Army Begins Limited User Test of Paladin Upgrade
Ashley John-Givens In late October, the Army began the Limited User Test (LUT) of the Self-Propelled Howitzer Paladin Integrated Management (PIM) program. Soldiers from Alpha Battery, 4th Battalion-27th Field Artillery, 1st Armored Division, of Fort Bliss, Texas are set to complete a week long field exercise in simulated combat conditions, evaluating the PIM’s operational capability and reliability. “The LUT will prove the suitability, effectiveness and survivability of the platform with Soldiers manning the system for the first time,” said Lt. Col. Dan Furber, product manager for Self-Propelled Howitzer Systems. Additionally, the Army will complete the Reliability, Availability, and Maintainability Growth Curve as required prior to the Milestone C Low Rate Initial Production decision scheduled to occur in June 2013. “If the PIM meets expectations the Army will begin Low Rate Initial Production in 2013, with the full production for a total of 580 sets of Self-Propelled Howitzer and Carrier Ammunition Tracked units scheduled to begin in early 2017,” added Furber. Currently, the Paladin PIM is slated to begin fielding in late FY17 as part of the Army’s modernization to its Self-Propelled Howitzer fleet. The PIM modernization effort is a significant upgrade of the M109A6 Paladin which includes buying back Space, Weight, and Power-Cooling. While the Self-Propelled Howitzer’s cannon will remain unchanged the PIM will sport a brand new chassis, engine, transmission, suspension, steering system, to go along with an upgraded electric ramming system. The new 600-volt on-board power system is designed to accommodate emerging technologies and future requirements, as well as current requirements like the Network. The on-board power system leverages technologies developed during the Non-Line-of-Sight Cannon program. “The 70 kW 600-volt on-board power system is a key enabler for adding future capabilities to the PIM once it’s fielded. Anything new the Army gives us, we now have the power to integrate,” said Col. Bill Sheehy, project manager for the Army’s Heavy Brigade Combat Team (HBCT). These improvements will ensure the PIM can keep pace on the battlefield with other members of the Army’s HBCT formation from both an automotive and technological standpoint. PIM is engineered to increase crew force protection, improve readiness and vehicle survivability, and avoid component obsolescence. As a way of keeping life-cycle costs down, the PIM shares power train and suspension components and other systems with the Bradley Fighting Vehicles. Establishing a level of commonality between the vehicles means increased availability and lower costs over the years. The M109 Paladin has been a staple of the battlefield for the better part of the last five decades and the improvements made by the PIM will allow the M109 to stay relevant for the foreseeable future. The PIM Program modernizes the M109 set of vehicles: the Self-Propelled Howitzer and the Carrier Ammunition Tracked. The effort is being led by Product Manager Self-Propelled Howitzer Systems, which falls under leadership of the Project Manager, Heavy Brigade Combat Team within the Program Executive Office for Ground Combat Systems (PEO GCS). Ashley John-Givens is with PEO GCS Public Affairs.
Connecting the dots for aviation mission success
Faces of the Force: John Beck POSITION: Assistant Program Executive Officer for Life Cycle Management UNIT: Program Executive Office Aviation TOTAL YEARS OF SERVICE: 29 EDUCATION: B.S. Liberal Arts, Columbus State University; M.A. National Security and Strategic Studies, U.S. Naval War College; currently pursuing M.S. Logistics and Supply Chain Management, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. By Susan L. Follett FOTF: What do you do in the Army? BECK: I help facilitate all aspects of integrated logistics support (ILS) for the program managers (PMs) and their respective systems and products. Our PMs manage manned and unmanned aviation weapon systems (UAS) and all the enablers that make aviation viable on the battlefield, including air traffic control, aviation ground support, and aircraft maintenance. ILS is a process for planning, developing, acquiring, and sustaining well-defined, affordable strategies that meet a Soldier’s requirements for Army materiel throughout its life cycle. Our PMs use ILS as part of the systems engineering process to lower life cycle cost and decrease the logistics footprint, making a system easier to support. FOTF: Why is your job important? BECK: Our mission is important because we are involved with the total life cycle systems management (TLCSM) of everything fielded and sustained in the aviation community. To give you an idea of the scope of operations, our fleet includes 16 different rotary wing platforms, 29 types of fixed-wing aircraft, and five UAS — more than 4,000 aviation platforms fielded to Army units. TLCSM establishes a single point of accountability and oversight — in this case, the PM — for cradle to grave weapon system acquisition and sustainment. We think of our work as connecting the dots to get the right people together when PMs have concerns they’re trying to address. For example, we have a great deal of experience in helping PMs translate requirements into program milestones, or refining budget requests. We also have a lot of contact with subject matter experts who have combat experience and we facilitate conversations so that their hands-on experiences in the field can help PMs resolve any issues they’re facing with their systems. FOTF: What has your work experience been like? BECK: I’ve been on the job for two years now, and have done a lot of work on an assessment of the impact of the post-9/11 environment on our aviation fleets. We’ve been able to quantify the accelerated or activity-based age of all the deployed fleets by comparing the pre- and post-9/11 operational tempo and damage levels. That information can be used by those who develop investment strategies and funding allocations to shed light on how potential cuts could impact aviation fleets. We’ve been able to help reduce the level of some budget cuts by showing the condition of the current fleet and how those conditions might change over time with investments in modernization and sustainment. FOTF: Why did you join the Army? What is your greatest satisfaction in being part of the Army? BECK: I served with the Military Police Corps and the Aviation Branch. I joined the Army to try and make a difference. My greatest satisfaction is knowing that the mission we perform here at PEO Aviation is helping units in combat by ensuring that they have the best equipment and support possible. For more information, visit https://www.peoavn.army.mil/SitePages/Home2.aspx. “Faces of the Force” is an online feature highlighting members of the Army Acquisition Workforce. Produced by the U.S. Army Acquisition Support Center Communication Division, and working closely with public affairs officers, Soldiers and Civilians currently serving in a variety of AL&T disciplines are featured every other week. For more information, or to nominate someone, please contact 703-805-1006.
S&T Notebook: Exploring Partnerships with Israel
[author type="author"]Dr. Scott Fish[/author] With this article, Access AL&T is introducing a regular column by Dr. Scott Fish, Army Chief Scientist, on activities in the Army science and technology (S&T) community and their potential impact on Army acquisition programs. Earlier this month, I accompanied the Army Acquisition Executive (AAE), Ms. Heidi Shyu, on a visit to Israel, where we met with senior Israeli military officials. We received briefings on the country’s defense products and technologies that have potential application and significant interest to the U.S. Army and its acquisition programs. [image align="right" caption="Army Acquisition Executive Ms. Heidi Shyu (center) and Army Chief Scientist Dr. Scott Fish (third from right) recently visited Israel and reaffirmed the partnership between the U.S. and Israel in relation to Army research and development. (Photo courtesy of Army Chief Scientist's office.)" linkto="/web/wp-content/uploads/Israel-Visit_September2011-111_mod.jpg" linktype="image"]“/web/wp-content/uploads/Israel-Visit_September2011-111_mod.jpg” height=”167″width=”246″[/image] Among our stops was the Merkava Tank Program Management Office (MANTAK), where the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) manufactures both the Merkava Tank and the Namer Armored Personnel Carrier. We toured the manufacturing and assembly facilities, which resulted in good dialogue on the current level of automation, quality control, design strategies, workforce structure, and the plans and implications for manufacturing with U.S. industry partners in the near term. In this case, the Israeli government will be subcontracting major hull structure to General Dynamics Land Systems in the United States. Ms. Shyu and I also conducted office calls at the American Embassy and with senior military officials in the Israel Ministry of Defense and IDF. The discussions centered on current events and historical drivers for Israel’s national and defense culture that influence the streamlining of its acquisition process. We also participated in a roundtable of presentations on a variety of Israeli systems, including the Iron Dome missile defense system, counter-improvised explosive device technology, Future Soldier System, unmanned aerial vehicles, and other defensive systems. We also attended the 2011 Latrun Conference, where Ms. Shyu presented U.S. acquisition trends in a rapidly changing environment. The conference featured Israel’s leading defense industries and a wide range of weapon systems, command and control, and logistics support hardware. The theme for the conference was “War’s Changing Environment.” We toured the exhibits and talked with manufacturers between presentations. The trip was highly successful. It reaffirmed the close partnership and spirit of cooperation that exists between our two countries in Army research and development, and highlighted the possibility for further acquisition collaboration. We expect follow-up discussions to develop when some of these same people come to the United States for the fall Association of the United States Army conference in October.
Deployed Dentists Test Lightweight Mobile X-Ray System
[author type="author"]SPC Jonathan Thomas[/author] It can be difficult for deployed Soldiers to get conventional dental treatment, but Army dentists at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, are testing a portable X-ray system that could make it easier. “A lot of the dentists in [Afghanistan] are not working in a fixed facility. They don’t have the luxury of mounting an X-ray system to the wall, because they’re in a tent,” said COL Chris Evanov, a general dentist with the 257th Dental Company, which tested the system. The Nomad Pro, an X-ray system that weighs 5½ pounds, captures digital X-ray images and doesn’t require a darkroom, allowing dentists to operate in remote environments. [image align="left" caption="The Nomad Pro mobile X-ray system, similar to the one seen here, allows dentists to operate in remote environments. (Photo courtesy of Ashtel Dental.)" linkto="/web/wp-content/uploads/nomadpro-big.png" linktype="image"]“/web/wp-content/uploads/nomadpro-big.png” height=”167″ width=”246″[/image] “I’ve been in the military for over 20 years and I was a little suspicious of the device, but it didn’t take more than a day or two for me to realize that this was great,” said Evanov. During the testing, dentists are judging the Nomad Pro system on image quality, system weight, and durability. “We’re trying to do what we can to get the best product here,” said MAJ Gina Adam, Medical Science and Technology Advisor for Field Assistance in Science and Technology (FAST). “We want to get the best medical materiel for the warfighter.” FAST teams are part of the U.S. Army Research, Development, and Engineering Command (RDECOM) headquartered at Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD. The U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command (USAMRMC), headquartered at Fort Detrick, MD, partners with RDECOM to provide a medical officer and noncommissioned officer to the FAST teams to help with research, development, and acquisition questions that units have about their medical equipment. The ability to X-ray Soldiers’ teeth is vital to providing dental treatment. With a digital image, dentists can almost instantly see the patient’s teeth and thus can determine what specific care the patient needs. “The truth is, there are a lot of things we can’t see, and you can’t treat what you can’t see,” said Evanov. “You can open up your mouth and you might have all 32 of your teeth, but all I can see are your crowns. We don’t have that Superman vision.” [quote align="right"]A lot of the dentists in [Afghanistan] are not working in a fixed facility. They don’t have the luxury of mounting an X-ray system to the wall, because they’re in a tent.[/quote] Once all testing on a piece of medical equipment is complete and has been evaluated, the U.S. Army Medical Materiel Agency (USAMMA) within USAMRMC decides if the system meets the needs of the dentist and the Soldier and should be procured. The high level of satisfaction from the end users of the Nomad Pro has prompted USAMMA to order another 90 units for stock. Several of the user surveys on the Nomad Pro inquired about or requested some type of holding mechanism, to address the inability to securely store the device when not in use. Working with the manufacturer, Aribex Inc., a vinyl pouch was developed and sent into theater to be used with the Nomad Pro. The pouch can be worn or secured to a wall or furniture. The Army is collecting feedback on this modification as well as on the system as a whole. “It’s really exciting to think we’re doing something that will help improve the health care of the Soldiers,” said Adam. [list type="arrow"] SPC JONATHAN THOMAS is with the 16th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment. [/list]
Picatinny Lands Patent for Explosive Ordnance Disposal Video Game
A patent was recently granted for a process to safely train Soldiers in how to operate a variety of robots used in Iraq and Afghanistan to detonate improvised explosive devices (IEDs). The Robotic Vehicle Trainer is a realistic video game that simulates combat environments using the same controls as actual robots used in Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD). The design was the brainchild of Dr. Bernard Reger, Chief of the Combat Support and Munitions Systems Branch of the Armament Software Engineering Center. within the U.S. Army Armament Research, Development, and Engineering Center (ARDEC). Reger received the patent from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Dec. 28 (No. 7,860,614). [image align="right" caption="After delivery of new machinery, it can take months of testing before the machine is ready for production. Here, a Hankook lathe, which came from South Korea, is tested before machinists receive operator training. (U.S. Army photo by John Snyder.) " linkto="/web/wp-content/uploads/Robotic-Trainer-2.jpg" linktype="image"]“/web/wp-content/uploads/Robotic-Trainer-2_compressed.jpg” height=”167″ width=”246″[/image] The patent describes the process by which a robot trainer enables a student to operate a robotic vehicle using a virtual operator control unit within a virtual environment. “The virtual environment inserts the student into hazardous environments, enabling familiarization with the robotic vehicle and EOD bomb disposal tools,” Reger said. “The robotic vehicle trainer provides EOD Soldiers the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the operation of the robot without removing critical assets from the field. It also provides Soldiers the ability to train in what would normally be a dangerous environment. The trainer could be rapidly updated with new tools and techniques of benefit to the Soldier.” The Army will be able to control the intellectual property of this process if it is used by a contractor in developing robotic vehicle trainers, Reger said. The virtual operator control unit, which is essentially a video-game controller, is built with the exact same joysticks, switches, dials, and display features as a fielded robot. This allows the Soldier to become familiar with the touch and feel of the real controls while in training. The control unit connects to a laptop computer that runs the software application, allowing trainees to use the system anywhere from the classroom to the field. [image align="left" caption="Using the robotic vehicle trainer developed at Picatinny Arsenal, a student attempts to place a brick of C4 explosive in a location that would destroy nearby IEDs within a virtual training environment. (U.S. Army photo.)" linkto="/web/wp-content/uploads/sample.jpg" linktype="image"]“/web/wp-content/uploads/sample.jpg” height=”167″width=”246″[/image] Work on this product started in 2003 as an experiment to insert the Talon robot used by EOD Soldiers into a virtual environment using a popular Army-developed game engine, “America’s Army.” The design was originally submitted for a patent application in September 2006. With more than 8 million registered users, “America’s Army” is an interactive, first-person shooter game that allows civilians a taste of the Soldier’s life. About a year after the video game launched in 2002, ARDEC began to integrate practical training applications into the game for Soldiers. ARDEC’s Armament Software Engineering Center and the Picatinny EOD Technology Directorate worked together over the next few years to define and refine requirements for a product that could familiarize EOD Soldiers with the operation of the Talon robot and explosive disposal techniques. “The patent covers the process by which a robot is assembled in the virtual environment and by which the Soldier is provided with the opportunity to test-drive the robot and its tools,” Reger said, adding that the Talon trainer was rebranded as the Man Transportable Robotic System EOD Trainer. The same process was applied to other robots, including SWORDS (Special Weapons Observation Remote Direct-Action System), EOD PackBot, and the CBRN (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear) PackBot. The QinetiQ Talon and the PackBot, made by iRobot Corp., are tracked robots used to disarm IEDs. Because they are remotely operated and equipped with cameras, they allow Soldiers to detonate suspicious objects from a safe distance. The trainers are meant to familiarize operators with the controls, as opposed to training them in how to respond to different EOD incidents and situations. However, the operators also detonate different types of IEDs using a variety of methods. The IEDs are found in locations realistically reflecting where Soldiers would find them when deployed, such as hidden in sandbags or in courtyards. [list type="arrow"] Article courtesy of Picatinny Public Affairs. [/list]