US Army Modernisation messages at AUSA

Secretary of the Army, Ryan McCarthy (left) with Chief of Staff of the Army General James McConville (right) during a Day 1 briefing at AUSA.

Every military force needs to modernise, but this is getting harder in the age of information as opposed to the industrial age. Andrew Drwiega reports from AUSA.

AUSA 2019

The annual Association of the US Army (AUSA) Land Warfare convention was staged in mid-October with the theme: America’s Army: Ready Now, Investing in the Future.

“We are at a point of Great Power competition taking place over a multi-domain environment,” stated Secretary of the Army, Ryan McCarthy during his keynote address on the first morning. Modernisation and increased readiness were the key to not losing the next war, he continued.

Chief of Staff of the Army General James McConville said that the new doctrines and organisations had been the result of the 1980s, including a Big 5 of systems:

  • The Abrahams tank,
  • The Bradley fighting vehicle,
  • The Patriot missile system,
  • The Black Hawk,
  • The Apache helicopters.

“Things were different now,” he stated: “Cannot be an industrial army in the information age.” He added: “We recognise the importance of cyber, electronic warfare and space. We don’t have all the people right at the moment.

James said that two good years of defence budgets had allowed the Army’s readiness to recover, but stated that a minimum of two more good years was needed. “We have a lot of great initiatives that we need to deliver. This is a continuity on priorities we have been talking about for some time. We must modernise the Army and need the resources to do it.”

ViaSat Connectivity Survey

Modernisation, while always desired, is often not that easy to achieve and maintain. With the civil sector now driving technology development, for the most part ahead of the military, there is building pressure on defence to keep up with the modern technology expectations of its own people.

A study among 300 US servicemen and Department of Defense (DoD) employees has revealed that many believe that they “lack basic levels of connectivity needed to accomplish their objectives.”

Conducted by the Government Business Council (GBC), the research division of Government Executive Media Group, and global communications company Viasat, the findings highlight the need for the defence community to keep pace with the civilian sector in terms of innovation.

The challenge to the DoD is substantial – how to roll out technology to such a wide and diverse user group across a relatively short period and to budget.

Some of the keynote findings:

  • – Battlefield connectivity – “46 percent of respondents feel they have the level of connectivity needed to successfully execute their mission objectives.”
  • – Falling behind new threats – “27 percent believe the DoD’s budget priorities for communications technology allow the US to effectively keep pace with escalating geopolitical threats.”
  • – Barriers to modernisation – “respondents noted the three biggest challenges facing their organisations’ network modernisation efforts are an inability to keep pace with commercial technology, procurement inefficiencies and limited funding.”
  • Emerging cloud-based systems, artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities will be critical to future mission success – “81 percent of respondents agree it’s critical for US military forces to have access to a modernised end-to-end satellite and terrestrial networks to make cloud-enabled technologies and the Internet of Battlefield Things a reality across the battlespace.”

Robotic Vehicles

Brian Barr, business development programme manager for Pratt Miller talked about the four Expeditionary Modular Autonomous Vehicles (EMAV) that his company had built, one of which was being shown at AUSA. “The market for this type of technology is enormous,” he said of the EMAV.

Weighing in at just under 7,000lb (3,175kg), it can carry over its own weight as speeds up to 72kmh (45mph). Using a hybrid-electric powertrain means that the it can have the best of both capabilities; quick up to the forward line and then switch to electric power for the final approach near the line of battle.

Barr said that the EMAV had been entered into the US Army’s Next Generation Combat Vehicle (NGCV) Robotic Combat Vehicle (RCV) Phase II demonstration and assessment event held from 13-17 May, organised by the Combat Capabilities Development Centre’s Ground Vehicle Systems Center (CCDC GVSC). There were six other participants including Polaris, AM General and QinetiQ North America – all are now awaiting a Request for Proposal (RfP) from the Army. With a low centre of gravity, the EMAV can climb 60 percent grades and 40 percent side slopes.

Turret programmes

Through its new Modernised Turret (M-TUR) programme, Lockheed Martin has improved on its existing Modernised Target Acquisition Designation Sight and Pilot Night Vision Sensor (M-TADS/PNVS) through an improved modular design.

“We have made significant changes including structural stiffening, improved motors and actuators,” said Tom Eldredge, director of Apache Fire Control programmes at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control.

Fine refinements make the best better – Lockheed Martin has improved the Apache’s sensor turret with modifications to please maintainers.

“The desired effect that has been achieved is to eliminate the latency in turret operations witnessed in older versions. We have listened to the after-action reviews of the Army’s pilots and have improved the slew rate,” said Eldredge.

Another modification was made to allow maintainers easier access to the sensor turret. “There is no need to remove the wire strike feature which used to hinder maintainers getting access to subcomponents within the turret. It used to take up to 13 hours and require the swapping out of the line replaceable unit – a job that had to be done off the flight line. Now the two-level maintenance design allows the replacement of modules on the flight line – some as quickly as 30 minutes.”

Eldredge expects turret reliability to be improved by up to 40 percent and aircraft will stay on the flight line longer instead of having to be removed for component changes.

Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV)

Oshkosh’s Mike Ivy, senior vice president, International Programmes stated that the various options for the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) fleet were as a result of the company funding its own research and development budget.

However, Oshkosh has partnered with several companies to produce versions for different functions and capabilities. Joined by L3Harris, the L-ATV C2 has been turned into a command and control centre. Working with UVision to incorporate its Hero-120 tactical loitering munition.

The top mounted launcher can carry up to six systems, each with a 3.5kg warhead and with a loitering flight time up to one hour. An additional JLTV was displayed with Elbit’s Spear, vehicle mounted 120mm soft recoil motor system.

Earlier in September, it had been announced that the US Marine Corps (USMC) was planning to acquire 15,390 JLTVs as direct one-for-one replacements for its legacy HMMWVs fleet.

The Oshkosh / Uvision Joint Light Tactical Vehicle with added punch – a battery of six Hero-120 loitering munitions.

LOMAH (location of miss and hit)

Meggitt’s Stationary Infantry Target with clever miss and hit target indicator device to make range work much more simple.

Before AUSA began, Meggitt Training Systems announced that it had won a $48 million contract to supply Aerial Weapons Scoring Systems (AWSS) to the US Army.

During the show it was promoting its Stationary Infantry Target (SIT) with LOMAH (location of miss and hit), The SIT is an adaptable training device that can house a variety of target silhouettes.

However, it is the technology within the LOMAH that has added a new dimension to target shooting. As the company states, it measures “the precise time of a bullet’s supersonic shock wave passing over a ballistically protected microphone sensor array.”

This gives not only a precise location of the strike, which is presented to the shooter through a graphical image “on the shooter’s firing point computer.”

by Andrew Drwiega