Category Archives: Ground Forces

Net centric radar

Northrop Grumman Corporation has received a contract from the U.S. Army’s Lower Tier Program Office (LTPO) to perform risk reduction for radar technology and associated mission capabilities intended to replace the Army’s 50-year-old Patriot radars.

Northrop Grumman to perform risk reduction for radar technology under Lower Tier Air and Missile Defense Sensor (LTAMDS) contract
Northrop Grumman to perform risk reduction for radar technology under Lower Tier Air and Missile Defense Sensor (LTAMDS) contract

LTAMDS will be the Army’s first net centric radar to be added to the Army’s Integrated Air and Missile Defense enterprise controlled by the Integrated Air and Missile Defense Battle Command System (IBCS), which Northrop Grumman also develops. IBCS is the advanced command and control system that integrates air and missile defense sensors and weapons, including Patriot, to generate a real-time comprehensive threat picture and enable any-sensor, best-shooter operations.

Northrop Grumman’s next-generation sensors will potentially benefit from decades-long experience in delivering rapidly deployable ground based radars, such as the high performance AN/TPS-80 G/ATOR active electronically scanned array production radar to the United States Marine Corps. G/ATOR capabilities include comprehensive, real-time, 360-degree multi-threat detection and tracking.

«We are excited about this award and the overall mission capabilities we can provide the Army», said Roshan Roeder, vice president, global ground based radars, Northrop Grumman. «We have more than forty years of experience in providing proven surveillance and threat engagement capabilities to more than 35 global customers».

Next Generation
Combat Vehicle

The likelihood is high that the Army won’t get to pick the time and place of its choosing for the next battle, said General Robert Abrams.

A Bradley belonging to the 1st Cavalry Division is shown here in Rukla, Lithuania during Operation Atlantic Resolve (Photo Credit: Staff Sergeant Keith Anderson)
A Bradley belonging to the 1st Cavalry Division is shown here in Rukla, Lithuania during Operation Atlantic Resolve (Photo Credit: Staff Sergeant Keith Anderson)

But it’s likely that the next battle will take place in a megacity, said Abrams, commander of U.S. Army Forces Command. He spoke, November 30, here during the Future Ground Combat Vehicles Summit.

«The chance of fighting in a megacity is going to go through the roof», he said, pointing out that there are currently 25 megacities across the world. A megacity is defined as a city of 25 million or more inhabitants. By 2035, the number of megacities is projected to double.

Coincidentally, 2035 is also the target delivery date for what is currently the Army’s conceptual Next Generation Combat Vehicle, or NGCV, he said.

Recent fighting in countries throughout the Middle East validate the value of combat vehicles in urban areas, but also reveal vulnerabilities, Abrams said. The NGCV will address such shortfalls.

Dense, urban terrain diminishes the effectiveness of fighting vehicles, which are impacted by obstacles, large civilian populations, and confined spaces, he noted. In such confined spaces, enemy dismounts are better able to isolate individual vehicles at close range, and employ anti-armor fire and Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) of all types.

In light of those difficulties, requirements for NGCVs will include enhancements to optimize performance in urban environments, he stressed.

 

OTHER NGCV REQUIREMENTS

Another key consideration in the design of the NGCV is that the vehicle must contribute to a reduced logistics tail, or supply line, Abrams said. Reducing the logistics tail will enable the maneuver force to move more quickly and with greater agility.

The general offered several ways this could be accomplished. If the NGCV were to employ hybrid energy systems, for instance, that could reduce the need for fuel resupply convoys.

Other ways to reduce sustainment requirements include such things as speed diagnostics that support field maintenance and component ruggedness and life extension, he said.

Other capabilities of the NGCV might include:

  • Reactive armor;
  • Active protection systems;
  • Artificial intelligence;
  • Autonomy and/or teaming;
  • Advanced target sensors;
  • Lasers;
  • Precision, extreme-range lethality;
  • Potential to accommodate future upgrades.

«That’s an aggressive list», Abrams said. «And, it is unlikely all of these can be built into the Next Generation Combat Vehicle in that timeline. But that’s OK».

What’s important, he said, is that those items signal a green light from the Army to industry to deliver the most capable system that can be produced with existing technology, anchored in doctrine.

Another challenge, he pointed out, is balancing the age-old tradeoff of survivability with weight, agility and lethality.

«Ideally, we would be able to trade weight for protection other than armor», he said, explaining that will require advances in material science, along with innovations in active and passive defenses.

Whatever the outcome, the end product must be able to dominate peer enemies that have fielded their own version of a next-generation vehicle, he said.

 

AVOID ENVY SYNDROME

Abrams said when developing the NGCV, the Army must resist the urge to do side-by-side comparisons with other combat vehicles.

For instance, the Russian T-14 tank provided «an avalanche» of recent discussion about their approach of putting all the crew in the hull for the first time for protection, using auto-loaders and re-introducing capabilities to launch missiles through the main gun, Abrams said.

«Don’t rush to judgment that Next Generation Combat Vehicle should have similar capabilities like an automated turret and putting all the crew in the hull», he said.

«Instead, the conclusion of what the vehicle should look like should be based on optimizing advantages for how we conduct combined arms maneuver and not simply that we want to match Russian or other country approaches», he said.

 

REALISTIC APPROACH

Abrams outlined a strategy for pursuing the NGCV. «I will continue to recommend that we lay out a realistic program, matched with engineering realities and communicate that frequently to Army senior leaders and to Congress. That is a far better approach in my opinion, than our history of overpromising and under-delivering», he said.

He pointed to the Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter Program that was terminated in 2008 as a «cautionary tale of what happens when we adopt too aggressive a timeline linked to gold-plated requirements». That does not mean there should be a sub-optimal solution, he added.

The NGCV must have «leap-ahead, breakthrough technology which should be a revolutionary improvement over what’s available today», he said, noting his own experience in the 1980s as an armor officer, going through the transition to the M-1 Tank and M-2 Bradley Fighting Vehicle. Those were revolutionary in many aspects, he said.

The M-1 introduced superior crew protection, all-condition precision firepower on-the-move, maneuverability and dash speed which altered the geometry of the battlefield and provided decisive overmatch against Cold War enemies and every enemy since then, he said.

The Bradley was the first true infantry fighting vehicle, he said. Unlike with its predecessor, the M-113 Armored Personnel Carrier, the Bradley gave the Army the ability to get troops to their objective under armor with turret weapons and multiple precision direct fires options: The Bushmaster Chain Gun, Coaxial Machine Gun and TOW (Tube-launched, Optically-tracked, Wire-guided) anti-tank missile.

«Today, 40 years later, they’re still our primary fighting vehicles», he concluded. «We’ve made tremendous incremental improvements but they are reaching the end of their lifecycle. We’re in a race against time».

Missile Moyenne Portée

France’s defence procurement agency, the Direction Générale de l’Armement (DGA), has accepted the delivery to the French Armed Forces of the first batch of 50 missiles and 20 firing posts from the new MMP (Missile Moyenne Portée – Medium-Range Missile) system.

MMP used by dismounted troops during training operation
MMP used by dismounted troops during training operation

The deliveries were conducted between 15 and 23 November. The new system will gradually replace the Milan, the HOT missiles mounted on VAB Armoured Fighting Vehicles and the ERYX for some of these missiles. It will be issued to French Army infantry and cavalry units, and to Special Forces of the Army, Navy and Air Force. The MMP programme will see the delivery of 400 firing posts and 1,750 missiles across all of the French Armed Forces by 2025. The first deliveries will be used to train future users. The weapon system will be deployed in operations in the course of 2018.

The DGA, which awarded MBDA the MMP contract in 2013, qualified the system last July, clearing the way for serial production. The government-run techno-operational trials at the DGA’s test centre in Bourges from August to October 2017, with the assistance of operational experts from the Section Technique de l’Armée de Terre (STAT), underlined the excellent performances of the system and confirmed that it met the requirement of the armed forces.

Thanks to input from army experts since the early stages of development and through to qualification, the MMP benefits from lessons learned in recent operational engagements. It offers both ‘fire-and-forget’ and ‘man-in-the-loop’ capabilities. The first enables fixed or mobile targets to be hit without intervention by the operator during the missile’s flight. The second allows the operator to change targets mid-flight, to refine the point of impact, or to divert the missile; it also opens up the possibility of firing at hidden targets beyond the direct line of sight.

The weapon system can be used by day and by night. Its multi-purpose warhead is effective against a wide variety of targets such as vehicles, armour, infrastructures and personnel. Its extreme accuracy gives it the ability to strike at a range of over 4,000 metres/13,123 feet while minimising the risk of collateral damage. Finally, the missile can be fired from confined spaces, a crucial characteristic for urban combat. MMP can be fired by dismounted infantrymen and is also to be fitted on the EBRC (Engin Blindé de Reconnaissance et de Combat – Reconnaissance and Combat Armoured Vehicle) Jaguar armoured reconnaissance and combat vehicle, due to be delivered to the French Army in 2020.

 

CHARACTERISTICS

Weight (incl. Tube) 15 kg/33 lbs
Length 1.3 m/4.26 feet in tactical canister
Diameter 140 mm/5.5 inches
Range 4,000 metres/13,123 feet

 

Romania signs agreement

The government of Romania signed an agreement to purchase Raytheon’s combat proven Patriot from the U.S. Army. The agreement, formally referred to as a Letter of Offer and Acceptance, paves the way for Romania’s Patriot force to rapidly reach Initial Operational Capability, and sets the stage for the U.S. government to begin contract negotiations with Raytheon.

Romania on fast track to become 14th nation to entrust Air and Missile Defense to Patriot
Romania on fast track to become 14th nation to entrust Air and Missile Defense to Patriot

Raytheon’s Patriot Solutions is a missile defense system consisting of radars, command-and-control technology and multiple types of interceptors, all working together to detect, identify and defeat tactical ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, drones, advanced aircraft and other threats. Patriot is the foundation of integrated air and missile defense for 13 nations.

Patriot is a purely defensive system that is the backbone of NATO’s defense against ballistic and cruise missiles, advanced aircraft and drones.  Romania’s procurement of the system will help the country meet its NATO commitment to spend at least 2% of its Gross Domestic Product on defense.

«With its newly built Patriot capability, Romania’s military will have the ability to defend Romania and its NATO allies», said Tom Laliberty, Raytheon vice president of Integrated Air and Missile Defense. «Patriot will also enable Romanian air defenders to train, exercise and interoperate with their U.S. and European counterparts».

Thirteen other nations depend on Patriot to protect their citizens and armed forces, including the U.S. and four other European nations: Germany, Greece, the Netherlands and Spain.

«This procurement will create jobs in both the U.S. and Romania», Laliberty added. «Raytheon is developing long-term relationships with Romanian companies to help us build and sustain Romania’s Patriot fleet».

Romania will receive the Patriot Configuration 3+, the most advanced configuration available, as well as an undisclosed quantity of Patriot Guidance Enhanced Missile (GEM-T) and Patriot Advanced Capability 3 (PAC-3) Missile Segment Enhancement (MSE) interceptor missiles. These interceptors will enable Romania’s military to defeat current and emerging threats.

Czech optical systems

Czech optical specialist Meopta will support vital line-of-sight technology for BAE Systems’ CV90 Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV) as part of a Memorandum of Understanding with defence and security company Saab.

Czech precision optical systems producer to support line-of-sight technology for BAE Systems’ CV90
Czech precision optical systems producer to support line-of-sight technology for BAE Systems’ CV90

The agreement, signed at NATO Days 2017 in Ostrava, the Czech Republic, will cover potential local production of key components for the CV90’s fire control system, of which Meopta and Saab are subcontractors.

The Universal Tank and Anti-Aircraft Fire Control System (UTAAS), developed by Saab with production supplier Meopta, is produced specifically for the combat-proven CV90. There are more than 1,200 CV90s in operation with seven nations: Denmark, Estonia, Finland, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland. BAE Systems is offering the CV90 to replace the Czech Army’s fleet of BMP II IFVs, and has joined forces with Czech industry to strengthen the offer while promoting local investment and job creation. Adding Meopta to a team already consisting of numerous Czech companies, among them VOP CZ and Ray Service, further builds on BAE Systems’ relationship with Czech industry.

«BAE Systems is committed to offering the Czech Army a modern, adaptable combat vehicle with cutting edge technologies», said Tommy Gustafsson-Rask, general manager of BAE Systems’ Hägglunds business. «As we continue to pursue the BMP II replacement program, we are pleased to see one of our key suppliers expand their own range of services in support of one of the nation’s most important defence programs».

The modular integrated UTAAS technology provides direct fire capability, which is a critical operational feature. This allows the CV90’s gunner to take aim independently of the vehicle’s movements while the fire control system automatically aligns the gun. In combat situations, this means firing can commence quicker than with conventional target alignment technology, providing a crucial advantage in battle. Meopta’s participation in BAE Systems’ Czech CV90 offering could extend to other future opportunities.

BAE Systems recently participated in the Czech-Swedish Industry Days organized by the Czech Ministry of Defence in Prague. Representatives from 20 local Czech companies – including Meopta, Ray Service, and VOP CZ – were joined by Swedish businesses for a three-day event focused on building local industry relationships across the defence sector.

Multinational Group

The New York Army National Guard’s 27th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (IBCT) formally took command of the Joint Multinational Training Group – Ukraine (JMTG-U) from the Oklahoma National Guard’s 45th IBCT during a Transfer of Authority ceremony here November 22.

Colonel Dennis Deeley, the Joint Multinational Training Group – Ukraine commander, and Command Sergeant Major Thomas Ciampolillo uncases the 27th Infantry Brigade Combat Team's colors during a JMTG-U Transfer of Authority ceremony here November 22. During the ceremony Soldiers from the New York Army National Guard's 27th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (IBCT) took command of the JMTG-U from the Oklahoma National Guard's 45th IBCT, who have been in Ukraine since January (Photo Credit: Sergeant Alexander Rector)
Colonel Dennis Deeley, the Joint Multinational Training Group – Ukraine commander, and Command Sergeant Major Thomas Ciampolillo uncases the 27th Infantry Brigade Combat Team’s colors during a JMTG-U Transfer of Authority ceremony here November 22. During the ceremony Soldiers from the New York Army National Guard’s 27th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (IBCT) took command of the JMTG-U from the Oklahoma National Guard’s 45th IBCT, who have been in Ukraine since January (Photo Credit: Sergeant Alexander Rector)

Approximately 250 U.S. Soldiers from the 27th IBCT assigned to the JMTG-U will take the lessons learned from the 45th and build upon their successes as they further assist in developing the capabilities of Ukrainian ground forces during their time in country, which is expected to last until late next summer.

The 27th IBCT is headquartered out of Syracuse, New York with most of the Soldiers assigned to task force Orion coming from the 2nd Squadron 101st Cavalry headquartered at the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station in Niagara Falls, New York. The squadron also has troops in Jamestown, Geneva, and Buffalo.

The 45th IBCT has been deployed in Ukraine since January where they have worked together with Ukrainian forces in developing a Combat Training Center (CTC).

The goal of the CTC is to provide Ukrainian troops with the facilities, experience, and knowledge to develop their warfighting capabilities to achieve NATO interoperability.

Engaged in this effort along with the U.S. and Ukraine, are soldiers from Canada, Denmark, Lithuania, Poland, and the United Kingdom.

During the ceremony, Madam Marie L. Yovanovitch, The United States ambassador to Ukraine addressed the troops where she praised the successes of the 45th IBCT, and charged the incoming 27th IBCT Soldiers to build upon their legacy.

«This is a bittersweet day for the Thunderbirds», said Colonel Dave Jordan, the 45th IBCT Commander. «We are certainly excited to get back home and see our families and return to our civilian jobs, but it’s difficult to leave our friends and comrades in arms. The capacity that you have helped build at this combat training center will help serve Ukraine for decades», said Jordan. «I believe we have all learned as many lessons as we’ve taught. We must now return to our home nations and pass on what we’ve learned from our Ukrainian brothers to our own formations».

Soldiers from the 27th arrived in Ukraine early this November after completing pre-mobilization training at Fort Bliss, TX and additional training with the 7th Army Training Command at Grafenwohr, Germany.

«Today is exciting for the 27th IBCT’s task force Orion as we assume this important mission», said Colonel Dennis Deeley, the 27th IBCT (forward) commander. «This is a complex mission, however Colonel Jordan and the entire 45th IBCT have done an outstanding job preparing us», said Deeley. «It is your time now to carry the torch and bring this mission to the next level of success».

A delegation including ambassador Yovanovitch, Lieutenant General Ben Hodges, Major General John Gronski, and Brigadier General Tony Aguto welcomed the incoming JMTG-U commander, Colonel Deeley and Task Force Orion and said their goodbyes to Colonel Jordan and his Thunderbirds.

The 27th IBCT (forward) is now officially set in motion as the third iteration of the JMTG-U and looks to make a significant impact on the Ukrainian Armed Forces and their training facilities. Each day will present opportunities to form relationships and build cohesion amongst the various nations involved.

Javelin Missiles

The State Department has made a determination approving a possible Foreign Military Sale to Georgia for Javelin Missiles and Command Launch Units for an estimated cost of $75 million. The Defense Security Cooperation Agency delivered the required certification notifying Congress of this possible sale on November 17, 2017.

U.S. Clears $75 million Sale of Javelin Missiles to Georgia
U.S. Clears $75 million Sale of Javelin Missiles to Georgia

The Government of Georgia has requested to purchase four hundred ten (410) Javelin Missiles, and seventy-two (72) Javelin Command Launch Units (CLUs) (includes two (2) Javelin Block 1 CLUs to be used as spares). Also included are ten (10) Basic Skills Trainers (BST); up to seventy (70) simulated rounds; U.S. Government and contractor technical assistance; transportation; and other related elements of logistics and program support. The total estimated cost is $75 million.

This proposed sale will contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the United States by improving the security of Georgia. The Javelin system will provide Georgia with increased capacity to meet its national defense requirements. Georgia will have no difficulty absorbing this system into its armed forces.

The proposed sale of this equipment and support will not alter the basic military balance in the region.

The prime contractors will be Raytheon/Lockheed Martin Javelin Joint Venture of Orlando, Florida, and Tucson, Arizona. However, these missiles are being provided from U.S. Army stock and the CLUs will be obtained from on-hand Special Defense Acquisition Fund (SDAF)-purchased stock. There are no known offset agreements proposed in conjunction with this potential sale.

Implementation of this proposed sale will require the assignment of approximately one (1) U.S. Government and two (2) contractor representatives to Georgia.

There will be no adverse impact on U.S. defense readiness as a result of this proposed sale.

This notice of a potential sale is required by law and does not mean the sale has been concluded.

Vehicles for Lithuania

On November 7 Minister of National Defence Raimundas Karoblis met with Secretary of Defence of the United States James Mattis in Helsinki, Finland. He notified Defence Secretary J. Mattis on the decision of the MoD Defence Recourse Council to contact the U.S. Government regarding the possibility of buying Light Combat Tactical All-terrain Vehicles (L-ATV) manufactured by Oshkosh Defence. If the U.S. Government approves the request, Lithuania’s order will be delivered on together with orders of the United States and other countries’ armed forces. Cooperation with the U.S. Government would ensure Lithuania the best conditions for procurement and maintenance of the L-ATVs.

Representatives of Oshkosh Defense provided a demonstration of L-ATV capacity at the Lithuanian Armed Forces Gaižiūnai Training Area for experts of the Lithuanian Armed Forces and other countries’ armed forces in October 2016
Representatives of Oshkosh Defense provided a demonstration of L-ATV capacity at the Lithuanian Armed Forces Gaižiūnai Training Area for experts of the Lithuanian Armed Forces and other countries’ armed forces in October 2016

«At the Defence Resource Council session held in the end of last we week we recognised the L-ATV as the best efficiency-price ratio and decided to open negotiations on procurement of these armoured all-terrain vehicles», Minister of National Defence Raimundas Karoblis commented on the MoD Defence Resource Council.

Combat support multirole armoured ATVs will supplement and update the fleet of this type of vehicles and will be distributed across the Lithuanian Armed Forces. The least of 200 Light Combat Tactical All-terrain Vehicles is planned to be procured, while delivery times and price will depend on the contract (however, 2021 has been foreseen as the starting time for delivery).

It was decided to begin the acquisition project relatively early because the procedure may take up to 2 years while the ATVs are an important element of the army mechanisation (also including the acquisition of Vilkas/Boxer Infantry Fighting Vehicles.

«Having taken into account potential threats and deployment rates of such vehicles both for national defence and to multinational operations, the Lithuanian Armed Forces identified a shortage of armoured ATVs. The shortage is the result of normal wear-and-tear of the present ATV fleet and also of the increased demand because of the armed forces enlargement», Minister of National Defence R. Karoblis said.

When the project was launched, first, information on the ATVs of the relevant type on the market was collected. Then, 9 models were selected according to such criteria as efficiency, compatibility, maintenance, etc. They were tested for capacity and functionality in practice and additional technical information was collected. When all the data was evaluated, it was decided that the U.S.-made L-ATV matched the criteria best.

Representatives of Oshkosh Defense provided a demonstration of L-ATV capacity at the Lithuanian Armed Forces Gaižiūnai Training Area for experts of the Lithuanian Armed Forces and other countries’ armed forces in October 2016.

Other manufacturers presented their production in Lithuania as well. Eagle (General Dynamics European Land System) and LAPV (Daimler AG) armoured ATVs were demonstrated in Lithuania in 2017.

Currently the Lithuanian Armed Forces use HMMWV and Toyota Land Cruiser 200 armoured all-terrain vehicles.

Ministry of National Defence to address the U.S. Government for an opportunity to acquire armoured all-terrain vehicles for the Lithuanian Armed Forces
Ministry of National Defence to address the U.S. Government for an opportunity to acquire armoured all-terrain vehicles for the Lithuanian Armed Forces

 

L-ATV

The L-ATV manufactured by the highly experienced Oshkosh Defense won the contract for 55,000 ATVs for the U.S. Armed Forces. L-ATVs should replace part of the HMMWVs used by the U.S. Armed Forces since 1984.

The Government of the United Kingdom also took a decision to buy L-ATVs for the Her Majesty’s Armed Forces.

Mine Protected Vehicle

A platoon of route clearance engineer Soldiers began testing a new Multi-Functional Video Display, or MVD, for the Medium Mine Protected Vehicle (MMPV) Type II Wednesday at Fort Leonard Wood.

A new Multi-Functional Video Display for the Medium Mine Protected Vehicle Type II is currently being tested by Soldiers from the 509th Engineer Company at Fort Leonard Wood (Photo Credit: Clay Beach, Operational Test Command Visual Information)
A new Multi-Functional Video Display for the Medium Mine Protected Vehicle Type II is currently being tested by Soldiers from the 509th Engineer Company at Fort Leonard Wood (Photo Credit: Clay Beach, Operational Test Command Visual Information)

The new monitors will give vehicle commanders and crew complete visibility around the vehicle, keeping them buttoned up and safe from potential explosives outside.

Soldiers from the 509th Engineer Company, 5th Engineer Battalion, 36th Engineer Brigade, performed the operational test so the U.S. Army Operational Test Command, or USAOTC, based at Fort Hood, Texas, could collect data on the integration of the video displays with the MMPV Type II to inform senior Army leaders on how effective, suitable and reliable the MVD will be during combat.

Video input to the MVD is provided by an array of on-board enablers, which provide crewmembers with all information needed to detect and defeat roadside explosives.

Operational testers say one of the most important elements of the test is Soldier feedback, with primary data focus on Soldier surveys.

«We are also collecting data on the reliability, availability, and maintainability of the MVD, so that we can identify any issues causing malfunctions of hardware failure now, rather than after fielding of the equipment», said Heidi Watts, chief of USAOTC’s Maneuver Support Test Division.

During the test, the 509th Engineers deploy the MMPV and new video display in a realistic tactical scenario to see how well the new system supports their mission.

«The importance of collecting data on the MVD is to verify the usability of the MVD by Soldiers in an operational context», said Major Michael Fleischmann, the test’s Operational Research and Systems analyst and data project manager.

«The operationally realistic scenarios allow for the test unit Soldiers to tell the Army how well the system supports their mission execution», Fleischmann said. «We want to ensure that any issues the Soldiers have with the system are discovered now, rather than in the middle of combat».

Watts explained how the USAOTC test team typically organizes and plans for equipment testing a year in advance.

«Planning so far out ensures the test includes exercises composed of both day and night mine clearing operations, which equates to providing the most realistic missions and threats», she said.

Data collectors collect MVD performance data, and most of the information will come directly from the users.

«By allowing Soldiers to test the monitor in a realistic environment», explained Fleischmann, «they share their real-time feedback that may allow for easier operation for the user».

The 509th’s 3rd Platoon sergeant said being involved in an operational test is valuable for his Soldiers and the Army.

«This effort is definitely worthwhile because it allows Soldiers to have input into the MVD monitor system and possibly make it better», said Sergeant 1st Class Charles Campbell.

Staff Sergeant Bobby Ray, a junior leader with 3rd Platoon, also said the equipment test will be good for his platoon because it allows them to train on their tactics, technique and procedures for route clearance.

One USAOTC test officer familiar with combat vehicles similar to the MMVP, recalled his experiences in Afghanistan.

«I spent two years in Afghanistan conducting the same missions that these engineers are executing and encountering a threat nearly identical to what they face here», said Captain James Wakeland, U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command test officer.

«I understand the need for the equipment in the Engineer Corps, and I understand that the lives of future engineers depend on the results of this test», he continued. «This vehicle brings a capability to the Engineer Corps that has not previously existed as a program of record, but is badly needed».

Augmented reality

Soldiers were invited to strap on headgear, grab a rifle and fire rounds at opposing forces coming at them on the battlefield and in the air.

Sergeant Major of the Army Daniel A. Dailey uses augmented reality devices developed by Dismounted Soldier Training Technologies, U.S. Army Research Laboratory and industry partner Chosen Realities LLC at the Association of the U.S. Army's Annual Meeting and Exposition, October 11, 2017 (Photo Credit: Courtesy of Chosen Realities LLC)
Sergeant Major of the Army Daniel A. Dailey uses augmented reality devices developed by Dismounted Soldier Training Technologies, U.S. Army Research Laboratory and industry partner Chosen Realities LLC at the Association of the U.S. Army’s Annual Meeting and Exposition, October 11, 2017 (Photo Credit: Courtesy of Chosen Realities LLC)

The venue wasn’t Afghanistan or some other faraway place, however. It was inside the cavernous Washington convention center here, earlier this month, where the Association of the U.S. Army had set up its massive annual exposition.

Through special optics, the Soldiers could see their real-world surroundings, such as visitors gawking at military hardware in industry booths. But using the magic of augmented reality, they also saw computer-generated holograms of an OPFOR (an opposing force) that they said looked and sounded just as real as the displays and visitors intermingled among them.

Wearing the goggles, some Soldiers said they found it unsettling to see what looked like a life-size helicopter flying around inside the convention center and shooting Hellfire missiles at them.

Pat Garrity, chief engineer of Dismounted Soldier Training Technologies, U.S. Army Research Laboratory, working out of Orlando, Florida, said that the goal is to get augmented reality into the hands of every Soldier in the maneuver force at an affordable price.

Besides price, he said the equipment has to be light enough and comfortable enough so that Soldiers won’t notice they’re wearing it. For instance, the headgear has to weigh less than two pounds, as required by Program Executive Office Soldier. «We want to have Soldiers as unencumbered as possible, training as they’d fight».

Also, it has to generate images real enough for Soldiers to want to use it, with up to 120-degree field of view, which is the best industry has to offer at this time, he said.

And, so far, the feedback of Soldiers testing this equipment has been overwhelmingly positive, he said, noting that AUSA’s Annual Meeting and Exposition this year, October 9-11, was the first public event for this type of augmented reality, with Soldiers visiting the display allowed to test it out.

Augmented reality technology now allows Soldiers to train indoors, outdoors, day or night, Garrity said. They’re no longer tied to brick and mortar training facilities.

And, if it’s daytime, augmented reality can simulate nighttime, he added. And different types of scenarios can be added: desert, mountains, arctic condition, any types of weapons, and so on.

A couple of years ago this equipment, if it existed, would have cost several hundred thousand dollars per Soldier, said John Baker, managing director of Chosen Realities LLC, a company out of Orlando, Florida selected through a small business innovative research contract to push augmented reality forward in cooperation with scientists from the Army Research Laboratory.

Now, it’s gotten much more affordable at less than $5,000 per Soldier, with much more capability than what could have been available just a short time back, he added.

The key to reducing cost, he said, was to use commercial, off-the-shelf products that included the software algorithms, gaming scenarios, sensors and hardware. However, certain weapons that the Army wanted to use but were unavailable were developed in-house, he added.

One of the biggest challenges, he said, was making the experience believable, representing artificial people and machines moving in real time amongst real people, a process known as «dynamic occlusion». To do that required canceling out other pixels representing what’s really out there so the computer-generated images could then be inserted or removed, he continued. «It’s not easy to do that».

Garrity said the program is in the science and technology phase until the end of fiscal year 2020, when, he hopes to have it in at technology readiness level 6 state, which will put it into an operational training environment demonstration and on the road to transition to a program of record.

The requirement for augmented reality, he added, comes from U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command’s Combined Arms Center, which points to synthetic training as a future capability requirement needed to allow Soldiers to train in complex environments that are realistic and too dangerous and expensive to replicate in live settings.

Although the technology is currently being configured for dismounted Soldiers, it could conceivably be transferred to ground vehicle and aviation crews at some point in the future, he noted.

General David Perkins, commander of U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, uses augmented reality devices developed by Dismounted Soldier Training Technologies (Photo Credit: Courtesy of Chosen Realities LLC)
General David Perkins, commander of U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, uses augmented reality devices developed by Dismounted Soldier Training Technologies (Photo Credit: Courtesy of Chosen Realities LLC)