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Author: Subject: U.S.Army 2017 0nwards

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[*] posted on 24-5-2017 at 12:59 PM
U.S.Army 2017 0nwards

3-D Printed Grenade Launcher Only Tip of Future Manufacturing Possibilities for Army

(Source: US Army; issued May 19, 2017)

WASHINGTON --- Soldiers will probably not be 3-D printing entire weapons in theater anytime soon. Instead, they'll continue to bring weapons into theater the old way: slung over their shoulder. But the Army is exploring 3-D printing technology that promises to make it easier for Soldiers to complete their missions without being stymied by broken parts.

At a Department of Defense-sponsored "Lab Day," May 18, at the Pentagon, James L. Zunino, a materials engineer with the Armament Research Development and Engineering Center at Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey, showed off a 3-D-printed grenade launcher the Center had manufactured in its lab.

Like parts made on the 3-D printers that are common in many electronics stores today, most of the launcher was constructed of plastic. But the barrel was made of aluminum and was also 3-D printed using "laser sintering." In that process, powdered aluminum serves as the raw material, and a laser pointed at the powder heats up certain portions to melt it into a solid. Using this process, the printers were able to generate a complete all-metal barrel for the launcher, along with the plastic upper.

While Zunino said it's unlikely the Army will manufacture entire grenade launchers in theater, it is a valid possibility that parts could be manufactured to modify existing weapons to make them fit the needs of Soldiers who will use them.

"It's for things the Soldiers could modify for themselves, you could do mass customization, you could print in the field," he said. "If you prefer a 45-degree grip on the front ... you could print that in the field. Or if you wanted to use a 90-degree grip, you could have that. Then you can actually tailor a weapon for how the Soldier wants to use and operate it. If you want to add more Picatinny rails, to add your flashlight mounts, or different scopes, you could easily do that."

While printed weapons are still in the developmental stages of production, Soldiers may soon see the Army's Rapid Fabrication via Additive Manufacturing on the Battlefield capability in the field, also called RFAB.

With the RFAB, the Army has assembled several commercial 3-D printing technologies into one portable facility that allows users to manufacture parts on-the-fly to repair broken gear in the theater. That way, those Soldiers can continue their mission and not have to wait for the logistics supply chain to deliver new parts.

The RAFB capability has already been to the Army Warfighter Assessment at Fort Bliss, Texas. Last October, it demonstrated the ability there to print up treads and flippers for the robots used to disable IEDs.

"Sometimes they have a hard time getting those parts fielded forward," Zunino said. "So we are telling Soldiers to make it, to get through the mission."

Timothy Phillis, an engineer with Armament Research Development and Engineering Center at Rock Island Arsenal, Illinois, had a tiny plastic handle with him in the Pentagon courtyard. He said the part is worth about $8,000 -- sort of.

"This is a handle on a nitrogen purge pump," he said. "When this handle breaks, and it breaks frequently, it's an $8,000 handle because the entire pump has to be replaced. So a unit got eight of them in and seven had handles that were broken. So they took the eighth one, they took the 3-D scanner that's in RFAB, they scanned the good one, and then they printed the other seven. So now, from a readiness perspective, they're not one-of-eight -- they're eight-of-eight ready."

Phillis also offered another example of 3-D printing enhancing readiness at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where a forklift in use had a lifting pin break. A replacement part was put on order. But to keep the mission running -- and the forklift running -- operators there opted to use 3-D printing to make a new pin, at least as a temporary stop-gap solution. Six months later, he said, they are still operating with the 3-D printed pin. The actual part, he said, "is still on back order."

An improved version of the RAFB, updated with input from Soldiers, will be used at the upcoming Pacific Pathways in Japan and Thailand this summer. The RFAB will also go to Joint Warfighter Assessment 18 in Europe next spring, Phillis said.

Also coming to RFAB, Zunino said, is "Raptor," the name for a software catalog of nearly 500 commonly-broken parts that have already been stored as digital files for 3-D printing.

"It's a repository for additive parts for tactical and operational readiness," Zunino said, as he demonstrated the software using a laptop computer.

"If you are looking for your part, and you don't know the exact model number of the piece that is broken, that's okay. You know that you have a PackBot, and you can click on the PackBot picture. And you know the flipper system is bad, and it will bring up all the components you can print."

On the screen, there were several pictures of systems, and after clicking a system, several pictures appeared of commonly-broken parts that could be 3-D printed by just clicking on them.

"We're trying to get as close to click-to-print as possible for Soldiers," Zunino said.

The Raptor system appeared to be an easy-to-use interface that would allow Soldiers to quickly find the part they need and have it manufactured on-sight. But the 3-D printing capability is not meant to replace traditional ordering, Zunino said.

"You're still going to order the part number or the NSN to order a replacement, but you can print the temporary to complete your mission immediately, while the logistics chains and supply chain catches up with you," he said.

Both the RFAB and the Raptor parts catalog will be available for viewing at the Pacific Pathways in August and September.

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[*] posted on 28-5-2017 at 10:36 AM

Pre-positioned US stock leaving South Korea to create armored brigade

By: Jen Judson, May 26, 2017

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Army is planning to move pre-positioned stock stationed in South Korea back to the continental United States in order to outfit an armored brigade combat team, according to Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley.

The move is part of a bigger effort to rebalance brigade combat teams to emphasize the need for heavy, armored BCTs over lighter infantry BCTs. The Army is converting an infantry brigade combat team to create a 15th armored brigade combat team and will build the 16th using the pre-positioned stock from South Korea.

The Army’s pre-positioned stocks — known as APS —  are set up in each combatant command to be used in a contingency operation for rapid response, kept in ready “break-the-glass” condition should something arise. But pre-positioned stocks are mutating. The Army is setting up equipment sets to supplement APS in certain combatant commands for use in training and exercises and to help rapidly grow a force if needed. And the pre-positioned stocks themselves are being taken out and exercised more than was traditional in the past.

The chief said after years of conducting counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army is realizing it must restructure and rebalance the force to be able to operate in more contested environments against near-peer adversaries.

Taking the equipment from South Korea will be necessary to create the 16th ABCT, “absent that we won’t be able to do it, given the money that we have and production and vehicle inventory that we have,” Milley said during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing Thursday.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, had asked Milley during the hearing why the Army was removing the equipment from the Korean Peninsula in order to situate it in the United States.

Milley noted the 16th ABCT would be the rotational unit bound for South Korea as part of the Army’s current strategy and said that while there “is an element of risk, we think it’s an acceptable level of risk.”

The rotational ABCT meant for South Korea is an example of the Army’s growing use of rotational forces rather than setting up permanently forward-stationed units. And on top of that trend, the Army wants to see these rotational units deploy with all of their equipment, an exercise that shows the U.S. can rapidly get somewhere it’s not well-established with full capability at a high echelon.

For example, when the Army brought its first rotational ABCT into Europe this January, it took just 14 days after arriving at the seaport of Bremerhaven, Germany, to get all of its equipment in place in Poland and ready to fight.

The Army’s heel-to-toe rotational strategy to deploy units to Europe with all of their equipment flexes a muscle that hasn’t been used in many decades.

While there is some debate as to whether it would be better for the Army to permanently forward-station heavy units like an armored brigade, Milley said his preference is to maintain a heel-to-toe rotational schedule.

He argued the strategy has “the effect of a permanent unit in there in terms of battlefield effect, but it doesn’t come at the cost and overhead of a permanently stationed force."

Milley said House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, has asked the Army to take a look at a forward-stationed ABCT in Europe, particularly the cost compared to a rotational unit.

But Milley said: “My recommendation is continued rotational forces … where you can move from one country to another because these forces won’t be pinned down to a single installation.” In addition, a permanently stationed brigade would involve having to resurrect commissaries and schools and would bring families into a potential conflict zone.

A rotational brigade will “get you battle-focused training and increased unit cohesion for the unit training,” he added.
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[*] posted on 28-5-2017 at 10:50 AM

FY18 budget request: The Army's top 10 modernization priorities

By: Jen Judson, May 26, 2017

WASHINGTON -- The Army outlined its top 10 modernization priorities in its fiscal year 2018 budget request with air-and-missile defense and long-range fires at the top due to the possibility the force will confront substantial near-peer threats in areas where access by both air and land won’t come easy.

The majority of the priorities in the FY18 budget request are related to regaining capability to conduct large-scale operations against near-peer adversaries, a place where the Army hasn’t had to go for over 15 years as it focused on counterinsurgency and counterterrorism operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

While a large portion of the $26.8 billion requested for modernization typically covers aviation and mission command, and still does, the Army is diverting more of its attention toward bolstering ground maneuver capability and air defense -- both capabilities that would be needed if U.S. and NATO forces had to go up against a country like Russia in the European theater.

The Army is requesting a “sizeable uptick” of $600 million from what was enacted in FY17 for modernization, Maj. Gen. Thomas Horlander, the Army’s budget director, said Tuesday during a Pentagon briefing on the budget.

But Army leadership and some members of Congress warned this week that if there isn’t a continued upward trend to fund modernization or if the Budget Control Act is not repealed, trouble is ahead.

Horlander said the majority of the modernization funding in FY18 would go toward research and development rather than toward procuring more modern equipment now.

“The Army is accepting risk in developing new capabilities in order to prioritize incremental upgrades in air and ground systems so we can put in the hands of our soldiers in the near term a  greater and more lethal capability,” he said during the briefing.

 Here’s a look at the budget request highlights within the top modernization priorities for the Army:

Air & Missile Defense

To advance the service’s air-and-missile defense, particularly short-range air defense (SHORAD), the FY18 request would procure 131 Patriot air-and-missile defense system modification kits and would invest in the Avenger surface-to-air missile system.

The Army also wants to invest in a Stinger Man-Portable Air-Defense System (MANPADS) product improvement program, a Patriot product improvement program related to software upgrades and ongoing risk reduction tests, limited user tests and upgrades to White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico.

Long-Range Fires

The Army’s second priority is to develop long-range fires capability and the budget request asks to fund three of the service’s most critical fires systems: a service life extension program for 121 expired Army Tactical Missile Systems (ATACMS), which will add another 10 years of life to the missiles, procurement of 6,000 Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System (GMLRS) and continued low-rate initial production of 93 Patriot Missile Segment Enhanced missiles.

In the research and development account, the Army wants to fund the development of increased range and precision guidance for cannons and missile systems and enable precision fires in a GPS-denied environment.

Funding also includes a next-generation common, low-drag, guided, hyper-velocity cannon artillery projectile “capable of multiple mission across different artillery system,” Horlander said.

Munitions Shortfall

The Army will stockpile its inventory of munitions in 2018, requesting to fund the production of 88,000 unguided Hydra 70 rockets, 480 rounds of war reserve inventory replenishing Excalibur munitions and modernizing ammunition industrial facilities “to improve munition production, replace depleted stocks and create capacity for increased future demand,” Horlander said.

Some of that funding would go toward the improvement of the Holston Army Ammunition Plant in Tennessee, he said.

Mobility, Lethality and Protection of Brigade Combat Teams

The service is modernizing Abrams tanks, Stryker combat vehicles, Bradley Fighting Vehicles, the Armored Multi-purpose Vehicle and Paladin Integrated Management howitzer fleets. The FY18 budget includes upgrades to Bradley and Abrams platforms and the procurement of 42 LRIP AMPVs as well as 59 sets of Paladin systems.

The Army also wants development funding for continued system level testing for AMPV prototypes and a third generation forward-looking infrared (FLIR) ammunition data link for advanced multi-purpose rounds for both Abrams and Bradley.

Active Protection Systems

The request also funds the procurement of commercially available Active Protection Systems for Abrams tanks for installation on vehicles within the Army’s ABCT in Europe.

Assured Position Navigation and Timing

“Commercial and military global positioning are susceptible to jamming and spoofing,” Horlander said.

The Army is asking for both stand-alone and embedded capabilities for ground and air platforms communications, weapons systems and munitions to combat the threat.

Assured PNT can provide these capabilities, Horlander said.

Electronic Warfare/Signals Intelligence

Driven mostly by needs in the European theater, the Army is requesting funds to “provide planning capabilities to coordinate, manage and deconflict the use of electromagnetic spectrum and synchronized spectrum operations,” he said.

The Army’s Rapid Capabilities Office is also working to deliver an integrated EW capability to the tactical force and accelerate development of assured PNT in a GPS-denied environment.

The budget also asks for funding to support the integration of the electronic warfare system, Prophet, on Stryker and Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected (MRAP) vehicles.

Offensive and Defensive Cyber

The Army is focused on defensive cyber operations and the request funds works on mission planning and protection measures, the cyber training environment to include such things as cyber ranges.

Assured Communications

In order to eliminate network infrastructure capability gaps within the next 24 months, Horlander said, the Army would procure news system to support the network including the Joint Battle Command Platform and the Warfighter Information Network-Tactical.

Vertical Lift

The service continues to work on its two major vertical lift programs, replacing the engines in UH-60 Black Hawks and AH-64 Apaches with the Improved Turbine Engine Program and continuing on a path to a future family of helicopters in the 2030s.

The Army will pick the winning engine from two competing teams in the ITEP program in 2018.

The service is also funding product improvement programs for CH-47 Chinooks and Apaches.
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[*] posted on 3-6-2017 at 02:59 PM

US Army’s FY18 wish list would grow force by 17,000 soldiers

By: Jen Judson, June 2, 2017

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Army’s $12.7 billion wish list for fiscal 2018 asks to grow the total force by another 17,000 troops, would further increase munitions stockpiles, and would further modernize both brigade combat teams and vertical lift capabilities.

The wish list — known formally as an unfunded requirements list — is typically sent to Congress by each of the services to help guide Capitol Hill in considering what additional funding beyond the budget request Congress might provide as lawmakers begin to draft the policy and spending bills.

The Army’s $166 billion budget request for FY18 was released on May 23. It funds a 1,018,000 total force, which maintains the status quo and the end strength mandated in the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, a better deal than was previously anticipated. The budget request also prioritized munitions stockpiles and modernization for armored brigade combat teams.

The unfunded requirements list in 2018 — obtained by Defense News — shows the Army would want to grow the force beyond the status quo, asking for $3.1 billion to add 10,000 troops for the active force, 4,000 for the Army National Guard and 3,000 for the Army Reserve.

The funding would support the pay, training, sustainment, infrastructure and equipping of the additional soldiers.

It would also provide for three security force assistance brigades; two Short-Range Air Defense, or SHORAD, battalions; two Multiple-Launch Rocket System battalions; cyber operations forces; a multi-domain headquarters; and a division and a corps headquarters.

In its FY18 budget request, the Army announced plans to create two security force assistance brigades “as a tool for combatant commanders to shape their areas of responsibility in ways that deter and prevent conflict and set the theater to enable the United States and its allies and partners to prevail if conflict becomes necessary,” an overview of the budget reads.

The wish list also includes adding a combat service support battalion, a heavy truck company and a maintenance support company.

During a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing last week, Chairman Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., expressed concern over the Army not being able to grow the force larger than what was mandated in 2017. And while the Army was able to fund more modernization efforts in FY18 than it has been able to in the past, McCain said he was also concerned that was enough to strengthen the force.

Speaking generally about the budget during that hearing, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley said it stopped the bleeding, but further and consistent funds would be required to truly heal the force.

While the Army is prioritizing air-and-missile defense, particularly SHORAD, long-range fires, munitions shortfalls and enhancing the lethality of brigade combat teams, the wish list asks for $4.9 billion in additional funds within the service’s top 10 modernization priorities.

The largest amounts would be funneled into modernization accounts that would further enhance mobility, lethality and protection of vertical lift and the brigade combat teams, or BCT. The Army would want an additional $2.5 billion for the BCTs and $1.1 million for vertical lift.

The FY18 budget took another appetite suppressant on aviation modernization, so the wish list attempts to make that up with funds for nine additional AH-64E Apache attack helicopters, three more UH-60 Victor-model Black Hawk utility helicopters as well as three recapitalized versions. The list also includes nine new-build CH-47F Block I Chinook cargo helicopters.

On the ground vehicle side, the Army would recapitalize 33 M2A4 Bradley Fighting Vehicles, 29 more Abrams tanks and 35 Hercules Recovery Vehicles as well as M872 trailers that address “critical mobility shortfalls across the Army,” according to the document.

Other modernization funding would go toward accelerating a replacement of radiation detection capability; developing assured positioning, navigation and timing in a GPS-denied environment; procuring hardware for route-clearance Medium Mine Protected Vehicles; and buying 12 Assault Breacher Vehicles, four Combat Dozer Blades and eight full-width mine plows for the 15th and 16th armored brigade combat teams.

The FY18 budget did shore up some of the munition stockpile shortages concerning the Army, but its wish list asks for $2.3 billion more for missiles, ammunition and funding for the industrial base.

The list asks for 75 more Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) missiles, 147 more Patriot Missile Segment Enhancement missiles, 42 Patriot Enhanced Launcher Electronics Systems and 70 Patriot launcher modification kits.

Funding would also include a 66 percent increase in Guided Multiple-Launch Rocket System production capacity “to meet critical combat requirements and war reserves in Fires, Air and Missile Defense and SHORAD,” the document states.

The list also includes funding for the Cannon-Delivered Area Effects Munitions bridging strategy to possibly replace the Dual-Purpose Improved Conventional Munitions cluster munition. The ban on cluster munitions goes into effect on Jan.1, 2019.

The service also wants to bring production capacity for Excalibur munitions to its maximum rate of 3,000 rounds “in order to keep pace with combat requirements and slow the depletion of war reserves,” the list includes.

To meet urgent operational needs in theater, the list also would procure guided Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System rockets.

The Army also wants $1.8 billion for war-fighter readiness to keep BCT training proficiency aligned with increased operational tempo as well as other training rotations and related sustainment, infrastructure and equipment.

Lastly, the service is asking for an additional $579.1 million for infrastructure projects it couldn’t include in the FY18 request. The list asks to fund construction of six readiness centers for the reserve components, other maintenance facilities and barracks among other construction projects.

Joe Gould contributed to this report.
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[*] posted on 13-6-2017 at 04:51 PM

Army chief supports increased force presence in Afghanistan and Iraq

By: Jen Judson, June 7, 2017

WASHINGTON — Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley said he supports additional troops in Afghanistan and keeping a residual force in Iraq should Mosul be retaken from the Islamic State during a Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee hearing Wednesday.

Now, one week past a bombing in Kabul that left 150 people dead, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., asked the chief, looking toward the next decade, if he would support an increase in troop presence in Afghanistan as an interim solution.

Milley said he would support an increase but would not offer specific numbers as they are currently under analysis as part of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’ major strategic readiness review.

Graham also asked Milley if he believed the U.S. should leave a residual force in Iraq should Mosul be taken from the Islamic State. The chief said he would make such a recommendation if Iraq's government would consider it.

Milley was less forthcoming as to whether more troops are needed in South Korea as North Korea grows increasingly cantankerous and active in its missile testing.

“That is a very difficult question full of all kinds of nuances. I can’t give you a yes or a no,” Milley said, adding, the situation in Korea calls for a forward presence with the right capacity to respond to a belligerent North Korea, but that may not mean more troops.

The bottom line: the Army will likely continue to play a growing role in stabilizing hot spots around the world. And recent history has taught that drawing down or pulling out troops from war-torn countries before the government is stabilized leaves a vacuum for the resurgence of terrorist organizations to gain footholds and power, making it more likely U.S. forces will stick around unstable regions in the future.

And Graham noted the kind of force projection necessary to suppress conflict could be dangerously hampered should sequestration remain in effect.

Milley said roughly 50 percent of the demand from combatant commands and 70 percent of unexpected urgent demand are met by Army forces. He added there are roughly 180,000 soldiers deployed in 140 countries conducting training, deterring opponents, conducting humanitarian assistance, participating in peacekeeping missions and supporting combat operations.

The Army’s fiscal year 2018 budget request funds for the total Army, to include active, National Guard and Reserve, at 1,018,000 troops.

The service’s unfunded requirements list in 2018, sent to the Hill last week, shows the Army would want to grow the force beyond the status quo, seeking $3.1 billion to add 10,000 troops for the active force, 4,000 for the Army National Guard and 3,000 for the Army Reserve.

The wish list — known formally as an unfunded requirements list — is typically sent to Congress by each of the services to help guide Capitol Hill in considering additional funding beyond the budget request Congress might provide as lawmakers begin to draft the policy and spending bills.

Milley told lawmakers Wednesday that the current active Army end-strength at 476,000 was not adequate to maintain troops ready to respond to contingencies around the world.

He said he believed the right size for the Army now would be around 540,000 to 550,000 troops in the active force, 353,000 to 355,000 for the Guard and 205,000 to 209,000 for the reserve.

Yet, more clarity on the right size of the force across the U.S. military services will come from Mattis’ strategic readiness review. The review is due out later this summer, according to defense officials.
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[*] posted on 15-6-2017 at 02:13 PM

These soldiers and Marines will be the first to get the military's newest combat vehicle

By: Todd South, June 14, 2017

MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. — Soldiers in the 10th Mountain Division in New York and Marines with the II Marine Expeditionary Force in North Carolina will be among the first to receive the military's new Joint Light Tactical Vehicle.

Officials with the programs developing the JLTV on Wednesday revealed which Army and Marine units will receive the vehicles first.

The first Army unit to receive the JLTV will be an infantry brigade combat team in the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, New York. The unit will see all but a handful of its 500 Humvees replaced with JLTVs by early 2019, said Col. Shane Fullmer, the Army's program manager for the JLTV.

After fielding to the brigade in the 10th Mountain Division, the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team in Vicenza, Italy, and then a brigade in Hawaii — likely with the 25th Infantry Division — will receive their new JLTVs, he said.

In the Marine Corps, a yet-to-be-identified infantry battalion within II MEF at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, will receive 69 JLTVs to replace the same number of Humvees in July 2019, said Andrew Rodgers, the program manager over light tactical vehicles for the Marines.

Within 90 days, a similar unit with I MEF on the West Coast will see its vehicles replaced; and within another nine months, a unit with III MEF in Japan will be in the driver seats, Rodgers said.

The JLTV has been designed to replace the Humvee across nearly all the defense ground light tactical vehicles. It is currently in low-rate production for the U.S. military, with full-rate production expected to start in 2019.

In total, the military expects to buy about 55,000 JLTVs.

The vehicle has ballistic protection equal to the mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles, but is one-third lighter and 70 percent faster off road than the MRAP, officials said.

The JLTV comes in two- and four-door variants. The two-door variants are utility vehicles mostly used for transporting equipment and hauling trailers. The four-door option can be configured into three options: General Purpose, Close Combat Weapons Carrier and Heavy Gun Carrier.

The remaining configuration not yet resolved is an ambulance version. 

For now, the Army and Marines will continue to use Humvees for ambulance work, officials said.

The officials spoke Wednesday during a media day at Quantico. During the event, members of the press were invited to ride in the JLTV over a driving obstacle course.

Drivers with Oshkosh Defense, the company that produces the JLTV, took the helmeted reporters, strapped in five-point restraints, up and down 60-degree grades, through 30-degree turns, and over alternating three-foot dirt slaloms at between 12 and 35 miles per hour.
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[*] posted on 21-6-2017 at 04:22 PM

Speed Up Light Tank, Heavy Armor Modernization, HASC Tells Army

By Sydney J. Freedberg Jr.

on June 20, 2017 at 5:45 PM

The troubled M551 Sheridan was the Army’s last light tank, retired in 1996. The Army now wants to build a Mobile Protected Firepower (MPF) vehicle to fulfill the same roles of supporting airborne troops and light infantry.

WASHINGTON: Congress wants the Army to get its tanks in gear. Today, the House Armed Services Committee released its draft of the 2018 defense policy bill, which all but begged the Army to accelerate its air-deployable Mobile Protected Firepower vehicle. MPF would fill a void in light tanks that’s existed since the M551 Sheridan was retired in 1996. A separate provision would order the Army to report on its plans for modernizing its heavy armored forces across the board, including “the development of a next generation infantry fighting vehicle and main battle tank” to replace the M2 Bradley and M1 Abrams respectively.

By contrast, the Army’s current focus is low-cost, short-term upgrades of existing weapons. Incrementalism has been the Army’s strategy for at least four years, since it had to cancel the Ground Combat Vehicle program and replace it with a Next Generation Combat Vehicle initiative that may or may not deliver a new design in 2035. That’s too slow for HASC, which wants the Army report to include “an accelerated long-term strategy for acquiring next generation combat vehicle capabilities” (emphasis ours).

HASC’s call for a review echoes a white paper released by Senate Armed Services chairman John McCain in January.

McCain urged the service invest in new technologies and new designs for its Armored Brigade Combat Teams. The Senate hasn’t released its draft bill yet, but we imagine the two chambers will easily come to agreement on this provision.

McCain’s white paper did not address the Mobile Protected Firepower vehicle, however. That’s in part a matter of focus: MPF would bulk up airborne brigades and other light infantry units, rather than serving with the heavy armor brigades, which McCain — and for that matter HASC — see as critical to deterring high-end adversaries like Russia.

HASC, however, is clearly enthusiastic about the light tank, too. “The committee recognizes that the Army Chief of Staff has made MPF a high priority modernization program (and) believes the Army is developing strategies to potentially accelerate the MPF schedule given that the current projected schedule has MPF fielding beginning in 2024,” the draft language states. “Therefore, the committee directs the Secretary of the Army to provide a briefing… by October 5, 2017, that outlines potential opportunities for MPF program acceleration. The briefing should include a review of testing requirements and potential areas for consolidation; funding required in fiscal year 2018 and beyond to accelerate the program; and any areas of legislative relief that would be required in order to accelerate the program.” In congressional terms, that’s a wide-open invitation to ask for more money and legal leeway.

The language directing the report on heavy armor is not quite so warm. It begins by discussing how budget cuts — particularly the Budget Control Act — have slashed Army R&D and procurement, leaving the service with an aging and potentially outgunned armored force. “The committee is concerned that the tactical overmatch that U.S. ground forces have enjoyed for decades is being diminished, or in some cases, no longer exists,” the draft language states, before lamenting the lack of a ground combat vehicle modernization strategy next to the Army’s much more clearly articulated — and funded — approach to helicopters.

“The committee believes there is an immediate need for a more accelerated ground combat vehicle modernization strategy that should include the development of a next generation infantry fighting vehicle and main battle tank, while also looking for ways to accelerate needed upgrades for legacy combat vehicles in the near term to address immediate threats,” the draft language says. While the draft doesn’t specify, one key upgrade would be Active Protection Systems (APS) to jam or shoot down advanced anti-tank missiles.

The draft goes on to prescribe that “Elements of the report should include: the Army’s combat vehicle modernization priorities over the next 5 and 10 years; the extent to which those priorities can be supported at current funding levels within a relevant 15 time period; the extent to which additional funds are required to support such priorities; detail how the Army is balancing and resourcing these priorities with efforts to rebuild and sustain readiness and increase force structure capacity over this same time period; and explain how the Army is balancing its near-term modernization efforts with an accelerated long-term strategy for acquiring next generation combat vehicle capabilities.” Besides the M1 Abrams and M2 Bradley, the report would also encompass other elements of the Armored Brigade Combat Team such as:

- the new Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle (AMPV), essentially a turretless utility variant of the Bradley;
- the geriatric M113s the AMPV is replacing;
- the M109A7 Paladin howitzer, which puts an old cannon on a new automotive system;
- the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) to replace the Humvee;
and the M88 Hercules Improved Recovery Vehicles, a hybrid between tank and tow truck that can pull a broken-down M1 Abrams.

A separate provision in the bill calls for upgrading the Army’s Heavy Equipment Transport (HET) trailers to handle the latest uparmored Abrams, the M1A2 SEPv3, which weighs in excess of 80 tons. That’s the kind of attention to detail that modern mechanized warfare requires. As Clausewitz wrote, “everything in war is very simple, but the simplest thing is difficult.”
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[*] posted on 22-6-2017 at 01:03 PM

House lawmakers concerned over clarity of Army combat vehicle modernization plans

By: Jen Judson, June 21, 2017

WASHINGTON — Lawmakers in the House Armed Services Committee’s Tactical Air and Land Forces Subcommittee are concerned the U.S. Army isn’t modernizing its combat vehicles or armored brigade combat teams quickly enough, and they are asking the service to present clarity on its strategy.

After years of declining modernization funding in the Army’s budget — as the result of the drawdown from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and coping with sequestration — the service is at a point where it is “out-ranged, outgunned and outdated,” to quote Army Vice Chief Gen. Dan Allyn’s testimony at an HASC hearing earlier this year.

And the reduction of modernization budgets over many years has caused a major lag — potentially up to 30 years for some rides — in upgrading the Army's combat vehicles, Maj. Gen. David Bassett, the Army's officer in charge of the fleet, said during an event in February.

“I can tell you right now the level of investment in my portfolio is unacceptably low,” he said.

Repeatedly over the last year, now-national security adviser Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster called for the importance of kicking off a next-generation combat vehicle development program and lamented that this is the first time since World War I where the Army hasn’t had a new combat vehicle under development.

So it appears Congress is hearing the Army on the need to move faster.

While the Army is prioritizing modernizing armored brigade combat teams, or ABCT, in its fiscal 2018 budget, House lawmakers are seeking, in the subcommittee’s FY18 defense authorization markup, ideas from the Army on how it might do more, and faster.

“The committee believes the consequences of reduced modernization funding are most dramatic with respect to ground combat vehicle modernization,” the subcommittee’s markup reads.

“While the Army has definitive plans in place for Army aviation modernization,” according to the markup, “the same cannot be said for ground combat vehicle modernization.”

The committee said it believed there is an “immediate need” for a faster ground combat vehicle modernization strategy to include a next-generation infantry fighting vehicle and a main battle tank.

But the strategy should also include upgrades for legacy vehicles to address existing threats.

Additionally, lawmakers are concerned about the reduction of active ABCTs and the service’s ability to ensure its ABCTs are ready to fight.

Previously, the committee ensured there would be no further ABCT force structure reductions and prevented production breaks in the combat vehicle industrial base and “given the return of armored units to the European theater, as well as the Army’s plans to increase ABCT capacity, the committee believes that these actions have been validated."

The Army has 20 ABCT equipment sets, but five of the sets haven’t seen updates to its tanks or Bradley Fighting Vehicles since Desert Storm. The service will heavily invest in 2018 on combat vehicle upgrades and the full modernization of two ABCTs in 2018 and 2019.

The committee said it “remains concerned about the stability of ABCT modernization funding in fiscal year 2018 and beyond, and encourages the Army to fully modernize at least one ABCT per year,” according to the markup.

Lawmakers want a report from the Army no later than April 5, 2018, on the Army’s plan for executing a ground combat vehicle modernization strategy.

Included in that report should be the service’s priorities over the next five to 10 years, how those priorities can be supported using current funding levels within a “relevant” time period and what additional money might be needed to execute priorities.

The report should also detail how the Army will balance those priorities amid other efforts to achieve and sustain readiness and increase force structure.

The Army should also explain how it might balance near-term modernization efforts against accelerated long-term efforts for next-generation combat vehicles.

The U.S. comptroller general should assess the Army’s report no later than May 1, 2018, and provide that to Congress.
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[*] posted on 22-6-2017 at 01:04 PM

Sequestration is the main "killer" of US Army modernisation and recapitalisation.............THAT is what Congress needs to recognize!
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[*] posted on 29-6-2017 at 05:56 PM

US Army on fast track to get Mobile Protected Firepower into force

By: Jen Judson, June 28, 2017

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Army’s plan to procure effective Mobile Protected Firepower for infantry brigade combat teams will enter a high-speed track in 2018 as it skips the technology development phase in favor of commercial off-the-shelf options, according to the Program Executive Office for Ground Combat Vehicles.

A request for proposal, or RFP, for Mobile Protected Firepower, or MPF, capabilities is expected in the last quarter of fiscal year 2017, Ashley Givens, spokeswoman for the Program Executive Office for Ground Combat Vehicles, or PEO GCS, told Defense News in a statement Tuesday.

Initial funding became available in FY17 to support standing up the program office and an analysis of alternatives that will wrap up next month, she said.

According to the FY18 defense budget request, the Army received $9.6 million to kick things off.

Substantial funding is expected in FY19 to allow for a contract award following an engineering and manufacturing development phase decision where up to two offerings could be awarded an Engineering and Manufacturing Development contract, Givens added.

The Army’s FY18 budget request shows it plans to spend $36.2 million in the budget year and $90.2 million in FY19. The Army will need roughly $521 million from FY20 through FY22. The service intends to reach the production phase in 2022.

“By working through Chief of Staff of the Army and other key leaders to finalize requirements, while in parallel sharing evolving program requirements with industry to assist them in preparing for this rapid acquisition, we have laid the foundation for an innovative acquisition approach,” Maj. Gen. David Bassett, the program executive officer for PEO GCS, said in the statement.

“Our team is committed to going as fast as the industrial base can deliver, while still maximizing competition,” he added.

The program office has had multiple engagements with industry over the past year to help them prepare for the “aggressive pace” of the program, Bassett said.

And the Army is evaluating additional opportunities for further acceleration, which has been congressionally mandated in previous National Defense Authorization Act language, to shorten an already extremely aggressive schedule, according Bassett.

The requirement for MPF to provide infantry brigade combat teams a protected, long-range, cyber resilient, precision, direct-fire capability for early or forcible entry operations was first laid out in the Army’s combat vehicle modernization strategy released in October 2015.

But not much has been detailed about what exactly the Army wants for MPF or how it might deploy the capability leading up to the anticipated release of the MPF RFP.

To move quickly, the Army is largely looking at commercial off-the-shelf or a “modified” off-the-shelf solution in order to skip a two- to three-year technology development phase, Givens said.

Industry worldwide is watching what the Army ultimately asks for in an MPF program in the hopes their solutions meet the requirements.

For instance, Singapore’s ST Kinetics is proposing a version of its Next Generation Armored Fighting Vehicle mounting a CMI COCKERILL 3000 series turret that can mount a 90 or 105mm gun. The company displayed the solution at the Association of the U.S. Army’s Global Force Symposium in Huntsville, Ala., in March.

And Raytheon recently told Defense News it was honing its focus on addressing the Army’s lethality gap, including supporting an Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center MPF concept development project as a lethality subject-matter expert. 
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[*] posted on 19-7-2017 at 03:16 PM

Army Boosting Laser Weapons Power Tenfold

By Sydney J. Freedberg Jr.

on July 18, 2017 at 10:09 AM

Laser-armed Stryker at Fort Sill.

ARLINGTON: The Army is dialing up its lasers, from 5 to 10 kilowatt weapons that torched quadcopters in successful tests to 50 to 100 kW weapons that could kill helicopters and low-flying airplanes — and, possibly, blind cruise missiles as well. Given rising anxiety over Russia’s Hind gunships, Frogfoot fighters, and Kalibr missiles, the technology is timely.

Army High Energy Laser Tactical Test Truck (HELMTT), formerly the HEL Mobile Demonstrator (HEL-MD)

A truck-fired 50 kW weapon — an upgrade of the lumbering HEL-MTT — will be test fired next-year. A 100 kW weapon on a more mobile vehicle — perhaps an 8×8 Stryker or tracked Bradley — will test-fire in 2022. The Army expects to issue the contract for that demonstrator before the current fiscal year ends October 1.

The 50 kW weapon, will “obviously have a little more range, a little more power, a little better beam control,” Lt. Gen. James Dickinson, chief of Army Space & Missile Defense Command (SMDC), said to an Association of the USA Army breakfast this morning. “(Instead of) small quadcopters… it allows you to engage different or larger types of targets, so potentially rotary wing, fixed wing (aircraft).”

Dickinson was leery of discussing details — it took a couple of pointed questions for me to get that much out of him — but bear in mind the name of his command is “missile defense.” A weapon that can defeat manned aircraft can hurt incoming cruise missiles as well. Ballistic missiles are a tougher target, since their warheads are hardened against the heat of reentering the atmosphere from space.

Estimated power ranges for lasers to shoot down different types of targets (Center for Strategic & Budgetary Assessments)

“I don’t think 100 kW would be enough to zap cruise missiles out of the sky, (but) 100 kW — and even lower — may be sufficient to blind/degrade some weapon sensors,” causing them to miss, said directed energy expert Mark Gunzinger, of the Center for Strategic & Budgetary Assessments.

“There are quite a few targets 60-100 kW lasers could be used to degrade or defeat, including rockets, artillery rounds, some missiles, UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles), etc.,” Gunzinger told me in an email. “We are talking short ranges for ground-based 100 kW-class lasers to achieve ‘burn-through’ kills on UAVs or rockets, (but) sometimes a functional kill — blinding or burning out a sensor a weapon uses for final guidance to a target — is good enough.”

“For missile defense, some consider 300 kW an important threshold for countering some types of cruise missiles, assuming the attack geometry requires a head-on shot (because) the cruise missile is coming directly at a defended asset,” Gunzinger told me. “Lower power lasers may be effective against the softer sides of cruise missiles.” Getting side shots would probably require a network of lasers around any given target to ensure at least one could get the right angle on an incoming weapon. That said, he emphasized, “I’m skeptical that 100 kW would be sufficient for CMD (cruise missile defense), even with side shots.”

Maneuver Warfare, With Lasers

The 50 kW laser will be on an upgraded version of the current 10 kW HEL-MTT (High Energy Laser – Mobile Test Truck), which is a converted HEMTT, a four-axle, 34-foot-long supply hauler.

The 5 kW MEHEL (Mobile Expeditionary High Energy Laser), by contrast, is built into a much smaller and more mobile eight-wheel drive Stryker armored vehicle, able to keep up with frontline forces over rough terrain. The Army’s goal is to get its future 100 kW weapon small enough to fit on something as mobile as the Stryker, though not necessarily the Stryker itself.

“The Mobile Test Truck… that’s a pretty big piece of equipment,” Dickinson told reporters after his formal remarks. “If you look at some of our missile defense systems, they’re big like that too: THAAD, Patriot. (But) our goal is to try to reduce it as much as possible.

“We want to put it on a common platform,” Dickinson explained, meaning a vehicle widely used throughout the Army’s frontline forces. “We’ve done that with air defense before. We actually had Bradley fighting vehicles that had Avenger-type mounts on them (the M6 Bradley Linebacker). So our goal is to always be on the common platform that the Army is using that day. If it’s Stryker, we’ll try to get it on the Stryker (but) we don’t know if that’s where we’ll be.”

While Dickinson didn’t speculate about alternative platforms, the only other suitable combat vehicle currently in production is the tracked Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle (AMPV), a turretless utility variant of the Bradley family. Four-wheel-drive trucks like the Humvee and new Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) are much smaller and much less mobile over rough terrain than tracked vehicles or an 8×8 like the Stryker. The Army has emphasized that Maneuver Short-Range Air-Defense, meaning anti-aircraft units (and anti-drone and, potentially, anti-missile) must be able to keep up with the frontline combat forces.

Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle (AMPV) at the AUSA annual conference.

Dickinson also said his command was supporting the Army’s new experimental unit, the Multi-Domain Task Force. Driven by the theory that the future force must fight not just on land but in all domains — land, air, sea, space, and cyberspace — the Multi-Domain Battle initiative aims to build a small unit, perhaps 1,500 troops, that has the same access to satellite intelligence, long-range artillery, offensive cyber assets, and more that only a 5,000-strong brigade or larger unit has today.

“We’re just now looking at that, in terms of what our part of the Multi-Domain Task Force would be,” Dickinson said. “In general, today we provide (units) satellite communications support (and) missile warning….As that task force comes together and it’s further developed, we will see exactly what the requirements will be.”
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[*] posted on 22-7-2017 at 02:07 PM

Army to Begin Fielding New Modular Handguns in November

(Source: US Army; issued July 20, 2017)

FORT MEADE, Md. --- Soldiers have many reasons to be excited about the new Sig Sauer modular handguns, which the Army will begin fielding in November, said Lt. Col. Steven Power, product manager of Soldier Weapons.

Testing of the modular handgun system, or MHS, this spring by Soldiers at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, resulted in overwhelmingly positive feedback, Power said, and 100-percent concurrence that the XM17 was an upgrade over the M9.

"That's an uncommonly positive thing," Power said, explaining that there's typically some reluctance with any new system. "Typically even in our own households, when you're buying a new car, there's things that people like about the old car better than the new one," he said.

In this case, all of the Soldiers who tested the handgun said the MHS was more comfortable to shoot and they had better confidence with it, Power said.

The first new XM17 handguns are scheduled to be fielded to the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, in November.

The Army's versions of the Sig Sauer P320, the XM17 and XM18, have different ammunition requirements than the commercial 320 pistol, and are painted a different color. The P320 was released for commercial use three years ago.

Improved durability and adjustability over the M9, along with interchangeable grips that fit comfortably are among the features Soldiers can look forward to with the new pistol, Power said.

The new handguns also have an external safety and self-illluminating sights for low-light conditions.

"A big reason why the modular handgun system is such a leap ahead in ergonomics is because of the modular hand grips, instead of just making a one size fits all," Power said. "The shooter will have a handgrip that fits their hand properly which does a lot to improve accuracy -- not only on the first shot but also on subsequent shots."

Members of the 101st Airborne are scheduled to receive about 2,000 pistols in November. Eventually, the Army will distribute the weapons to all units over a 10-year period. From November 2017 until September 2018, the new handguns will be fielded at a different post each month, except for March and April of 2018, according to the current plan.

Power said troops from different military branches have already trained with the new handguns and tested them, but none have fielded the weapons yet. The new weapons have long been anticipated, as the M9 Beretta, first issued in 1986, is nearing the end of its serviceability.

"That's pretty dated technology," Power said of the M9. "The specific performance improvements from MHS over the M9 are in the area of accuracy, dispersion (and) ergonomics. And ergonomics isn't just about the comfort of the shooter."

A lot of the weapon's accuracy can be attributed to ergonomics, Power said, adding that human factors engineering determines how well the weapon works in a shooter's hand.

Sig Sauer earned the $580 million contract to produce the weapons in January after winning the Army and Air Force's XM17 Modular Handgun Competition. The Army will continue to use 9mm rounds, subcontracted to ammunition manufacturer Winchester. Power said the Army did not have a preference to remain with the 9mm rounds, but rather used a systems approach to determine ammunition type.

"There was no prejudice toward 9mm," Power said. "The goal was to pick a system that best met our requirements."

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[*] posted on 25-7-2017 at 01:13 PM

Are We Gearing Up to Lose the Next War? Overmatch, Part 2: Bullets & Backbreakers

by Nathaniel F

Original caption: "KHAKREZ, Afghanistan – Soldiers from 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, step off a helicopter and walk through a dust cloud to reach Village Stability Platform Chenar." U.S. Army photo by Sgt. April York, 2nd BCT, 4th Inf. Div. Public Domain.

In the rush to augment the infantry’s firepower with new advanced small arms technologies, we may be on the precipice of crippling their ability to fight wars. The push to equip the infantryman with more powerful rifles and machine guns risks reducing his mobility to critical levels, and “locking out” his capacity to carry powerful supporting arms. Although more potent basic infantry weapons are undeniably desirable, current attitudes towards their purpose – exemplified by the concept of “overmatch” – may compound problems that already have reached crisis levels.

An image of “warfighters”, struggling alone and without support against enemies equipped with “overmatching” weapons that out-range and out-class our own, is being sold to the military planners who will write the book on next generation small arms.

However emotionally compelling this picture is, however, it is fantasy. Conventional infantry do not operate alone, but as part of a combined arms effort that leverages supporting capabilities from the entire military. The idea of equipping the Infantry with individual weapons which are designed to counter enemy supporting arms through “overmatch” not only is incompatible with established doctrine and best practices, but also establishes a dangerous principle that could cripple US infantrymen in the future.

To understand why this idea is dangerous, a fundamental fact of the infantry must first be recognized: One man can only carry so much. In fighting vehicle or combat aircraft design, the mass of more potent armaments can be offset with augmentations to the craft’s engines, enhancements to the vehicle’s structure, or improvements to its suspension. However, when planning arms for the infantryman there is a hard limit to how much mass of equipment each person can carry. Therefore, any increases in this mass must be very carefully weighed in the balance along with their corresponding increases in effectiveness.

In clearer terms, the US Army Infantry Rifle Platoon is comprised of about 39 men. Each man can produce about a third of a horsepower during a march, and the average approach march load for an infantryman is 102.1 pounds, according to the 2003 report The Modern Warrior’s Combat Load. This means that the Infantry Rifle Platoon approximated as a single “vehicle” produces less than 12 horsepower total. The average power-to-weight ratio of the loaded infantryman is just 2.4 hp/ton (2.6 hp/tonne), compared to the 25 hp/ton of a 60 ton M1 Abrams main battle tank. Analyzing the platoon in the same way as we would a vehicle is a dramatic oversimplification, of course, but these figures nonetheless help illustrate just how power-limited the platoon as a whole is.

Not only is the platoon power-limited by the physiology of the infantryman, but this presents a medical problem, as well. When a vehicle breaks, it can be readily replaced with another and sent for repairs or surplused. When a soldier or Marine is injured and must be hospitalized, his unit is denied one of its integral parts. A replacement can be sent to fill his place, but the benefits of the relationships built over time between the injured soldier and his unit are lost, possibly forever. Likewise, while a replacement rifle or HMMWV may be better in every way than the objects they replace, a new recruit cannot replace the knowledge and experience of a hospitalized infantryman.

Knowledge and experience in warfare cannot be manufactured; they must be cultured the hard way.

Today, our troops are already overburdened. Roughly a tenth of the Army today cannot fight due to medical reasons, a figure that has sadly become the norm since the beginning of the decade. Soldiers are often expected to carry over 100 pounds of gear on marches that destroy knees, ankles, hips, and backs and leave tens of thousands of good men with 100% disability ratings. Experienced troops are forced to retire early with crippling medical issues that will affect them for life. This situation already threatens to destabilize the entire force, creating what Chief of Staff Milley called “a hollow Army”.

Therefore, it must be accepted that an increase in the soldier’s load is much more than just a minor nuisance, but a serious problem with multiple second-order effects that has a directly deleterious effect on Army readiness as a whole. As this problem continues to grow past crisis levels, comprehensive weight management programs must be implemented for every element of the infantryman’s load. From this, three iron tenets for the infantry weapons planner emerge:

Although augmented firepower and and ballistic performance are also desired, reducing the load of the infantryman must be an overriding priority.[1]

Any improvement in performance of infantry small arms must be considered against not only the mass it will add to the infantryman’s load, but also against what other weapons and ordnance could be carried instead.

Any infantry small arms configuration which results in a substantial increase in the mass of weapons and ammunition carried by the platoon must be modified or rejected.

The concept of “overmatch” violates these tenets. From this perspective, concerns about increases in weapon and ammunition weight are easily dismissed as unimportant relative to pursuit of the concept. Improved weapon ballistics is considered, not with respect to the additional burden it would place on the infantryman, but with respect to raw performance alone. The result will be a substantial increase in burden to the Infantry, and reduction in combat capability as a consequence.

Consider that increasing the Infantry’s load means reducing their capability to perform their most fundamental mission. This mission is laid out in the respective infantry manuals of the Army and Marine Corps:

The mission of the Infantry is to close with the enemy by means of fire and maneuver in order to destroy or capture him, or to repel his assault with fire, close combat, and counterattack. The Infantry will engage the enemy with combined arms in all operational environments to bring about his defeat.

– FM 3-21.8 (FM 7-8), The Infantry Rifle Platoon and Squad
The mission of the rifle squad is to locate, close with, and destroy the enemy by fire and maneuver, or repel the enemy’s assault by fire and close combat.
– MCWP 3-11.2, Marine Rifle Squad

These manuals illustrate that the Infantry’s offensive power is not just a product of their weapons, but a product of their mobility as well. The Infantry must have the teeth to strike the enemy, true, but they must also have the legs to bring the fight to him. When seeking to augment the infantryman’s firepower for the next generation of small arms, it is crucial to not – in doing so – cripple him.

At this latter task, we are already behind the curve. Any load increase over 25 kg (55 lb) will decrease the speed of the infantryman by approximately 0.1-0.2 km/h per each of 5 kg (11 lb) added (page 167). By this, the average 2003 infantryman’s burden of 102.1 pounds (46.3 kg) reduces his speed by between 0.4-0.9 km/h – over 10%. In the long term, extreme burdens such as those typical today will compound the problem, with mobility further aggravated by fatigue and injury.

Any unnecessary mass carried by the infantryman therefore directly impacts his mobility and leaves him vulnerable to enemy fires. Not only is this a reason to avoid further burdening the Infantry with greater loads, but it may also be reason for reflection. We might ask: If “overmatch” supposes that our infantrymen have become vulnerable to fire from enemy weapons which have existed for 50-100 years, then how did they get that way? Is it possible that their vulnerability stems from a lack of mobility, as well as (or possibly instead of) a lack of firepower?

It is useful to understand quantitatively how “overmatch” can negatively affect the Infantry in this way. To do this, we shall consider three rounds of similar size and mass which have become centerpieces of the conversation: the 7.62x51mm NATO, .260 Remington, and 6.5mm Creedmoor. Not accounting for the mass of the weapons themselves, were any of the three adopted in brass-cased form as a universal standard round for the Infantry Rifle Platoon, it would add approximately 216 kilograms (476 lb) to the burden of the platoon as a whole, resulting in an increased average individual load of 114 pounds per soldier. This increase in load is equivalent to giving each soldier an additional 2 ESAPI plates, or 6 guided 40mm-launched missiles, or 24 40mm HEDP grenades. Polymer-cased ammunition can moderate these increases, however it is not a panacea. With a composite polymer/metallic case, the average soldier’s load would still increase to 110 pounds per soldier, on average. Put in terms of reducing the soldier’s load by 30 pounds, these two ammunition configurations would increase the magnitude of that task by 40% and 25%, respectively.

The situation may only get more unforgiving, too. Future infantry technologies are already being proven that could become essential force multipliers for small units in the next decades, yet each comes with a price in pounds. Guided 40mm-launched missiles, kamikaze surveillance drones sporting explosive warheads, ultralight platoon-level 60mm mortars with guided projectiles, and other emerging technologies already show promise. Computer and networked systems continue to grow smaller and more rugged, as well. If and when any of these become must-have equipment for the Infantry, their inclusion will add that much more to the platoon’s shared burden. The additional weight must either be offset by leaving something else behind, or simply be borne on top of what was already carried, with all the consequences of reduced mobility and increased injury that implies.

If “overmatch” becomes the rule by which future small arms decisions are made, it will become a significant risk to the infantry’s ability to fight. Decreased mobility, increased risk of injury, and reduced ability of the infantry to carry along their own sophisticated supporting arms could all become cords that tie the the Infantry’s arms behind their back. If overburdened, under-strength, and under-equipped infantry are sent into combat against a mobile and healthy enemy equipped with advanced infantry support weapons, then all of the ballistic advantages of their “overmatching” small arms will be rendered moot. Put simply, no amount of ballistic brilliance can compensate for a lack of mobility and supporting arms.

This is the second of three articles on the subject of overmatch. In the previous instalment (, we discussed what “overmatch” is, where it came from, and why it persists. In the next, we will examine the deleterious effect that the overmatch principle has on requirements and optimization, as well as alternative paths for future infantry small arms.

 [1] In addendum to this, it must be pointed out that reducing the load of the infantryman is only one necessary dimension to addressing the problem of soldier/Marine injury and combat readiness. Redesign of load-bearing equipment to help prevent injuries, improved oversight by medical professionals, and overhaul of physical fitness programs are all steps that should be taken to help curb injuries and keep troops in the fight longer. However, even in US Army Special Operations Forces, which are dramatically better developed in each of these respects, injury rates remain a critical problem. Therefore, one or more of these approaches cannot be substituted for another; all methods of addressing the problem must be fully utilized.
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[*] posted on 25-7-2017 at 03:55 PM

'Eyes In Space' and More Powerful Lasers Will Soon Enhance the Army's Arsenal

(Source: US Army; issued July 21, 2017)

The Mobile Expeditionary High Energy Laser (MEHEL) is a laser testbed on a Stryker armored fighting vehicle chassis and serves as a platform for research and development. (US Army photo)

WASHINGTON --- It's been a "dynamic year" for Army space and missile defense, with a multi-domain task force being formed, a new nanosatellite set to launch soon, and more powerful laser weapons in the works, said Lt. Gen. James H. Dickinson.

Dickinson, commander of the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command and Joint Functional Component Command for Integrated Missile Defense, spoke at the Association of the United States Army's Institute of Land Warfare's breakfast Tuesday about "The Integration of Space and Missile Defense in the Multi-Domain Environment."


Kestrel Eye, or KE, is an electro-optical nanosatellite being developed by the command. It will improve mission command on the move for a brigade combat team to allow tactical leaders to synchronize action, seize the initiative and maintain near-real-time situational awareness, Dickinson said.

KE is an improvement over older methods because it will provide satellite imagery without the need for U.S.-based relays, he noted.

The nanosatellite is due to launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida, "very soon" as part of the International Space Station cargo resupply mission, he said. Once aboard the ISS, the crew will deploy this small satellite into its orbit. When it is a safe distance from the ISS, the satellite will automatically power up and be ready to receive signals.

A series of tactical exercises will measure the effectiveness of this satellites, he said.


USASMDC/ARSTRAT, in coordination with the U.S. Army Capabilities Integration Center, is leading an effort to develop a multi-domain task force that will address threats in the multi-domain environment, Dickinson said.

The task force will integrate space effects at the tactical level to support maneuver elements of the operational Army, he said. They will be dispersed, very agile, lethal and networked.

Currently, USASMDC/ARSTRAT provides satellite support and missile warning to the task force. Future requirements will dictate innovative and creative solutions and new technologies will be incorporated, he said.

The task force is currently in the growth phase, and Dickinson mentioned that the chief of staff of the Army said it will have around 1,500 Soldiers when it reaches full strength.


There is a lot of congressional and Department of Defense interest in high-energy laser weapons, Dickinson noted.

The command participates in maneuver fires integration experiments with the Stryker-based mobile experimental 5-kilowatt laser, he said. The advantage with this type of laser is that engineers are not required to operate it, so Soldiers can be trained quickly.

Demonstrations and data collection took place at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, Eglin Air Force Base in Florida and Redstone Test Center in Alabama. Results thus far indicate that these lasers have capabilities to destroy small-caliber mortars, shoot down tactical unmanned aerial systems of varying weights and sizes, and destroy targets of various materiel.

Soldiers in the Stryker vehicle were able to take out UASs, after just two weeks of training, Dickinson said.

A specialist who took out a UAS as part of the training remarked, "I'm really excited to be part of a historic event. I'm really excited to see the Army working on the next generation of [lasers] so we can maintain our cutting edge," Dickinson related.

There's also a 10 kW laser that has been highly successful in testing, he added.

In fiscal year 2018, the Army will begin testing a 50 kW laser, which will be a key component of a system known as the High-Energy Laser Tactical Vehicle Demonstrator. These advanced-laser systems can be integrated into a more rugged and mobile platform compatible with the Army's Battle Management Network, he explained.

By 2022, he noted that the Army hopes to test a 100 kW laser, adding that an incremental approach in power is part of the experimental design so that results can inform the next level of power increase.

The Army is also in the planning stages for a high-energy center of excellence at Redstone Arsenal, he said.

Bigger lasers have the advantages of greater range, more power and therefore greater lethality and better beam control. Therefore, helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft can potentially be targeted, according to Dickinson.


The Nimble Titan missile defense experimentation campaign "continues to expand in scope, size and influence," said Dickinson, whose command, the Joint Functional Component Command for Integrated Missile Defense, leads the program. Nimble Titan is a series of multinational, integrated air and missile defense experiments.

In September 2018, NATO will host a Nimble Titan 18 senior leader forum. The forum will be an opportunity to highlight the benefits Nimble Titan provides, he said.

NATO recently expanded its focus from purely ballistic missile defense to integrated air and missile defense. From a U.S. national security perspective, "it's clearly in our best interest to encourage international policy and collaboration and military dialog ... to defend mutually important assets," he said.


A recent National Air and Space Intelligence Center report stated that China and Iran, along with North Korea, have been developing new, medium- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles, many of which are capable of being armed with non-conventional warheads, Dickinson said.

"Our adversaries continue to test and develop their space and missile defense capabilities," he said. North Korea test-launched its first intercontinental ballistic missile July 4, for example. "These activities increasingly place the U.S. and its allies at risk as their capacities grow, and the consequences are grave," he said, highlighting the need for continued U.S. development and research in missile programs.

USASMDC/ARSTRAT "is poised to deter, defend and defeat these threats," he said.

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[*] posted on 28-7-2017 at 12:25 PM

Milley’s Future Tank: Railguns, Robotics & Ultra-Light Armor

By Sydney J. Freedberg Jr.

on July 27, 2017 at 5:11 PM

Russia’s new T-14 Armata tank on parade in Moscow.

NATIONAL PRESS CLUB: The tank is far from obsolete and the US will need a new armored vehicle to replace its 1980-vintage M1 Abrams, the Army Chief of Staff said here this afternoon.

But what kind of tank, on what kind of timeline? Gen. Mark Milley made clear he was looking for a “breakthrough,” not incremental evolution – which probably means that the new tank will take a long time.

“Are we sort of at that point in history where perhaps mechanized vehicles are going the way of horse cavalry and going the way of the dinosaur?” Milley asked. “I don’t think so — but I’m skeptical enough to continue to ask that.”

“We have a good, solid tank today,” Milley said of the M1. “Having said that, we do need a new ground armored platform for our mechanized infantry and our tanks, because it’s my belief that, at least in the foreseeable future — and you can follow that out to 25 years or so — there is a role for those type of formations.”

“What are some of the technologies?” Milley said. “There’s Active Protection Systems” – electronic jammers and mini-missiles to stop incoming anti-tank weapons – “(and) there’s reduced crews with automated turrets” – as found on Russia’s new T-14 Armata, which Milley said the Army is studying closely – “but the real sort of holy grail of technologies that I’m trying to find on this thing is material, is the armor itself…. If we can discover a material that is significantly lighter in weight that gives you the same armor protection, that would be a real significant breakthrough.

“There’s a lot of research and development going into it,” Milley said. That’s true, but in all my conversations with Army and industry experts in recent years, no one believes we’re close to a “breakthrough.” Modest improvements in armor materials are in the works, but nothing that would change the fundamental calculus that makes protection heavy.

The trend, in fact, has been for everything to get heavier. The M1 tank started out in 1980 weighing about 60 tons, enough to stop most Soviet anti-tank shells and missiles of the day, but has grown to almost 70. The M2 Bradley, a heavily armed troop carrier called an Infantry Fighting Vehicle, grew from a fairly fragile 25 tons to a robust 40, with contractor BAE now proposing a 45-ton model. Some designs for a Bradley replacement, the proposed Ground Combat Vehicle, grew as heavy as 84 tons before the cash-strapped Army cancelled the program.

While the Army is now looking at lighter vehicles, the experts I’ve talked to are not counting on lighter armor. Instead, they’re contemplating trade-offs once deemed heretical, like building an air-droppable light tank to support paratroops, or having the Bradley replacement only carry half an infantry squad.

Such smaller vehicles would be lighter, as well as more maneuverable on narrow city streets – a key consideration because many Army leaders, including Milley, expect future warfare to be fought increasingly in urban settings. Mosul is a brutal but ultimately small-scale “preview” of future city fights in sprawling megacities, Milley said today. In Mosul – as in Fallujah in 2004 and Sadr City in 2008 – it took tanks to retake the city, working closely with regular infantry and special forces, he noted.

Lasers, Railguns & Robotics

While Milley put lighter-weight protection as priority number one, he also highlighted two other technologies that could revolutionize armored vehicle design. One is electrically-powered weapons, such as railguns – which use electromagnets to accelerate a solid metal slug to supersonic speeds – and lasers – which fire pure energy at the speed of light. “We’ve been using kinetic or powder-based munitions for five centuries,” Milley noted, but there are now major advances in alternative forms of firepower.

So far, lasers and railguns are being developed primarily as defensive weapons, able to shoot down drones or cruise missiles more quickly and cheaply than surface-to-air missiles. However, Air Force Special Operations Command plans to put a 150-kilowatt laser on its AC-130 gunships to disable enemy vehicles by silently burning through key components. It’s not too far from an offensive laser that can fit in a big airplane to one that can fit in a big ground vehicle.

The other potential breakthrough Milley mentioned was the “revolution in robotics.” The land is harder to navigate than empty sky or open sea, he emphasized, so ground robots will lag drones or unmanned ships, “but eventually we will see the introduction of wide-scale robotics.” Many of those will be small and relatively expendable scouts, designed to carry sensors or weapons ahead of the human force. Milley also wants his future tank to have enough automation not just to reduce the human crew required, but to optionally leave out the humans altogether, depending on the mission.

“Every vehicle that we develop, we probably need sure it’s dual use, so the commander on the battlefield at the time has the option of having that vehicle manned or unmanned,” Milley said. “They can flip a switch and have it be a robot.”

Building these future warbots will take a lot of thought. If you make an artificial intelligence smart enough to operate the tank some of the time, can you et the AI drive all the time and leave the human crew safe at home, where they can’t get killed or screw things up? If the humans aren’t inside the tank, do you let the AI pick targets and make the decision to kill them on its own? Pentagon policy says “never,” but if our robots have to wait for a human to say (or just think) “fire,” less scrupulous adversaries will be quicker on the draw. It’s a hornet’s nest of difficult questions that the Army – and the nation – will have to answer.
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[*] posted on 9-8-2017 at 03:46 PM

More distributed operating concepts needed for US Army air and missile defense [Commentary]

By: Thomas Karako   11 hours ago

A Terminal High Altitude Area Defense interceptor is launched from the Pacific Spaceport Complex Alaska in Kodiak during a flight test on July 11, 2017. During the test, the THAAD weapon system successfully intercepted an air-launched intermediate-range ballistic missile target. (Leah Garton/Missile Defense Agency)

A new challenge faces the joint force: the prospect of conflict with a near-peer adversary who has spent two decades going to school on the U.S. way of war. U.S. forces now have more limited forward presence and their numbers far fewer. Potential adversaries have integrated air defenses and precision-strike weapons that can hold forward-based U.S. forces at risk, complicate maneuver and impair freedom of action.

The services are developing new concepts to penetrate and defeat these challenges, including the Navy’s distributed lethality and the Army’s and Marine Corps’ Multi-Domain Battle concepts. These forces face a cluttered, missile-rich operating environment including a nearly continuous spectrum of threats characterized by various altitudes, speed, propulsion type and range.

Unfortunately, the Army’s modern air and missile defense, or AMD, force is neither resilient enough or adequately prepared for high-end air and missile threats, nor will it be for the foreseeable future.

The brittle character of today’s AMD force was illustrated in June 2017 when North Korea used a drone to surveil the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, site in South Korea. If instead of surveillance that drone had delivered an explosive device to the sole TPY-2 radar on which THAAD depends, it would have virtually incapacitated the THAAD battery on the Korean peninsula.

Consider what adversaries of greater sophistication could do. In short, U.S. AMD is far too susceptible to suppression.

One problem has been programmatic stovepiping. Legacy forces are largely integrated only from the top down, and they do not speak well to one another. Even Patriot and THAAD do not share a network or common-air picture and cannot adequately share information and coordinate fires to avoid interceptor wastage. Insufficient communication also contributed to fratricide incidents during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Today’s AMD force is also too heavily dependent upon single points of failure, especially sensors and command-and-control nodes. An adversary need only neutralize or circumvent a handful of command posts or radars to seriously degrade the effectiveness of today’s AMD force.

Another shortfall is the lack of integrated capability against the full spectrum of threats. Since the Gulf War, the United States has understandably spent significant time and resources on countering ballistic missiles, but paid insufficient attention to the larger spectrum of aerial threats, such as cruise missiles. This ballistic-heavy focus has come with costs. Interceptors capable of countering ballistic missiles are often more expensive than those only used to counter aerial threats. This sometimes forces the use of exquisitely designed missiles for missions that could be accomplished with cheaper interceptors.

Sectored, ground-based radar coverage may likewise be fine for theater ballistic missiles, but is ill-suited to the cruise missile and UAV threat. Although the Army identified the need for 360-degree AMD radar coverage nearly a quarter century ago, Patriot remains reliant upon radars with 120-degree coverage, with gaps and seams that maneuvering or air-breathing threats could exploit. The JLENS aerostat program had been intended to provide a persistent-overhead, sensor-to-support cruise missile and air defense, but that program was terminated without a replacement.

The authors of the multi-domain battle concept have called for “innovative” thinking to adapt to the near-peer threat.

Nowhere is that needed more than with Army AMD, which has been deprioritized far too long. Usually conversations about evolving the AMD force focus on the capability and capacity of interceptors, but this would be insufficient even in a better budget environment. Transforming the force will require much more.

Given the current operational environment and the aspirations of multi-domain battle, the Army is pursuing some much-needed solutions, which it might consider expanding with new operational and material concepts, here collectively described as “distributed defense.” These include:

Network centrism. The foundation of all improvement lies with the continued and expanded implementation of more network-centric integration, which is largely already underway.

Networked integration would improve the efficiency of interceptor usage, reduce wastage, increase the defended area and reduce the risk of fratricide. The current Integrated Air and Missile Defense Battle Command System, or IBCS, program promises much of this by 2022, but other work can also be done, including in the nearer term.

Element dispersal. Increased networking will permit increased dispersal of the many sensor, shooter and C2 elements that support AMD — in effect redefining today’s firing unit. Some prospects for increased dispersal of command and control suites could be implemented even prior to IBCS, as suggested by previous the previous commander of the Army’s Space and Missile Defense Command, Lt. Gen. David Mann.

Mixed loads. Another way to boost flexibility is to mix and match interceptors within a single firing unit and even within a single launcher. While Patriot launchers have some flexibility, more could be done across the AMD force. Like the Navy’s vertical launching system, or VLS, tubes and the Army’s Multi-Mission Launcher, further mixing and matching might be possible between THAAD, Patriot and standard missiles, creating a kind of layered defense in a box.

Offense-defense launchers. The direct integration of AMD with offensive fires might be a further way to defeat threats, rather than simply defend against them. One way would be to emplace counter-battery fire like the Army Tactical Missile System, or ATACMS, alongside interceptors, similar to the Aegis VLS with interceptors and strike missiles side by side in tubes. Further flexibility might be pursued by packing multi-domain and multimission capability into a single missile, as has recently been done with the Evolved Seasparrow Missile, ATACMS and Standard Missile-6.

Containerized launchers. Another way to boost AMD survivability is with the time-honored principles of passive defense — camouflage, concealment and deception. Instead of being located on truck-pulled trailers, some launchers might be put into nondescript cargo containers to support a giant shell game.

Some containers would be full, but most would be empty, complicating an adversary’s planning. This and other passive defense measures might be particularly useful for defending certain fixed sites such as airfields, freeing up mobile units for other missions.

These and other operational concepts are just the beginning. By implementing and building upon better networking, and by adapting principles of dispersal like distributed lethality, a more distributed approach to AMD would reinvigorate old concepts, spark a few new ones, improve resilience and move closer to the ever-elusive vision of integrated air and missile defense.

Thomas Karako is a senior fellow and director of the Missile Defense Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
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[*] posted on 17-8-2017 at 09:30 AM

Upgunned Stryker in Europe to help shape future infantry lethality

By: Jen Judson   4 hours ago

The Stryker Infantry Carrier Vehicle Dragoon fires its 30mm cannon at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, during a live-fire demonstration for reporters on August 15, 2017. (Alan Lessig/Staff)

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Maryland — How the U.S. Army’s new Stryker Infantry Carrier Vehicle Dragoon performs in the upcoming year in Europe will contribute to how the service shapes its future lethality capabilities within those medium-weight, infantry-centric brigade combat team formations.

The U.S. Army was provided emergency funding from Congress in 2015 — a little over $300 million — to rapidly develop and field a Stryker with a 30mm cannon specifically for an urgent need request from the 2nd Cavalry Regiment, which is permanently stationed in Germany. The funding covered development, eight prototypes and upgrades to 83 production vehicles, as well as spares.

“This capability that is coming to 2CR is directly attributable to Russian aggression,” Lt. Col. Troy Meissel, the regiment’s deputy commanding general, told reporters Tuesday at Henry Field, a live-fire test range here. And the regiment is working actively with foreign partners and the bigger Army in Europe to shape its formation and increase its capabilities to overmatch Russian weapons systems.

On Tuesday, the Stryker Carrier Vehicle Dragoon, or ICVD, demonstrated in a live firing its ability to fire on target at a range farther out with more deadly force than previously capable. While it’s not designed to offensively fight mechanized forces, it is a vehicle that can defend against mechanized forces, Meissel explained.

The Stryker ICVD prototypes have been under test and evaluation at Aberdeen Proving Ground, or APG, with members of the 2nd Cavalry Regiment before a company set of vehicles are deployed to Grafenwoehr, Germany, in January 2017.

Once training exercises are complete, the U.S. Army will field Stryker ICVDs to the entire regiment and it will go out and maneuver, Col. Glenn Dean, the program manager for Stryker, said Tuesday at the live-fire.

“Looks today like we are going to do first-fielding in Poland in a forward area, which is sort of a novel experience for everyone except Stryker,” he said, adding the vehicle was first fielded forward on the battlefield in Afghanistan.

Maj. Gen. David Bassett, the program executive officer for Ground Combat Systems, hammered home the vehicles about deploy to Europe were just a PowerPoint less than 18 months ago and the program office made a variety of choices along the way that helped the development move quickly, including choosing readily available, off-the-shelf solutions, such as the remote turret, from Kongsberg in Norway and the 30mm cannon from Orbital ATK.

The program also kept as much commonality as possible with the Stryker platform, including the fire-control system and the suspension from the double-V hull version of the vehicle, he added. The ICVD is a flat-bottomed version.

“What you were left with was the requirement to bring all those together in a way that didn’t degrade those capabilities, and so it’s about making those hard choices and doing so in a way that your probability of success doesn’t go down,” Bassett said.

Going Remote

The U.S. Army also involved the 2nd Cavalry Regiment nearly from the beginning of the program to ensure that what it received at the end of the process fits with its needs directly.

It was determined quickly that the regiment would not sacrifice fitting a nine-man squad together in the back of a Stryker, along with a gunner and a driver.

Since the nine-man squad wouldn’t be separated, the U.S. Army determined a manned turret was out of the question because it would take out seats in the back of the vehicle. Therefore, it was determined a remotely operated turret would be necessary for the Stryker prototype.

Additionally, putting a 30mm gun on top of the vehicle meant the Stryker operators would lose visibility because hatches used to see out of the top of the vehicle had to be taken away.

Keeping those requirements in mind, representatives of the regiment traveled to Stryker manufacturer General Dynamics Land Systems in Michigan in December 2015 and sat in a virtual mock-up of the upgunned Stryker to determine where the commander should sit and where hatches could be retained, deleted or moved, among other configuration considerations, Dean said.

One of the biggest hurdles now is how to maneuver the vehicle without being able to stand up out of hatches and look out over the terrain.

To mitigate the loss of situational awareness, the U.S. Army incorporated three windowed tiles that look out beyond the front of the vehicle underneath the turret.

A Stryker driver at APG said it would be ideal to have more wide-angle views of the terrain using some kind of material solution.
Meissel said the regiment would wait to figure out what could be added to enhance visibility and what tactics, techniques and procedures would be solidified when the vehicles are fielded and in training. “For example, knowing they don’t have visibility, the likelihood of this vehicle leading the formation is lower because you have to have another vehicle in front and be able to look for obstacles in the area,” he said.

“This challenge of how you maneuver these vehicles buttoned up is one that is going to be increasingly common, so as you get on more lethal battlefields, you have to be able to fight without being in the hatches,” Bassett said. “I think a lot of what we are trying to learn is how do you fight a remote turret; how do you fight buttoned up, and then it will help us inform the decisions we make about the potential materiel solutions as we look at nonmateriel and materiel solutions.”

The future of cannons

And the whole idea of using cannons within the Stryker formations will be assessed, as well.

“The Army is still working through its requirements for the future of lethality, so there is certainly an intent that 30mm capability goes to the entire Stryker fleet,” Dean said.

Other upgrades the U.S. Army was able to add to the Stryker fleet as the result of savings from the ICVD program, such as the common remote weapon system that can fire Javelin anti-tank missiles, will also influence how lethality is provided to the fleet in the future, Dean explained.

Specifically on cannon requirements, Dean said the U.S. Army is working through whether it proceeds with cannons in the same form factor as the ICVD and how many are built and fielded and where within the formation it should exist among other considerations.

The U.S. Army has already asked for resources for a second brigade worth of upgunned capability, Bassett said, even though there are questions the 2nd Cavalry needs to answer about the path forward for the Stryker ICVD.

The general said it might seem like the U.S. Army is asking for resources ahead of need or developing a capability with too much concurrency with production, but that is how the ICVD program has been so successful. “It would be more efficient in terms of resources to wait, but our adversaries aren’t waiting, and so we are looking to lean forward to provide capability sooner rather than later.”
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[*] posted on 17-8-2017 at 01:15 PM

Upgunned Strykers Open Fire At Aberdeen – But Fielding Will Be Slow

By Sydney J. Freedberg Jr.

on August 16, 2017 at 4:47 PM

VIDEO Stryker Dragoon 30 mm Live-Fire:

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND: Two years after the Europe-based 2nd Cavalry Regiment requested more firepower to deter the Russians, 30 millimeter shells and Javelin missiles thundered downrange here at the Army’s oldest proving ground. Even standing at a safe distance, 20 yards from the closest of the two Stryker vehicles, I could feel the muzzle blast from the cannon, making my clothes flap. I could see the fireball from the Javelin hitting its target maybe a mile away.

This week, the Army was rolling out its newest combat vehicles, upgunned models of the eight-wheel-drive Stryker, to impress the press and Congress – and, of course, the Russian military.

Prototype XM1296 Stryker Infantry Carrier Vehicle – Dragoon.

How big an improvement is this to Stryker? Except for a handful of anti-tank variants, most Strykers today are armed with no more than a machinegun. They’re potentially outgunned by Third World thugs in jury-rigged pickup trucks, let alone the Red Army.

“You can throw a machinegun on a technical vehicle that had farther reach than our own .50 caliber did,” Lt. Col. Troy Meissel said, referring to the standard Russian-made 14.5 mm DShK Dushka. He’s deputy commander of the 2nd Cavalry, the Army’s frontline Stryker regiment, who flew in from Europe for this week’s events.

“The crews here were engaging targets at 3,200 meters (two miles),” Meissel told me. By contrast, a .50 cal machinegun has an effective range of about 2,000 meters. Stryker platoons do have Javelin missile launchers with a range of 2,500 meters (under 1.6 miles), Meissel said, but those are handheld weapons, not mounted on the vehicle. Someone has to jump out carrying a launcher and fire from whatever cover he can find. The new Javelin-equipped Strykers will let troops fire the missile while under armor, a safer and quicker operation.

The 30 mm autocannon mounted in the Stryker Dragoon (soldier for scale)

The 30 mm and Javelin-armed Strykers are just the highest-profile examples of the Army’s strategy of urgently upgrading existing vehicles.

The biggest news, though not the biggest bang, this week: The Army will soon decide whether to buy Israeli-made Trophy Active Protection Systems for its M1 tanks, letting them shoot down incoming anti-tank missiles too powerful for their armor.

The Army isn’t building new designs, however, with the partial exception of its Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle, essentially a turretless variant of the venerable M2 Bradley troop carrier.

Without the money to develop all-new war machines to take on the Russians, as it last did in the 1980s, the service is rushing to field better versions of existing vehicles. Unfortunately, funding shortfalls will limit how fast frontline units can actually get them.

Close-up of a 30 mm shell from the Stryker Dragoon’s autocannon (soldier’s hand for scale)

Yesterday and today, upgunned models of the 25-ton Stryker fired new 30 millimeter autocannons and Javelin anti-tank missiles. The Javelin launchers, which replace existing weapon mounts, will go to every Stryker unit, eventually. For now, the 30 mm gun “Dragoon” variant, which requires extensive modifications to accommodate a new turret, is only funded for 83 vehicles of the 2nd Cavalry Regiment. The program has requested funding for a second brigade.

Today, the latest upgrade of the Abrams tank, the 73-ton M1A2 SEP V3, test-fires its 120 mm cannon with new sensors here at Aberdeen; reliability testing has already shown the V3 suffers fewer breakdowns than the current models. Work is also underway on an upgraded Bradley troop carrier, the M2A4; an upgraded Paladin howitzer, the M109A7; and a replacement for the geriatric M113, the Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle (AMPV). All heavy armored brigade combat teams (ABCTs) will get these upgrades eventually, but under current funding it’ll take several years to convert just the first brigade to the new Abrams and Bradleys.

This fall, after extensive field tests, the Army will decide whether to start buying Israeli-built Trophy Active Protection System for its M1s. The service is testing the Iron Curtain and Iron Fist systems alongside Trophy, and it’s testing APS on Strykers and (soon) on Bradleys, but these other possibilities are lagging the Trophy-M1 tank combination. The immediate decision: whether to buy enough Trophies to equip the M1s in one brigade.

All told, “today we have new version of every vehicle in the ABCT (Armored Brigade Combat Team) and Stryker formations that are either in test or in production,” said Maj. Gen. David Bassett. That’s all on a $3 billion annual budget – roughly the price of a single Navy destroyer or about 30 F-35A fighters – for Bassett’s outfit, the Army’s Program Executive Office for Ground Combat Systems (PEO-GCS). “Clearly,” he said, “we could be producing capabilities much faster with more resources.”

Bassett and his team are moving as fast as they can. The 30mm Stryker, in particular, was “nothing more than PowerPoint 18 months ago,” he told reporters. The Active Protection Systems project skipped the usual laborious definition of official requirements – which are often so demanding they require years of R&D – in favor of just exploring the art of the possible with what the Army could buy right now.

Necessity is the mother of invention here, but that doesn’t make the necessity less dire. The downside of doing all these innovations at once is the Army can only afford to buy each one in dribbles and drabs. That’s economically inefficient, since you’re paying the overhead to keep production lines going for only a few vehicles.

VIDEO Stryker CROWS-J Javelin - Live-Fire:

How the Army’s making do — and where it’s struggling — we’ll discuss in Part II of this article, out tomorrow.
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[*] posted on 18-8-2017 at 05:22 PM

Army Boosts Stryker Firepower, But Active Protection Lags

By Sydney J. Freedberg Jr.

on August 17, 2017 at 11:15 AM

VIDEO Stryker Dragoon 30 mm - Live-Fire Closeup:

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND: The Army is rapidly upgunning its 8×8 Stryker vehicles to better deter the Russians in Eastern Europe, as we wrote yesterday. But soldiers are still figuring out how they’ll use the new vehicles. And the service as a whole is struggling to update the entire armored force, from the 20-ton Stryker to the 70-ton M1 Abrams, let alone develop all-new vehicles the way Senate Armed Services chairman John McCain would want.

This week, the focus here is on test-firing the new Strykers: the Dragoon variant with an unmanned turret holding a 30mm autocannon, and the CROWS-J weapons upgrade that adds Javelin anti-tank missiles to the rest of the Stryker force. The Army’s also looking to improve the Strykers’ defenses with Active Protection Systems to shoot down incoming missiles, but testing has just begun.

Stryker Dragoon

By contrast, the Army’s built eight prototypes of the 30mm Stryker Dragoon — two of them have already been destroyed to test their defenses — and the first of 83 production vehicles arrives this month. The last of 83 vehicles earmarked for the Germany-based 2nd Cavalry Regiment (2CR) will be delivered in May.

“It is a marked increase in capability,” said Lt. Col. Troy Meissel. “(But) we don’t know how directly it’s going to impact our tactics, our doctrine, and that’s what this next phase of the operation…is. How are we going to incorporate it into the 2CR formation and employ it in the European theater?”

Meissel is second in command of the Germany-based 2nd Cavalry Regiment, whose urgent 2015 request for more firepower kickstarted the effort to upgrade the Stryker in the first place. The vehicles’ mobility has put 2nd Cav on the front line of European deterrence, moving rapidly across NATO territory and beyond. Meissel just flew in from Tbilisi, Georgia, where 2nd Cav troops recently completed a 2,500-kilometer (1,500-mile) road march from their barracks in Germany. Only one Stryker out of more than 50 (and one LMTV truck) didn’t make it the whole way.

Wheeled vehicles like Strykers can travel long distances on roads at higher speeds with fewer breakdowns and less fuel than heavier tracked vehicles like M1 Abrams tanks or M2 Bradley troop carriers. The price is that they’re also much less well armed and armored.

Close up on cannon mounting and sensors of Stryker Dragoon

A small number of Strykers in each brigade can fire TOW anti-tank missiles or – a particularly cumbersome variant – a 105mm tank cannon. But the vast majority are Infantry Carrier Vehicles, carrying a driver, gunner, and nine foot troops, and armed only with either a grenade launcher or a .50 caliber (12.7mm) machinegun. In most Stryker units, the longest-range weapon is the Javelin anti-tank missile, but until they get the new Javelin mounts on their vehicles, firing one requires an infantryman to get out of his armored vehicle and set up the launcher behind whatever cover he could find.

By contrast, with the new equipment, the Javelin-armed Stryker just has to come to a brief halt in order to fire, with no one having to dismount. The 30mm model can fire on the move.

Infantry and scout platoons will haves a 50-50 ratio of Strykers with 30mm turrets (and 7.62mm coaxial machineguns) and Strykers with Javelin launchers (and .50 cal machineguns or grenade launchers).

Two crucial caveats. First, an upgunned Stryker isn’t a tank.

Even the uparmored 25-ton models weigh less than the armor plating on an M1, a 30mm cannon can’t penetrate armor like a 120mm one, and a Javelin is only a midsize anti-tank missile.

Second, Stryker vehicles exist to support the infantry, providing them transport and covering fire, so at some point the guys in back need to get out. “This is not designed to fight tanks,” Lt. Col. Miessel emphasized. “The center of gravity of our formation is still the infantry in the back, dismounted, maneuvering under the cover of fire.”

Close-up on turret sensors of Stryker Dragoon

That said, when the infantry attacks, the new longer-ranged weapons let the Strykers provide more covering fire while staying further from the enemy, a major concern given their relatively light armor. And when not attacking – when scouting ahead or falling back in face of superior force, for instance – the new weapons let the Strykers open fire from further away, hopefully out of the enemy’s range, and then scamper (“disengage”), hopefully before the enemy closes and retaliates.

That lets the 2nd Cavalry exploit the great advantage of Strykers, their long-range mobility, without falling afoul of their great weakness, their relatively thin armor. If the Russians invade Poland or the Baltics, the upgunned 2nd Cav still won’t be killing many T-90 or Armata heavy tanks. What it can do is take a toll on their less well-armored supporting vehicles – scouts, troop transports, and so on – and discourage their infantry from advancing on foot. The new weapons will make for a more effective delaying action as the cavalry buys time for NATO’s heavy forces to deploy.

Or at least that’s what I read between the lines of what the Army’s saying. Finding out how the new Strykers will really be used is the big job ahead for the 2nd Cavalry and the Army institutions supporting it.

Raytheon Quick Kill Active Protection System

Active Protection

While the Army is fielding Strykers with improved firepower, it’s just beginning tests of better protection. During the Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns, the Army uparmored most of its vehicles, including the Stryker. The vehicle went from 20 tons to 25 tons as the Army added RPG-resistant “slat armor” to the sides and redesigned the underbody from a flat bottom to a double-v hull (DVH). As on many US vehicles, the extra armor saved lives but reduced performance and increased breakdowns. The Army’s now fielding an upgraded DVH with 100 more horsepower and a stronger suspension system.

An M1 tank of 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, unloads in Bremerhaven, Germany in January.

The Army doesn’t want to just start piling on weight again.

Indeed, the Stryker simply can’t carry enough armor to stop the latest Russian-made tandem warheads, which use one charge to blast a path for a second. Even the M1 Abrams would need a prohibitive increase in weight to stop these warheads, said Maj. David Bassett, the Army’s Program Executive Officer for Ground Combat Systems.

So instead, the Army is evaluating Active Protection Systems (APS), essentially mini-missile defenses that use radar to detect incoming missiles and then fire explosives to shoot them down.

The Army’s own long-term solution is called the Modular Active Protection System (MAPS), but it wants to field something off-the-shelf ASAP. Under consideration: either the Trophy or Iron Fist — both Israeli — or Iron Rain, or the US Iron Curtain.
“Characterization” – it’s not a full formal “test” – of APS on M1s is well underway, Bassett said, with work on Trophy ahead of Iron Curtain and Iron Fist.

M2 Bradley in Iraq

“We’re very close to a decision on the Trophy system,” Bassett said. “We’re looking to make those decisions rapidly so that we can spend money in the next fiscal year….on a brigade worth of capability of Trophy on the Abrams.”

Unfortunately, because money for the other vehicles didn’t move as fast, Bassett said, “we’re just now starting testing on Stryker and we’re not yet in test on Bradley.” The Bradley, in particular, can only handle the weight and power requirements of APS with an improved turret, a feature not found on current models but only the A4 upgrade. The “characterization” tests are being done on an A3 Bradley modified with some A4 features, what one officer called a “FrankenBradley.”

Together, Stryker and Bradley are “60 to 90 days behind where I wanted them to be at this point,” said Bassett. That’s particularly problematic because these lighter vehicles were less well-armored than the M1 Abrams to begin with, so they arguably need Active Protection Systems more.

Strykers with slat armor in Afghanistan

Incremental Upgrades

Adding new weapons and protections to existing vehicles is a modernization strategy the Army can afford — but at a laborious pace.

Consider the Army’s three brigades of Double-V Hull (DVH) Strykers, with a redesigned and uparmored underbody to defend against roadside bombs in Afghanistan and Iraq. (The 2nd Cavalry, in Europe, has the original flat-bottom model because NATO, as the defender, is more likely to be mining the roads than the Russians). The Army has designed an upgrade – the DVH A1 – with a new engine, suspension, and other improvements. But it will take nine years to convert all three Stryker DVH brigades.

“The DVH A1 is funded to a brigade every three years. That’s really slow; it’s not terribly cost-efficient,” Bassett said. “On tank and Bradley upgrades, we’re going to be doing a fraction of a BCT (Brigade Combat Team) annually, based on the available resources. And on AMPV, we’ve seen the production rate (planned for future years) begin to come down to make room in the portfolio for other priorities.”

M109A7 Paladin and its armored ammunition carrier.

That said, this incremental approach does deliver real improvements. By contrast, the Army has spent decades and billions on all-new vehicles that never saw service. The most notorious is the Future Combat System, which tried to deliver a whole family of vehicles including an armored howitzer and delivered nothing. And before FCS there was the Crusader howitzer, which was never bought.

Meanwhile the old M109 howitzer has soldiered on, a design first fielded in the 1960s but repeatedly upgraded until almost every component has been replaced. The current Paladin Integrated Management (PIM) program is delivering the M109A7, with new automotive systems fitted under the existing gun turret. The next step will be to upgrade the gun – at which point, said Barrett, “you really have a wholly new platform.”

Yes, the Army could concentrate its efforts on replacing a single vehicle with something new, rather than spread them over upgrades for everything. But that would ultimately deliver less combat power, said Bassett: “We know that…all of these incremental upgrades add more capability to our warfighters in those formations than just replacing the Bradley.”

VIDEO Stryker Dragoon road test:

The Protection Problem

“There’s still a desire for a wholly new capability,” Bassett acknowledged. For now, the Army is refining new technologies so they’ll be ready to start a new vehicle program, someday, when the value-added and maturity of the new tech outweighs the risk.

There are some big hurdles, especially the need for breakthroughs in lightweight armor materials. Since 9/11, the need to add on armor against ever-greater threats has increased the weight of almost every vehicle, from Strykers to Bradleys to the M1. At over 70 tons, the uparmored M1 is pushing the limits of roads, bridges, suspensions, and supply lines. Adding more armor hits diminishing returns, and the Army Chief of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley, recently emphasized the need for new, lighter materials.

“General Milley was very candid about the fact that that (i.e. new armor) is what we’re going to need to transform these vehicles,” Bassett said. To date, there’ve been improvements in armor, but not a revolution. “If I were to go to build the Abrams tank today with modern steel, modern manufacturing techniques, I could make it lighter without giving up any capability… We could get it back down under 70 tons. But I don’t think it makes it a 40-ton vehicle.”

For now, the only way to get a lot more defense without a lot more weight is to use Active Protection Systems like Trophy, which can’t stop tank shells but do kill incoming missiles. Trophy adds about a half-ton to the 73-ton M1, Bassett said. The main issue with APS isn’t the weight per se, but installing it in the right place so it doesn’t upset the balance of the turret, he said.

Being relatively low-weight, APS can also go on lighter armored vehicles like Stryker. The Stryker’s boxy body also gives it plenty of room for other upgrades, from the 30 mm turret to anti-aircraft missiles to drone-zapping lasers.

Better versions of existing vehicles may lack the combat power and sex appeal of all new designs. But it’s what the Army can afford — and as the newly upgunned Strykers show, it can make a real difference.
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[*] posted on 19-8-2017 at 12:52 PM

To Boost Firepower in Europe, Soldiers Test Stryker Cannon, Javelin System

(Source: US Army; issued Aug 17, 2017)

A Stryker Dragoon fires 30mm rounds at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md. The 2nd Cavalry Regiment spent six weeks testing the new Stryker vehicle and a remote Javelin system, which are expected to head to Germany early next year for additional user testing. (US Army photo)

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. --- As one of the first Soldiers to shoot a powerful 30 mm cannon from a new Stryker combat vehicle, Staff Sgt. 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 Col. Glenn Dean, the Army's Stryker program manager, during a media event Tuesday at Aberdeen.

Six Stryker vehicles from each 30mm 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 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 Lt. Col. 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 30mm 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 Maj. Gen. 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.

Footage of Army's new Stryker combat vehicles equipped with 30 mm cannon and Javelin anti-tank missile systems. (ARDEC video)

"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.


During the recent 30 mm cannon testing at Aberdeen, Soldiers saw a vast improvement in accuracy compared to the .50-caliber machine gun, which is mounted on many Stryker vehicles.

"With this, we're seeing a shot group about the size of a basketball," Sgt. 1st Class Nicholas Young, senior NCO of the Army's Stryker program, said of the remote-operated cannon hitting a target at 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."

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[*] posted on 21-8-2017 at 04:20 PM

Lockheed Martin Wins U.S. Army’s Squad X Experimentation Project

Posted 2 days ago in Companies, Daily News, Defense, News, Other Gear & Gadgets by Miles

DARPA’s Squad X program has recently taken a major step forward with the U.S. Army awarding the preliminary team contract to Lockheed Martin to develop the technological projects within the program, at a value of $12.9 million. The program is an experiment by DARPA to bring a number of technologies that have been well used by vehicles and larger entities but have always been too cumbersome or inefficient to be utilized by an Army or Marine Corps infantry squad.

Specifically, the topics that DARPA is looking for are Precision Engagement up to 1000 meters, Non-Kinetic Engagement out to 300 meters (dealing with enemy UAVs, jammers, etc…), Squad Sensing (Friendly UAV/UGV use), and  Squad Autonomy which would allow a squad to be able to locate individual members or collective teams, without the use of GPS devices.

The full DARPA presentation on exactly the sorts of development that DARPA wants is available here with 66 slides. From the DARPA slide-

Some of the ideas DARPA has when it comes to what technologies will be paired with at the squad and fire team level-

These slides break down how the communications nodes will be divided up, between both an Army and Marine Corps squad-

We are already seeing some of this move towards an enhanced squad of the future with the Marine Corps idea of experimenting with “Uber” squads, and the actual recent implementation of some of the concepts iin Australia with 3/5 on exercise there.

Although very futuristic and certainly worthy of a chance to succeed, I have certain reservations about the program. The first one is that similar to what killed the Land Warrior program of the 1990s (that was an abysmal failure), due to the Government spending, the technology could easily overtake such a large project. The fruits of Land Warrior and later Nett Warrior didn’t even see active service or come into full issue until 2007, by which time they were completely outdated by newer technology. If history tells us anything, any digital system today is going to be obsolete in a year. It would perhaps be better to focus on one particular technological breakthrough, develop it quickly, get it into the field, and then work from there. Instead of spending years getting a whole suite of systems just right, only to buy them for millions of dollars, and issue them to troops that were in elementary school when they were being developed. 

David Axe from Reuters has a well-written opinion piece on Squad X, comparing it to its predecessor Land Warrior from the 1990s.
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[*] posted on 21-8-2017 at 11:13 PM

Aviation Soldiers Usher in a New Era of Warfare

(Source: US Army; issued Aug 18, 2017)

AL ASAD AIR BASE, Iraq --- The air mission briefing began promptly at Al Asad Air Base, Iraq. The Soldier in charge of the briefing, Spc. Eleazar Gonzalez, provided updates on the operating environment and flight schedules, and coordinated with other sections to cover maintenance and weather. The meeting ended with Gonzalez quizzing his fellow MQ-1C "Gray Eagle" operators on vital knowledge relating to the unmanned aerial system they operate.

With the advent of new technology, junior leaders in the U.S. Army experience larger strategic impact and handle more responsibility than ever before. Nowhere is this more prevalent than the 29th Combat Aviation Brigade's Company D, 10th Aviation Regiment, 10th Mountain Division, which uses the Gray Eagle unmanned aerial system in support of Operation Inherent Resolve and Operation Spartan Shield.

"We have specialists and sergeants fulfilling the same crew obligations as warrant officers and commissioned officers in manned aviation units," said Capt. Joshua Heiner, the commander of D Company. "It is definitely empowerment at the junior levels."

Besides handling briefing duties that are normally handled by more senior ranks, Soldiers in D Company. also have the responsibility to remotely operate the multi-million dollar Gray Eagle as a two-Soldier team, fulfilling roles as aircraft commanders or payload operators.

"The aircraft commander is in charge of the flight and is responsible for the safety of the bird and all of its equipment," said Sgt. Manuel Dominguez, a Gray Eagle aircraft commander with over 600 flight hours.

The Gray Eagle operators provide reconnaissance, surveillance and target acquisition for Operation Inherent Resolve, the campaign to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

"The value of our company is that we offer commanders on the ground a long-endurance, armed platform that can build situational awareness and develop targets, then provide a precision strike capability if the situation warrants," said Heiner.

The ability provides a strategic impact due to higher-level units that rely on the intelligence gathered by the Gray Eagle's payload operator.

"We provide full-motion video to higher echelons," said Sgt. Blake Harrell, an aircraft commander who currently holds the company strike record.

The D Company call sign is "Slayer," because the Gray Eagle operators also provide offensive strike capabilities in the fight against ISIS in Iraq.

"We have 20-year-old aircraft commanders responsible for putting ordnance on target in support of ground forces," said Heiner. "They are doing an exceptional job at it."

The UAS operators on numerous occasions identified targets for other strike platforms, specifically the AH-64E Apache from the 4th Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment and the U.S. Air Force.

From reconnaissance to strikes, the amount of responsibility on the Soldiers of D Company is daunting, but they work through their training and their initiative to achieve their high rate of success.

"We handle one step at a time -- we use checklist discipline, training and we trust our leadership and the standardization office," said Harrell. "We become great at multitasking and prioritizing."

The Gray Eagle provides a wide array of support to the Coalition and partner forces, but overlooking the smallest details can keep the unmanned system out of the fight. Fortunately the maintainers of D Company remain focused on keeping the birds in the air.

"There is no place for complacency in aviation," said Spc. Tyler Lewis, an unmanned aircraft system repairer.

Although the aircraft commanders bear the ultimate responsibility for the Gray Eagle when it is on flying missions, the maintenance Soldiers of D Company have the essential task of keeping the unmanned system in fighting shape.

"We keep up our readiness, keep the Gray Eagle mission capable," said Spc. William Lindmeier, an unmanned aircraft system repairer.

The maintenance, also completed by junior Soldiers, has already exceeded the current fleet-wide standard of 50% Soldier, 50% civilian contract maintenance.

"We do 90% of the maintenance," said Lindmeier.

The 90% Soldier maintenance standard is the Army's long-term goal and has already been realized through the efforts of D Company Soldiers.

Throughout the deployment, D Company's maintenance team had to handle numerous responsibilities in order to maintain the advanced unmanned aerial systems.

"We were juggling landing birds with post-flight preventative maintenance on top of our weekly maintenance," said Spc. Draven King, an unmanned aircraft system repairer.

Through the efforts of the UAS maintainers, D Company's Gray Eagle operators were able to fly over 2,000 hours for two months in a row, which is the most flight hours recorded by any Gray Eagle unit.

Evidenced by their record of success, the UAS maintainers will continue to work together to keep the Gray Eagles operational and in the fight.

"We have great team cohesion that contributes directly to our success," said Winkler.

Adding to the complexity of D Company's mission is the fact that the company itself is split between two locations, Kuwait and Iraq, and completes two distinct missions.

In Kuwait, D Company Soldiers support Operation Spartan Shield by conducting training flights and cross-training with other units and maritime missions, said Heiner.

Reconnaissance and surveillance training are viewed as opportunities for the Soldiers of D Company to sharpen their skills, said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Ryan Moore, a platoon leader and operations officer from D Company.

D Company is set to continue supporting operations throughout the U.S. Army Central area of operations by providing reconnaissance, surveillance, target acquisition and an offensive strike capability until later this fall when the unit will return to Fort Drum, N.Y.

The 29th Combat Aviation Brigade, an Army National Guard Brigade, will integrate another Gray Eagle company and continue to provide UAS support to Operation Inherent Resolve and Operation Spartan Shield for the remainder of the year.

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[*] posted on 22-8-2017 at 12:38 PM

Invisible Artillery: Army Wants Electronic Warfare At All Levels

By Sydney J. Freedberg Jr.

on August 21, 2017 at 11:01 AM

The Army’s NERO program tested a converted Navy jammer on a Grey Eagle drone, the Army version of the Predator.

PENTAGON: Army Chief of Staff Mark Milley, has ordered a review of service’s longstanding shortfalls in electronic warfare, officers told me in an exclusive interview. The ultimate goal: give commanders from platoon to corps the ability to shut down enemy radio and radar as readily as they now call in airstrikes and artillery. It’s a critical part of the Army’s plan to hit future enemies from all possible angles at once, a concept called Multi-Domain Battle.

The EW review, which Milley officially launched in April, is separate from a high-profile review of Army networks we’ve previously reported on. The network review focuses on streamlining and strengthening a wide range of Army systems so they can better withstand cyber/electronic attack. The EW review, however, looks at more active measures to detect, deceive, and disrupt enemy radio and radar. Those are capabilities the Army almost entirely disbanded after 1991, only to relearn from Russia’s 2014 invasion of Ukraine how devastating they could be.

Both reviews touch on cyber warfare, which is inseparable from electronic warfare when it comes to wireless networks, which includes all military radio nets. The EW review’s full remit, in fact, is to study “gaps… in the integration of cyber, electronic warfare, and intelligence,” Col. Mark Dotson said. He works electronic warfare at the Army’s Cyber Center at Fort Gordon, which is co-leading the review along with the Intelligence Center Fort Huachuca.

Both centers are involved in the network review as well as the EW review. But “they are really separate … occurring in parallel,” said Col. Sean Keenan, the chief of staff of the Army’s cyber & electronic warfare directorate in the Pentagon.

The EW review is also at an earlier stage. “We are just beginning to identify…some of what we think may be gaps,” said Dotson. The review team is still figuring out the scope of the problem and estimating how long its work will take. Its final recommendations are due back to Gen. Milley “late this year, early next year,” said Dotson, but the exact date is still being nailed down, with the team submitting a timeline this week.

Cyber soldiers from the 780th Military Intelligence Brigade in the desert at the National Training Center.

Beyond Brigades

One problem that’s already apparent, said Dotson: The Army’s current plan to rebuild electronic warfare focuses on combat brigades and neglects higher-level formations, like divisions and corps.

This isn’t merely an administrative detail. In a relatively static, low-intensity guerrilla war like Afghanistan or Iraq, where enemies operate in small groups with light weapons, each Army brigade could operate more or less independently in its assigned zone. Higher headquarters mostly just provided support. But in a fast-moving, high-intensity war against a nation-state like Russia, which masses forces and maneuvers them long distances, a single brigade could easily be overwhelmed. Higher headquarters like divisions and corps must direct operations over a much wider area on a much tighter timeline.

“Our programs of record were initially focused when we were a BCT (brigade combat team)-centric army,” said Dotson. There are new cyber/EW teams training with brigades, new EW specialists with new planning software in brigade headquarters, new equipment (most sensors) rushed to a frontline brigade in Europe, and new long-range jammers in development – though they won’t enter service until 2023.

“We think we have it about right at the brigade level,” said Dotson, “so really what we’re looking at now we’re looking at now is how do we address what potentially could be gaps at other echelons.” Just as it’s been growing its brigades’ EW capabilities, the Army may need to add personnel and equipment to those divisions and corps, he said.

The goal is to give headquarters at every level their own cyber and EW expertise, if not necessarily equipment. Each HQ needs specialists able to tell less technically-inclined commanders what options are available and then translate their orders into specific effects. Those effects may then be produced by the unit’s own “organic” equipment or by another unit providing support, much as Army forces call in artillery and airstrikes today.

The Army disbanded its Combat Electronic Warfare Intelligence (CEWI) units, like the one shown here, after the Cold War.

Treating Electrons Like Artillery

Even the procedures for cyber and electronic warfare will be much the same as traditional artillery, said Lt. Col. Chris Walls. A cyber/EW expert on the Army staff, Walls helped write the new field manual on Cyberspace & Electronic Warfare Operations, out in April.

“When we were writing FM 3-12, one of the things that we tried very hard to do was not to place additional burdens on tactical echelon commanders and staffs, because those individuals are already in a high stress environment making very tough decisions,” Walls told me. “We tried as much as possible to use existing process for them to leverage these (cyber/EW) effects, because I don’t want to build something new for that brigade commander to worry about when he’s in the close fight.”

“We tried to make cyber and EW as consistent with traditional battlefield processes as possible,” agreed Col. Keenan. “We have tried to replicate the traditional fires processes that combat arms commanders know and understand to make cyber and EW effective and easily understood.”

At least since World War II, one of the US Army’s great strengths has been its ability to rapidly concentrate firepower from multiple places and units in support of a single point. Each echelon has its own organic heavy weapons whose range is appropriate to its area of responsibility: Roughly speaking, squads have hand grenades, platoons have machineguns, battalions have mortars, brigades have howitzers, divisions and corps have long-range rockets. But each echelon can also call in the others when needed, with division artillery potentially firing in support of a platoon. Now the Army wants to do the same with the invisible artillery of electronic and cyber warfare.

“When I was an infantry officer and I was attacking a strong point, I wanted mortars, artillery, rockets, attack aviation if I had it, all firing at the target at the same time… to force them to face multiple dilemmas simultaneously,” where trying to counter one threat exposed them to another, said Walls. “We want to have a similar effect in electronic warfare and cyberspace, where we’re layering multiple effects on high priority targets.”
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[*] posted on 25-8-2017 at 12:59 PM

Army Seeks Gamers' Input to Help Shape Future Force

(Source: US Army Training and Doctrine Command; issued Aug. 23, 2017)

The US Army is currently seeking soldiers to provide feedback through online gameplay in order to contribute to the development of the future force. (US Army photo)

LANGLEY, Va. --- The Army is currently seeking soldiers to provide feedback through online gameplay in order to contribute to the development of the future force.

Operation Overmatch is a gaming environment within the Early Synthetic Prototyping effort. Its purpose is to connect soldiers to inform concept and capability developers, scientists and engineers across the Army.

"What we want is two-way communication, and what better medium to use than video games," said Army Lt. Col. Brian Vogt, ESP project lead with U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command's Army Capabilities Integration Center.

Encouraging Soldier Innovation

Through a collaborative effort between TRADOC, U.S. Army Research and Development Command and Army Game Studio, Operation Overmatch was created to encourage soldier innovation through crowd-sourcing ideas within a synthetic environment.

"Soldiers have the advantage of understanding how equipment, doctrine and organization will be used in the field -- the strengths and weaknesses," said Michael Barnett, chief engineer at the Army Game Studio and project lead for Operation Overmatch. "And they have immediate ideas about what to use, what to change and what to abandon -- how to adapt quickly."

Within Operation Overmatch, soldiers will be able to play eight versus eight against other soldiers, where they will fight advanced enemies with emerging capabilities in realistic scenarios.

Players will also be able to experiment with weapons, vehicles, tactics and team organization. Game analytics and soldier feedback will be collected and used to evaluate new ideas and to inform areas for further study.

Currently, the game is in early development, Vogt said.

One of the benefits of collecting feedback through the gaming environment within ESP is the ability to explore hundreds -- if not thousands -- of variations, or prototypes, of vehicles and weapons at a fraction of what it would cost to build the capability at full scale, Vogt explained. A vehicle or weapons system that might take years of engineering to physically build can be changed or adapted within minutes in the game.

"In a game environment, we can change the parameters or the abilities of a vehicle by keystrokes," he said. "We can change the engine in a game environment and it could accelerate faster, consume more fuel or carry more fuel. All these things are options within the game -- we just select it, and that capability will be available for use. Of course, Army engineers will determine if the change is plausible before we put it in the scenarios."

The game currently models a few future vehicles to include variants of manned armored vehicles, robotic vehicles and unmanned aerial vehicles. The scenarios are centered on manned/unmanned teaming at the squad and platoon level in an urban environment. Through game play, soldiers will provide insights about platform capabilities and employment.

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[*] posted on 26-8-2017 at 02:37 PM

US Army tackles teaming robots and ground forces on battlefield

By: Jen Judson   7 hours ago

An automated direct/indirect mortar system suppresses enemy fire during a robotics demonstration at the Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning, Ga., on July 22, 2017. (Jen Judson/Staff)

FORT BENNING, Ga. ― The U.S. Army is no stranger to teaming manned aircraft with unmanned ones, but it is now tackling how to approach the concept on the ground ― a far more complicated undertaking considering the difficult and extremely variable terrain and the multitude of terrestrial threats that exist on the modern battlefield.

The Army’s Maneuver Center of Excellence held a demonstration at Fort Benning, Georgia, on Tuesday that showcased its efforts to develop a robotic wingman within the maneuver force and how to incorporate robotic capability within a tank formation.

Almost out of necessity, the Army has progressed rapidly in aerial manned-unmanned teaming. It was already deep in testing the concept of pairing manned helicopters with unmanned aircraft systems when the service decided in 2013 to restructure its aviation fleet. The move included retiring the Army’s armed scout helicopter ― the OH-58 Kiowa Warrior ― and filling the gap with AH-64 Apache attack helicopters and Shadow drones. The capability is fielded, being used operationally and continues to grow incrementally.

The Army sees a promising future for manned-unmanned teaming, or MUM-T, in ground maneuver forces, but has years to go before there’s a clear picture of how capability will be implemented in real battlefield scenarios.

“We think you can pair unmanned aerial systems, unmanned ground systems with the ground force to extend the reach of that formation and extend the time over which they can be effective,” Don Sando, the deputy to the commanding general for combat development at the Maneuver Center of Excellence, told Defense News at Tuesday‘s demonstration.

Much of the technology is there to drive robotics and autonomy into maneuver formations, but when it comes to developing the tactics, techniques and procedures, the Army is figuring out “how we want to massage this,” said Robert Sadowski, robotics chief with the Army‘s Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center. “The next 10 to 15 years will help us figure out how we want to embed robotics and autonomous systems into the formation.”

Much of the work now is being driven by the Army’s Combat Vehicle Modernization Strategy and its Robotics and Autonomous Systems Strategy, both published roughly within the last two years.

The demonstration featured two separate scenarios exhibiting capabilities developed over the last year and are still in early phases of development and refinement.

In the first scenario, a semiautonomous MRZR with a tethered Hoverfly quadcopter is deployed to conduct reconnaissance of enemy forces. A robotic wingman Humvee moves out ahead of manned Humvees, sensing enemy positions.

An MRZR vehicle with a tethered Hoverfly quadcopter unmanned aircraft system was used to perform reconnaissance and surveillance during two demonstrations of ground robotics at the Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning, Georgia, on July 22. The tether provided a power source the UAS to keep it loitering in the air for longer periods of time. (Photo by Jen Judson/Staff)

A manned Humvee follows behind the unmanned wingman with a Long Range Advance Scout Surveillance System, or LRAS3, then identifies targets and passes the information to the robotic wingman. The manned Humvee then directs the robotic wingman to orient on a target.

While the Humvee section prepares to fire on a target, an M113 armored personnel carrier moves to a second area of interest, opens up its back ramp and deploys a small Packbot ground robot from within the chassis to check out the area.

An M113 Armored Personnel Carrier deposits a Pakbot ground robot to perform reconnaissance during a robotic demonstration at the Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning, Georgia, on August 22. (Photo by Jen Judson/Staff)

The Packbot “in a marsupial sense” then returns to the vehicle, climbing up the ramp and back into a shelf inside.

A Pakbot sits in a shelf in an M113 Armored Personnel Carrier. The Pakbot was deployed from the back of the AMPV during a robotic wingman demonstration at the Manuever Center of Excellence at Fort Benning, Georgia, July 22. It performed reconnaissance before returning to the vehicle. (Photo by Jen Judson/Staff)

The unmanned wingman then fires on the enemy, and the MRZR and manned Humvee with LRAS3 confirm the threats are taken out.

The demonstration was not without flaws. The robotic wingman’s M240 machine gun, which can be easily cleared by a human operator, became jammed. A safety team had to move out to the wingman and fix the jam.

The Army’s Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center, or ARDEC, is currently developing an automated machine gun.

When using experimental systems paired with old equipment, while trying to push the capability envelope, it’s not unexpected to encounter technical issues, an announcer at the demonstration explained to the crowd.

The wingman concept is just in its first phase of a three-year joint capability demonstration between ARDEC and TARDEC.

The second demonstration ― the Abrams Lethality Enabler ― was designed to show what can be done if the weapons loader in an Abrams tank is freed up to control ground robots. The concept incorporates an Abrams compact autoloader in order to allow the loader to focus on other tasks.

In the second scenario, the MRZR continues its reconnaissance, identifying enemy locations. An Abrams section is sitting in a concealed position while an 81mm automated direct/indirect mortar suppresses the enemy with firepower while another semiautonomous vehicle ― the M58 smoke generator called Wolf ― moves out into a position where it can conceal the Abrams section in order for it to move into a more advantageous location for firing on the enemy.

The M58 Wolf - a smoke generator with a robotics kit from General Dynamics Land Systems provided smoke obscurant capability during a ground robotics demonstration involving an Abrams tank section at the Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning, Georgia, July 22. (Photo by Jen Judson/Staff)
[Wrong pic posted by Defense News]

The Wolf system deploys heavy smoke and the Abrams section moves up a hill and behind a treeline to get into position. One of the tanks concealed by trees fires on the enemy, taking out the target.

Throughout the two demonstrations, the robotic systems were commanded using a common controller.

The demonstrations, according to Sadowski, are meant to “wet the whistle.” He said in two to five years, the expectation is to take these ground robotics programs out to the National Training Center with much-improved tracking capability and the ability to conduct operations faster.

“You will actually see a much closer to real tempo,” he said.
Sadowski said the U.S. military obviously isn’t the only military in the world developing robotic and autonomous capabilities. Russia, for example, has fielded similar capabilities and is testing them in combat in Syria.

But the way the U.S. Army can continue to stay ahead of the curve is to figure out the best possible way to employ the technologies within formations, he said, which means frequent demonstrations like the one at Fort Benning are necessary.

The penultimate demonstration for such capabilities will happen in 2023, he told Defense News following the exercise. But the Army will experiment with many configurations and scenarios leading up to that, including upcoming exercises such as the Joint Warfighting Assessment in Germany in March 2018.

One of the challenges the effort faces now is having to use earlier-generation mechanical systems and trying to automate them, but robotics and autonomous incorporation will become easier as the Army develops future systems such as the next-generation combat vehicle about to embark on a prototype-building phase.

Some other challenges won’t go away with more modern vehicles. The MCoE has to be sure to understand how these capabilities are employed with the force, including taking into account the cognitive burden on soldiers, said Col. Richard Hornstein, ARDEC’s military deputy director.

The Abrams Lethality Enabler program had to think about the effects on the loader. “[The war fighter] may be positioned in a certain way in a vehicle and it’s driving down bumpy tank trails, and how can he make decisions if he’s being overwhelmed by nausea?” Hornstein said. “So there are a lot of cognitive burdens as well that need to be understood as we start implementing robotics control from moving platforms on the battlefield.”
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