto the Soldier’s optic», Wilson explained. «So now what this does is, while the Soldier is on patrol and he has his ENVG III on and he is looking, he has a greater field of view of what is going on in the battlefield».
Soldiers wearing the ENVG III, which is mounted on their helmet, can choose to see both night-vision imagery and thermal imaging as well in their goggle. But they can also choose to see the image coming off the FWS-I that is mounted on their rifle.
A variety of modes allows Soldiers to see in their goggles only the image from the ENVG III itself, only the image from the FWS-I, or a combination of the two. Using a «picture-in-picture» mode, for instance, the image from their FWS-I is displayed at the bottom right of the image that is coming from the goggle.
In another mode, however, if the FWS-I on the rifle and the ENVG III on the Soldier’s helmet are both pointed in the same direction and seeing essentially the same thing, then the image from the FWS-I can project a reticle into the goggle. The Soldier can see the full image of what his goggle normally sees, but a circle representing the reticle from the FWS-I is overlaid onto that image, letting the Soldier know where his rifle is pointed. What this means is the Soldier doesn’t need to actually shoulder his weapon to acquire a target. That saves time for the Soldier in acquiring that target.
«We are saving him three to five seconds, and increasing their situational awareness on the battlefield», Douglas said.
Additionally, because the reticle is projected onto what the Soldier is already seeing in his goggle – a much wider view of his environment than what he would see if he looked through his rifle scope – he is able to acquire a target while maintaining situational awareness of what else is going on around him.
STEEP LEARNING CURVE
At Fort Belvoir, members of the press were allowed to shoot an M-4 rifle that was equipped with the FWS-I, while wearing a helmet equipped with the ENVG III.
Several man-shaped targets were spaced out in the firing lane, each equipped with thermal blankets to simulate body heat. A pair of fog machines simulated battlefield smoke to make it difficult to acquire those targets using only day optics. Using night vision goggles alone, some of the targets could not be seen. But when combined with the thermal imaging capabilities built into the ENVG III and FWS-I, those targets were easily visible.
Using the system proved a bit challenging, however. When looking through the goggle, which was at one point displaying the image transmitted from the rifle-mounted FWS-I, it was hard to tell if it was the helmet that was crooked, the ENVG III that was crooked, or the shooter’s own head that wasn’t on quite straight.
«The gun is tilted», Wilson confirmed. He served as a trainer for members of the press who were allowed to shoot.
Major Kevin Smith, who serves as the assistant product manager for FWS-I, said there is a «steep learning curve», for the system.
«We just got through with the tests with the 4th Infantry Division out of Fort Carson, Colorado, back in June», he said. «We only spent about 40 hours of in-classroom training. But we also spent about a week on the range or so. That’s where the Soldiers were really starting to get it and understand it and feel it, on the range».
Smith said one such training event was held at Fort Carson, and two were held at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington.
«Once they get comfortable with it, they really love it», Smith said. «One Soldier, a noncommissioned officer who didn’t like it at first, later on during the last test we did, asked me when are we getting this fielded. He said he wanted it now. They want to take them to war and they want to use them».
A FAMILY OF SIGHTS
The soon-to-field FWS-I is meant for the M4 and M16 rifles, and can mount on those rifles in front of day sights that have already been bore-sighted, Kissinger said. What this means is that Soldiers can pop the FWS-I onto and off of their rifle without having to remove their day sights first.
The FWS-I will also work with the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon, the M141 Bunker Defeat Munition, and the M136 AT4 Light Anti-Tank Weapon.
Kissinger said the FWS-I actually provides capability to both light and medium weapons. In the past, there had been sights fielded for both types of weapons. Now that FWS-I provides capability to both, he said, there will be less variations in weapons sights, and a smaller logistics trail.
More capability is also coming to this «family» of weapons sights, Douglas said. There will be a crew-served variant and a sniper variant as well. Both are still under development, he said.
Both the FWS-I and the ENVG III are currently in low-rate initial production. The Army hopes to buy 36,000 of the FWS-I, and about 64,000 of the ENVG III, Smith said. He also said that the new gear is targeted squarely at dismounted Soldiers with infantry brigade combat teams and special operations forces.
For now, he said, he expects it will be squad leaders and two team leaders within a squad that might first see the FWS-I.
«This is a day or night capability», Douglas said. «We’re talking about dismounted Soldiers who would use this. For our mounted soldiers, those on the Stryker or Bradleys … they do not operate without their thermal on all the time. So, we are giving the dismounted Soldier the same capability the mounted Soldiers have».
Using the FWS-I and ENVG III, July 27, 2017, at Fort Belvoir, Virginia
Winning wars with computer algorithms and artificial intelligence were among the topics that Defense Department intelligence officials discussed during a recent Defense One Tech Summit here.
Presenters included Marine Corps Colonel Drew Cukor, chief of the Algorithmic Warfare Cross-Function Team in the Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Operations Directorate-Warfighter Support in the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence.
By the end of the calendar year, the department will field advanced computer algorithms onto government platforms to extract objects from massive amounts of moving or still imagery, Cukor said in his remarks.
«People and computers will work symbiotically to increase the ability of weapon systems to detect objects», Cukor added. «Eventually we hope that one analyst will be able to do twice as much work, potentially three times as much, as they’re doing now. That’s our goal».
A computer algorithm is a set of rules to be followed during problem-solving operations. Cukor described an algorithm as about 75 lines of Python code «placed inside a larger software-hardware container».
He said the immediate focus is 38 classes of objects that represent the kinds of things the department needs to detect, especially in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
The effort to help a workforce increasingly overwhelmed by incoming data, including millions of hours of video, began in April when then-Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work announced in a memo that he was establishing an Algorithmic Warfare Cross-Functional Team, overseen by the undersecretary of defense for intelligence, to work on something he called Project Maven.
«As numerous studies have made clear, the department of defense must integrate artificial intelligence and machine learning more effectively across operations to maintain advantages over increasingly capable adversaries and competitors», Work wrote.
«Although we have taken tentative steps to explore the potential of artificial intelligence, big data and deep learning», he added, «I remain convinced that we need to do much more and move much faster across DoD to take advantage of recent and future advances in these critical areas».
Project Maven focuses on computer vision – an aspect of machine learning and deep learning – that autonomously extracts objects of interest from moving or still imagery, Cukor said. Biologically inspired neural networks are used in this process, and deep learning is defined as applying such neural networks to learning tasks.
«This effort is an announcement … that we’re going to invest for real here», he said.
Working With Industry
«Rapidly delivering artificial intelligence to a combat zone won’t be easy», Cukor said.
«There is no ‘black box’ that delivers the AI system the government needs, at least not now», he said. «Key elements have to be put together … and the only way to do that is with commercial partners alongside us».
Work to be accomplished over the next few months includes triaging and labeling data so the algorithms can be trained, the colonel explained.
«That work is inherently governmental and so we have a large group of people – sophisticated analysts and engineers – who are going through our data and cleaning it up. We also have a relationship with a significant data-labeling company that will provide services across our three networks – the unclassified and the classified networks – to allow our workforce to label our data and prepare it for machine learning», Cukor said.
The department has a significant effort ongoing to procure computational power, including graphic processing units that allow training of machine-learning algorithms, he said. An algorithmic development contract also is in process – the department will go through a competitive selection process to find vendors that can provide algorithms against DoD data.
«You don’t buy AI like you buy ammunition», he added. «There’s a deliberate workflow process and what the department has given us with its rapid acquisition authorities is an opportunity for about 36 months to explore what is governmental and how best to engage industry to advantage the taxpayer and the warfighter, who wants the best algorithms that exist to augment and complement the work he does».
Other aspects of the work include integrating and fielding the algorithms, and once an algorithm is on a platform it must be optimized over its lifecycle, Cukor said.
AI Arms Race
«We are in an AI arms race», Cukor said. « … It’s happening in industry and the big five Internet companies are pursuing this heavily. Many of you will have noted that Eric Schmidt executive chairman of Alphabet Inc. is calling Google an AI company now, not a data company».
The colonel described the technology available commercially, the state-of-the-art in computer vision, as «frankly … stunning», thanks to work in the area by researchers and engineers at Stanford University, the University of California-Berkeley, Carnegie Mellon University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a $36 billion investment last year across commercial industry.
«No area will be left unaffected by the impact of this technology», he added.
For now, many tasks, like computer vision, are ready for AI capabilities and many are not, Cukor said, noting that «AI will not be selecting a target in combat … any time soon. What AI will do is compliment the human operator».
Before deploying algorithms to combat zones, Cukor said, «you’ve got to have your data ready and you’ve got to prepare and you need the computational infrastructure for training».
Also needed are algorithm developers and software engineers, he said, an interface must be developed between AI and human operators, and ultimately integration and optimization will be needed over the deployment lifecycle.
«All of these things have got to be put in harmony over the next 36 months as we move down this path», Cukor said.