• Army researchers inspire commercial rifle fire control systems

    Shown is the precision-guided firearm. (Photo courtesy of TrackingPoint)

    By Joyce M. Conant, ARL Public Affairs

     
    ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (Jan. 28, 2014) — Researchers at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory go about their business every day working on projects to help better serve the military and its members who protect our country. Sometimes the research inspires commercial companies to do additional research and expand on certain aspects to develop products of their own.

    That is what happened with ARL’s research called “Inertial Reticle Technology” where researchers who were then in the Weapons and Materials Research Directorate developed a concept to apply advanced fire control technology to sniper weapons.

    As a result of this concept, a modern fire control system for rifles was developed by a Texas-based company, which later partnered with another prominent gun manufacturer. Their partnership allowed for the development of a new shooting system, which they claim may just revolutionize how targets are acquired. It is called the precision guided firearm.

    According to an article in American Rifleman, dated Dec. 17, 2013, a new integrated rifle and sighting system was introduced in January 2013, in which a video screen scope with an internal laser rangefinder to measure the distance to the target and, using the latest in digital technology, factors in temperature, barometric pressure, incline/decline, cant, air density, spin drift, target movement and effect drift.

    Raymond Von Wahlde, aerospace engineer, Vehicle Technology Directorate, learned about this discovery through his former colleagues Lucian Sadowski and Dr. Stephen Small both from Joint Service Small Arms Program who managed a project in the 1990′s known as, “Project White Feather.”

    Dr. Small named the project as a tribute to famed sniper Gunnery Sgt. Carlos N. Hathcock II, also known as “White Feather.” Von Wahlde found that the new rifle was very similar to the technology he had coauthored a white paper on with Dennis Metz from EAI Corporation in August 1999, titled “Sniper Weapon Fire Control Error Budget Analysis,” data from which was included on the company’s website.

    Shown is the U.S. Army Research Laboratory's Inertial Reticle Technology prototype.

    Von Wahlde contacted the company to see if those who developed their precision-guided firearms were aware of the SOCOM-sponsored project known as “Project White Feather.”

    Von Wahlde said in his message, “…we called it the ‘Inertial Reticle.’ It was the brain child of Dr. Mark Kregel. Might the precision guided firearm trace its ancestry back at least in part to ‘Project White Feather?’”

    Von Wahlde went on to say, “Your videos look remarkably like ours did back in the day. I am impressed with your implementation. We utilized actual inertial sensors on the weapon to stabilize the desired aim point. I like your image processing method for doing so. Your solution to trigger pull is elegant. We replaced the trigger with a switch that armed the system. A solenoid actually pulled the trigger. That was one of the least liked features of our prototype by the users. Adjusting the trigger force is brilliant.”

    Within a couple of days, Von Wahlde received a message back from the company.

    “Thank you very much for your email. I appreciate your work — Project White Feather continues to be the best compilation and serious study of sniper performance data that I am aware of. We make everyone on the team read it. Thanks for your interest, would love to show you the system sometime,” said Bret Boyd, vice president of sales and marketing, TrackingPoint.

    Von Wahlde who was project engineer for much of the testing said he gives a lot of credit to his former colleagues.

    “The technology was the brain child of Dr. Mark Kregel (now retired) and along with Tom Haug (also retired) and Tim Brosseau from WMRD, they constructed the prototype systems for the IRT (Inertial Reticle Technology),” said Von Wahlde. “I am honored to be part of a team that served as an inspiration for these systems.”

     


    • ARL is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to develop technology and engineering solutions for America’s Soldiers.

      RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command. AMC is the Army’s premier provider of materiel readiness–technology, acquisition support, materiel development, logistics power projection and sustainment–to the total force, across the spectrum of joint military operations. If a Soldier shoots it, drives it, flies it, wears it, eats it or communicates with it, AMC provides it.


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  • Combining network management tools makes managing network easier, saves money

    A Soldier from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) utilized this Nett Warrior device to contact his unit during training at the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, La., in November 2013. One of the objectives of Network Operations convergence is to integrate the lower tactical internet tools together and make them work seamlessly with the upper tactical internet tools of Warfighter Information Network-Tactical. (Photo Credit: JRTC Operations Group Public Affairs)

    By Amy Walker, PEO C3T

     

    ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (Jan. 6, 2013) — The Army’s rapid fielding of network systems to support operations in Iraq and Afghanistan led to vastly improved communications capabilities on the battlefield — but also increased network complexity.

    The service is now moving to simplify and reduce the number of network management tools its communication officers, known as S6s, use to manage the tactical communications network, moving from deliveries of stove-piped tool sets across various systems and echelons to an integrated system.

    “The S6 has a wide range of network transport devices, applications and hardware that he has to manage and he has a lot of different program offices providing him with their own Network Operations (NetOps) tools that don’t necessarily work together,” said Lt. Col. Ward Roberts, product manager for Warfighter Information Network-Tactical, or PM WIN-T, Increment 3, who is leading the Army’s Integrated Tactical NetOps team. “But the goal of NetOps convergence is to provide one tool, or an easy to use integration of tools, into one seamless delivery so that the S6 has one tool set to manage his whole network.”

    Soldiers from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) utilized Warfighter Information Network-Tactical Increment 2-equipped vehicles such as this one during training at the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, La., in November 2013. Inside a Network Operations and Security Center, WIN-T Network Operations tools display maneuver elements on the battlefield (such as dismounted infantry, fires or aviation) on a large screen for easy monitoring and network management. (Photo Credit: JRTC Operations Group Public Affairs)

    Led by the Program Executive Office for Command, Control, and Communications-Tactical, or PEO C3T, to which PM WIN-T is assigned, the Army is working to integrate and converge NetOps capabilities. The goal is to achieve network visibility from the enterprise level to the tactical level, while reducing the number of tools required. Integrating NetOps from the enterprise to the tactical edge will achieve efficiencies and improve operational flexibility. The NetOps efforts are just one component of the Army’s overall drive to simplify the network so it more resembles technology that Soldiers operate in their daily lives, making it easier and more efficient to use, train and sustain.

    “Our young Soldiers are from a generation that has had iPhones, that has had Xboxes, that has grown up in an environment as digital natives,” said Brig. Gen. Daniel P. Hughes, program executive officer for PEO C3T. “They expect things to work a certain way. So we’ve got to get NetOps down to a minimal number of tools that are easy to use, so the Soldier can make the network operational on a very complex battlefield.”

    The Army’s WIN-T network backbone provides Soldiers across the force with high-speed, high-capacity voice, data and video communications, and now with Increment 2 supports on-the-move network communications down to the company level. Today, WIN-T NetOps tool suites are supporting S6s in theater as they facilitate the planning, initialization, monitoring, management and response of the network.

    WIN-T Increment 2- equipped brigades now have four times as many network nodes that units had in the past, as many radio and satellite assets once possessed by a division, making it a challenge to manage that network. But today’s improved WIN-T NetOps tools make it much easier to manage that complexity, said Chief Warrant Officer Eric Bache, brigade NetOps manager for 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division at the Army’s Network Integration Evaluation, or NIE, 14.1.

    “With my NetOps tools I can take a look at the various nodes and say, ‘I don’t want that link, it’s not passing enough data,’” Bache said. “I can shut one off and reroute it through another radio or antenna.”

    An improved WIN-T NetOps tool suite developed under the WIN-T Increment 3 program will serve as the baseline for tactical NetOps as the Integrated Tactical NetOps team works to converge other products, such as those used to manage the lower tactical internet, known as the TI.

    Soldiers from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) utilized Warfighter Information Network-Tactical, or WIN-T, Increment 2-equipped vehicles (left and right) during training at the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, La., in November 2013. Some WIN-T Network Operations tools enable communication officers to identify how well systems such as these are actually working on the battlefield, so as units move out in any direction, they can more easily manage the network and keep links connected. (Photo Credit: JRTC Operations Group Public Affairs)

    “As the Army modernizes its network, it is pushing network systems lower and lower in the echelons, so computers are in places that they never were before, including physically on the Soldier,” said Rich Greel, technical management division chief for PM WIN-T. “With the increased size of the network, additional number of nodes, and the Army pushing it down lower in the echelons, we have to ensure that NetOps tools make it easy for the S6 to manage that network.”

    Today, the lower TI — the radio-based network used at lower echelons on the battlefield — is compartmentalized and can be difficult for the Soldier to track and manage. One of the objectives of NetOps convergence is to integrate existing lower TI tools together and make them work seamlessly with WIN-T’s upper TI tools.

    An early success for lower TI NetOps convergence was realized with the 2013 fielding of the Joint Tactical Networking Environment NetOps Toolkit, which collapsed several lower tactical network tools, mostly radio management tools, onto one laptop.

    This spring the next version of the advanced WIN-T NetOps capabilities are scheduled to be evaluated at NIE 14.2, before they are eventually fielded to units equipped with WIN-T Increment 2. The Army’s semi-annual NIEs leverage Soldier feedback to improve capability and rapidly mature and integrate its tactical communications network. They have also been a venue to converge NetOps tools.

    Brigade and division Warfighter Information Network-Tactical Increment 2 Network Operations and Security Centers, like the one shown here at the Army's Network Integration Evaluation 14.1, at Fort Bliss, Texas, in November 2013, provide network management and enhanced tactical network planning, administration, monitoring, and response capabilities. The hardware is located on the vehicle and is connected by cables to the laptops and large display screens inside the tactical operations center where the communications officers manage the network. (Photo Credit: Amy Walker, PEO C3T)

    The first NIE event in 2011 included more than 70 separate systems to run and operate the network. That total is now closer to 20. Part of the NIE 14.2 WIN-T NetOps demonstration will include the use of Condition Based Maintenance Plus. This new preventative maintenance concept for the tactical communications network is similar to OnStar and other diagnostic software found in today’s cars, and aims to increase reliability and sustainability while reducing sustainment costs.

    “We are using the NIEs to validate our steps along the way and not waiting until we have an end product that we want to ship out,” Roberts said. “We are making incremental improvements and getting those out to NIE to garner feedback from the Soldiers, the larger network community and from our industry partners to see if our tools are helping Soldiers out and what kind of improvements we may need to make.”

    The biggest benefit in achieving a common NetOps solution would be incurred by the Soldier, specifically the S6. The goal is to give him one method to do his job, train him one time and with one set of tools, making his job a lot easier. The second benefit would be realized by the greater Army. Buying fewer tools or buying the same tools more strategically and cost effectively will save taxpayer dollars.

    “We are figuring out ways to save money by buying things only once, only buying what we truly need, and buying in the best, most strategic approach possible to get better deals and save money,” Roberts said.

    The Army does not plan to buy a “one-vendor, end-all NetOps solution,” but rather a combination of products from multiple commercial vendors, either seamlessly working together upfront or integrated through an Army effort, Roberts said.

    “The more vendors that look to team with other vendors in the commercial-off-the-shelf industry to provide tools that work together, the better off we are, and the easier it will be to pick those products up and roll them into our baseline,” Roberts said.


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  • Army fields 101st Airborne new tactical network with integrated training approach

    Spc. Joshua Provo sends up coordinates to his higher command during a recent dismounted patrol using the integrated communications package Capability Set 13 equipment. The Army's new network System of Systems training concept draws on lessons learned from previous units fielded with CS 13, including the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), which is deployed to Afghanistan in support of advise-and-assist missions with the Afghan National Security Forces. (Photo Credit: Sgt. Eric Provost, Task Force Patriot PAO)

    By Nancy Jones-Bonbrest, PEO C3T

     

    FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. (Dec. 18, 2013) — With the Army’s newest set of tactical network systems now in the hands of Soldiers who could be among the last to deploy to Afghanistan, the service is ensuring users master the power behind their communications gear.

    To do this, the Army established a new System of Systems, or SoS, training concept drawing on lessons learned from previous units fielded with the integrated communications package known as Capability Set 13, or CS 13, including two brigade combat teams, known as BCTs, of the 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) that are now deployed to Afghanistan. The new approach embraces instruction on integrated systems capabilities, leverages Soldier knowledge and creates an underlying familiarity with how the equipment supports operations.

    Using a train-the-trainer concept, the Army is instructing a “slice” of about 125 Soldiers from the 3rd BCT, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), in order to establish proficiency with the network communications systems known collectively as CS 13, before introducing the gear to the full brigade for collective training events.

    “We’re the fourth brigade to have CS 13, but the first to go through the SoS training,” said Capt. Justin Zevenbergen, communications officer with 3/101. “As signal Soldiers, we’re being trained first on CS 13 before the whole brigade is out there, so when we do begin our event training we can then say, ‘We’re going to rock-n-roll this because we know it, we’ve done it.’”

    Led by the Program Executive Office for Command, Control and Communications – Tactical, or PEO C3T, the SoS training is based directly on user feedback and marks a key step in increasing unit proficiency and network performance. CS 13 marked the first time the Army has delivered network systems not on an individual basis, but as an integrated communications package that spans the entire BCT formation, connecting the static tactical operations center to the commander on the move to the dismounted Soldier.

    “At first it’s overwhelming because there are so many moving pieces, but as time goes on and we keep working with the equipment, I think it will get easier and easier,” said Sgt. Brandon Pieper with the 3/101, who is also taking the training. “The systems are pretty easy to use and we’re moving forward from the lessons learned.”

    A Soldier with the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), receives training on Capability Set 13, an integrated package of tactical communications capabilities. The Army's new System of Systems training concept looks to empower Soldiers with the technical knowledge to ensure the right information is delivered at the right time. (Photo Credit: Nancy JonesBonbrest, PEO C3T)

    As the Army continues to incrementally modernize the network and fields the follow-on CS 14 to additional units, including BCTs from the 82nd Airborne Division, this training concept will give Soldiers more time to learn the new systems and capabilities and maximize their effect. The right mix of technology and training will continue to evolve as the Army works to simplify the network, making it easier to use, train, maintain and sustain.

    “We continue to incorporate lessons learned from Capability Set fieldings and drive those into our processes so we get better every time,” said Brig. Gen. Daniel P. Hughes, program executive officer for C3T. “Now we are focusing on simplifying our communications systems for the end user while delivering a pervasive network that meets their needs.”

    Also included in the SoS training is an overview course so commanders understand the network as an integrated combat multiplier and not just a collection of separate signal capabilities. A weekly technical “trail boss” meeting was added to keep training on schedule and troubleshoot any issues that arise.

    “The idea is to get the brigade involved as much as possible, because that leads to good outcomes with CS 13,” said Tom Eberle, PEO C3T’s technical “trail boss” assigned to the 101st Airborne Division. “What the training allows them to do is to identify how the system is supposed to work. We wanted to help them help themselves. So we’re training the units to do that.”

    The SoS training also focuses on “crew drills” that cross-train a collective crew on CS 13 systems — both mounted and dismounted — to ensure an overall understanding of how the systems function as a group in various mission scenarios.

    CS 13 systems provide mobile satellite and robust radio capability connecting all echelons of a brigade combat team down to the dismounted Soldier, while improving battlefield awareness and reducing units’ reliance on fixed infrastructure. This becomes increasingly important as U.S. forces continue to draw down and carry out advise-and-assist missions with the Afghan National Security Forces, turning over many of their Forward Operating Bases and other infrastructure and gradually losing fixed network locations.

    Soldiers from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), are training on the Army's first integrated communications package known as Capability Set 13, which provides mobile satellite and robust radio capability connecting all echelons of a brigade combat team down to the dismounted Soldier, while improving battlefield awareness and reducing units' reliance on fixed infrastructure. Part of this new training includes crew drills that cross-train a collective crew on CS 13 systems, both mounted and dismounted, to ensure an overall understanding of how the systems function as a group in various mission scenarios. (Photo Credit: Nancy JonesBonbrest, PEO C3T)

    Using CS 13, the 4th and 3rd BCTs, 10th Mountain Division (4/10 and 3/10) are exchanging information while on the move in treacherous terrain and digitally tracking and communicating with small groups of dismounted Soldiers who have spread out to remote locations as they advise their Afghan partners.

    As the Army’s first two units to receive CS 13 over the past year, both 4/10 and 3/10 faced an accelerated timeline for training with the equipment prior to deployment. As they completed their training exercises, the units recorded their experiences to pass along to their counterparts in 3/101 and 2/101. This input directly influenced the new SoS training concept, and highlighted the need for the Army to simplify network systems for the end user.

    “Our big focus with this equipment is effective management of communications,” said Chief Warrant Officer II Johnathan Bradley, a network technician with the 3/101. “It’s making it possible for anybody to operate the equipment that needs to operate it. The end state is to get these guys familiar enough with the equipment that they know when something is wrong and can mold it where it needs to go.”

    The 3rd BCT, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), will continue training on CS 13 for the next several months prior to possible deployment in 2014.

    The SoS training will evolve as the Army incorporates additional lessons learned from Afghanistan and from the Network Integration Evaluations, semi-annual events that leverage the 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division, conducting rigorous mission scenarios in a realistic operational environment at Fort Bliss, Texas, and White Sands Missile Range, N.M. Those lessons are continuously folded into the Army’s tactics, techniques and procedures, so each unit can make optimal use of the equipment they receive and innovate new methods of use.

    As it continues for future units, the SoS training will empower Soldiers and leaders with the technical knowledge to ensure the right information is delivered at the right time to make crucial mission command decisions. By fielding the network in Capability Sets, the Army is providing scalable and tailorable equipment that is responsive to what the commander needs to execute current and future missions.


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  • Army network stays connected even when ‘jumping the TOC’

    During the Army's Network Integration Evaluation 14.1, which wrapped up in mid-November at Fort Bliss, Texas, a system under evaluation, the Modular Integrated Command Post, provided advanced communication to the brigade Tactical Command Post through a modern suite of information systems, networking devices and tactical radios. The Modular Integrated Command Post also has the unique ability to generate electrical power from its own transmission through its On Board Vehicle Power system. (Photos by Amy Walker, PEO C3T)

    By Amy Walker, PEO C3T

     

    FORT BLISS, Texas (Dec. 9, 2013) — Brigade and battalion command posts, the heart of battlefield operations, are more mobile and agile than ever before, and through ongoing improvements in network capability, the Army is increasing their ability to move forward in the fight while retaining commanders’ critical situational awareness.

    Current technologies such as Warfighter Information Network Tactical, known as WIN-T, Increment 2, the Army’s mobile tactical communications network backbone, and emerging solutions like the Modular Integrated Command Post, or MiCP — a vehicle that efficiently provides networking equipment and power to support a command post — are enhancing a commander’s ability to lead from anywhere on the battlefield.

    “We are a maneuver unit that has to be mobile, lethal and expeditionary; if we are not able to move with our systems then we are really disadvantaged,” said Col. Thomas Dorame, commander for 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division, the operational unit for the Army’s Network Integration Evaluation, or NIE, exercises. “Right now utilizing WIN-T Increment 2 and mission command on the move, I am able to extend the operational reach for the brigade, but more importantly, as units continue to move, to make contact with the enemy, we are able to provide them updated information from any location.”

    As part of the Army’s modular expeditionary force, brigade Tactical Command Posts, referred to simply as TACs, replicate the critical mission command and communication systems found in units’ much larger Tactical Operations Centers, known as TOCs. Both TACs and TOCs are stationary and don’t possess full operational capability when in transit to new locations, but the TAC’s robust at-the-halt network capability can be torn down, moved and set up in a fraction of the time that it takes to reconstruct the full blown TOC.

    The smaller TAC’s mission command and communications capabilities are tailorable and scalable and can be rearranged depending upon mission requirements. When the commander needs to move his main TOC forward on the battlefield, he will send the TAC ahead first to retain the unit’s operational network capability. Once the TAC is set up in its new location, the larger TOC can then move forward with minimal disruption to battlefield operations.

    During the Army's Network Integration Evaluation 14.1 at Fort Bliss, Texas, which wrapped up in mid November 2013, the brigade Tactical Command Post was integrated into a new mobile command post based on a Light Medium Tactical Vehicle with expandable sides that could be set up or torn down in under an hour, making it even more maneuverable, scalable and agile than the traditional Tactical Command Post tent.

    “WIN-T Increment 2 improves commanders’ flexibility since they can ‘jump’ their TACs and the TOCs much faster now, without loss of situational awareness,” said Lt. Col. LaMont Hall, product manager for WIN-T Increment 2. “They can simultaneously command and control from either location, or from their WIN-T Increment 2 -equipped vehicles.”

    Fielded since 2004, WIN-T Increment 1 provides Soldiers with high-speed, high-capacity voice, data and video communications down to the battalion level. WIN-T Increment 2, which began fielding last year, enhances these capabilities by providing an on the move network that extends down to the company level. Both increments are deployed in Afghanistan today as part of the Army’s interoperable tactical communications network architecture.

    WIN-T Increment 2- equipped TACs and TOCs leverage Tactical Communications Nodes and advanced Satellite Transportable Terminals for satellite communications, which enable them to cover greater distances. In the past commanders could only jump their TACs as far as they could get their line-of-sight radio relay set up, approximately 10 to 15 kilometers. Now with WIN-T Increment 2′s beyond line-of-sight satellite communications, a commander can move his TAC an unlimited distance, Hall said.

    “The commander is able to keep full situational awareness at all times,” said Lt. Col. Ernest Tornabell, brigade communications officer for 2/1 AD. “He can go from the stationary TOC or TAC into his WIN-T Increment 2 Point-of-Presence-equipped vehicle, which has virtually everything [communication and mission command capabilities] that he had at the stationary locations; it gives him the ability to be driving on the road at 25 mph and continue to command the fight.”

    The Warfighter Information Network-Tactical Increment 2 Tactical Communications Node provides the Tactical Operations Center and Tactical Command Post with communication and networking equipment (line-of-sight and satellite communications) both on the move and at the halt to battalion and above echelons. While at the halt, the Tactical Communications Node is equipped with a 10-meter extendable mast to improve line-of-sight connectivity.

    To help incrementally advance network technologies such as WIN-T, the Army leverages its NIEs, semi-annual Soldier-led evaluations in the realistic operational testing environments of Fort Bliss, Texas, and White Sands Missile Range, N.M. The Army also uses the events to introduce emerging industry solutions that could potentially satisfy network capability gaps.

    During NIE 14.1, which wrapped up in mid November, the brigade TAC was integrated into a new mobile command post based on a Light Medium Tactical Vehicle with expandable sides that could be set up or torn down in under an hour, making it even more maneuverable, scalable and agile than the traditional TAC tent. When the brigade TAC was set up in its stationary location, its communication and mission command laptops and screens were connected to the MiCP, an NIE system under evaluation, which provided the servers, network connectivity and power to the TAC. Since the TAC servers were located on the MiCP vehicle, they were always ready to be quickly reconnected with the network equipment in the TAC directly after a jump, instead of having to be torn down and set up again.

    Integrated onto a survivable MaxxPro mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicle, the MiCP solution significantly reduces size, weight, and power — thermal and cost requirements. The capabilities of two legacy Command Post Platforms, currently used to provide the necessary communications equipment to operate and support a TOC or TAC, were combined into just one mobile platform. MiCP provides advanced communication through a modern suite of information systems, networking devices and tactical radios, as well as the unique ability to generate electrical power from its own transmission through its On Board Vehicle Power system. MiCP will also be evaluated at NIE 14.2 this spring.

    “MiCP helps the commander be more flexible in where he can go and how quickly he can set up and establish [operations] at the halt by having to just connect a few cables instead of two sets of vehicles coming to the halt and setting up both of those,” Tornabell said.

    As the Army continues to modernize its network and make it easier for Soldiers to learn and operate, the force will increase its agility and ability to conduct current, evolving and future missions. The depth and breadth of information available at Soldiers’ fingertips, both in and out of the TOC, is also increasing, facilitating collaboration down to the lowest echelons and across the entire brigade combat team.

    “Operationally, we want to fight to the fullest extent with our great network and communication capabilities, and now we are able to extend out a lot further,” Dorame said. “We are able to receive back reports with a better clarity and fidelity to allow commanders at battalion and brigade level to make faster decisions with better resolution and less risk to the overall force.”


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  • Shadows provide mission support from the sky

    Specialist Justin Waltho with Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, Combined Task Force Dragoon, pushes an RQ7B Shadow Technical Unmanned Aircraft System to a mechanical station to conduct post-flight checks Sept. 12, 2013, at Forward Operating Base Pasab, Afghanistan. The aircraft, which is used for aerial reconnaissance and mission communications, must go through a detailed preventative maintenance daily after every mission. (Photos by Spc. Joshua Edwards, Combined Task Force Dragoon Public Affairs)

    By Spc. Joshua Edwards

     
    FORWARD OPERATING BASE PASAB, Afghanistan — On a narrow stretch of road fashioned into a runway at Forward Operating Base Pasab, Afghanistan, Soldiers with Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, Combined Task Force Dragoon, launch unmanned aircrafts to safely maintain a view of the battlefield from the sky.

    The Soldiers run 24-hour-a-day operations out of the airfield in order to keep situational awareness at all times in support of friendly forces who could be conducting missions anywhere in the area of operations.

    The RQ7B Shadow Technical Unmanned Aircraft System allows the troops to maintain communications during operations and follows movements through video feed and infrared technology. The team provides intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance for the task force’s 1st, 3rd, and 4th Squadrons.

    The shadow system’s maintenance, technical inspections and maintenance quality control are the responsibilities of one person. This person is in charge of handling tasks including pushing the aircraft to the launcher and loading it, conducting pre-flight checks to ensure flight services are in order and aircraft components work correctly, pressurizing the launcher, launching and landing of the aircraft, conducting post-flight inspections to ensure the aircraft has sustained no damage while in flight, making sure the engine is in good working order and changing the fluids.

    Specialist Joseph Anderson (right) and Spc. Nicolas Redondo, both with Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, Combined Task Force Dragoon, conduct pre-flight checks before launching an RQ7B Shadow Technical Unmanned Aircraft System Sept. 12, 2013, at Forward Operating Base Pasab, Afghanistan. The Soldiers use the aircraft for aerial reconnaissance and mission communications.

    The shadow aircraft is flown every hour and all maintenance performed is logged into a data system that can be tracked in the future.

    Sergeant First Class Brock Niehaus from Smithville, Mo., and platoon sergeant for the team, is responsible for handling administrative data for the platoon, flight schedules, ensuring shifts run properly and acts as a liaison between the platoon and civilians working with them. He assists in the maintenance and launching of the aircraft and implements safety standards.

    Through the use of the aircraft, the team provides support to Soldiers on the ground with a number of resources that continuously give U.S. and coalition forces the edge on today’s modern battlefield.

    “We provide (intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance) coverage for convoys, route surveillance, (points of interest) reconnaissance; provide over-watch for the engineers during route clearance and general surveillance of the area,” said Niehaus. “(The platoon) is consistently performing at a very high standard.”

    Visit Program Executive Office Aviation for more information on unmanned aerial vehicles.
     
     


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  • AcqBusiness rolls out the Army Acquisition Dashboard

    BUSINESS (or ACQUISITION) INTELLIGENCE
    The AAD provides Army acquisition leaders with critical data from all levels including associated assessments, contracts, funding, risks, and schedules that provides consistent program data across the acquisition community.

    By Carla Faison

     

    FORT BELVOIR, Va. – For the last year and a half, the AcqBusiness program office has been hard at work prototyping, developing and piloting an executive dashboard to support the Army acquisition community. The Army Acquisition Dashboard (AAD) provides Army acquisition leaders with critical data from the program executive office level down to the program level including associated assessments, contracts, funding, risks, and schedules.

    The goal is to leverage outputs from existing authoritative data sources to allow for consistent views across programs to Acquisition community senior leadership.

    “The Army Acquisition Dashboard introduces a fundamental change to how Army Acquisition Leaders manage and convey information,” said Mr. Douglas Wiltsie, program executive officer, Enterprise Information Systems (PEO EIS), “Not only will this dashboard dramatically reduce the administrative overhead associated with preparing monthly or quarterly PowerPoint briefings, it will also provide senior leadership with ubiquitous access to critical acquisition information when they need it.”

    The AAD was developed in response to a request from the Honorable Heidi Shyu, the Army acquisition executive and assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology (ASA(ALT)). Dashboards permits users to access raw data through a user-friendly computer interface, combining authoritative data from many functional areas with custom data visualization. This visualization allows leaders to advance directly to decision making.

    The AAD’s capability needs statement was developed in August of 2011, initiating a series of prototype demonstrations with Army acquisition leaders. The feedback gathered during these demonstrations incorporated the needs of acquisition leaders and helped to fine tune the dashboard.

    “Not only will this dashboard dramatically reduce the administrative overhead associated with preparing monthly or quarterly PowerPoint briefings, it will also provide senior leadership with ubiquitous access to critical acquisition information when they need it.”

    In October of 2012, PEO EIS and AcqBusiness provided a status briefing and a live demonstration on the progress of the AAD’s development to acquisition leadership. The briefing highlighted AcqBusiness’ recent accomplishments to include the consolidation of portals and the reduction in servers, and key time and cost drivers for the AAD effort. Following the approval to move forward, the AAD was released on a limited basis in late October and then made available to a wider community of acquisition professionals in December 2012.

    The initial release of AAD made available to end users all acquisition category (ACAT) I data for executive summary reporting on Army programs. ASA(ALT) is currently developing a policy and timeline to extend data reporting to include other Army programs. The ultimate goal is to have data for ACAT I, II and III programs available in the AAD and to conduct Army program reviews from the AAD rather than from manually-generated PowerPoint slides.

    AcqBusiness continues to add capabilities and new information from authoritative sources as data becomes available. Training opportunities are available via the calendar tab on the Army Acquisition Business Enterprise Portal (AABEP).

    To request access to the AAD, go to AABEP at https://acqdomain.army.mil and click on the “request access” link next to the “Army Acquisition Dashboard” link on the landing page.


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  • Research & Development underway for Abrams Modernization

    The Abrams ECP ensures the Army can seamlessly incorporate other programs of record into the Abrams well into the future, without degrading operational performance. (U.S. Army photo)

    Bill Good

     

    Over the past decade the only thing that has been able to slow the Army’s premier combat vehicle hasn’t been enemies on the battlefield, but rather the technological advancements added to the platform. While every vehicle is designed to have Space, Weight, and Power, or SWaP, margin for incremental improvements, recent upgrades made to the Abrams M1A2 System Enhancement Program Version 2 have left little margin for future improvements.

    The ECP1 upgrade will posture the tank to accept the Army network components in the near term, while building the necessary margin to accept future capabilities in the decades to come.

    “The Abrams main battle tank was developed over three decades ago in response to a major Soviet threat. We were fortunate that engineers had the foresight to design in enough SWaP margin to enable us to host new capabilities needed during our recent missions in Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Lt. Col. William Brennan, product manager for Abrams.

    To help alleviate SWaP constraints, the Army has launched the Abrams Engineering Change Proposal, or ECP, program designed to reeestablish as much SWaP as possible by redesigning and modernizing many elements of the tank. This ECP is a modification to the system that leaves the essential capability unchanged. The Abrams ECP program will help ensure the Army can seamlessly incorporate other programs of record into the Abrams well into the future, without degrading operational performance.

    “Right now the electrical power is in short supply on the tank. The centerpiece of the ECP 1 upgrade will be to restore lost power margin through the integration of a larger generator, improved slip ring, battery management system and a new power generation and distribution system,” said Brennan.

    Other major Abrams ECP upgrades will focus on communications, data transmission and processing, and survivability. The communications upgrade will integrate the Joint Tactical Radio Systemand Handheld, Manpack, & Small Form Fit into the Abrams, replacing the current Single-Channel Ground and Airborne Radio System.

    The ability to incorporate the Army’s network is also a vital part of the ECP1 effort. To address network requirements the Abrams will integrate a gigabit Ethernet databus to allow greater data processing and transmission. The modified slip ring on the turret will provide the ability to transmit larger amounts of data into the turretand provide more power.

    “The ECP1 upgrade will posture the tank to accept the Army network components in the near term, while building the necessary margin to accept future capabilities in the decades to come,” added Brennan.

    While the Abrams remains the dominate vehicle on the battlefield, the ECP program will make it more formidable by including a new armor solution as well as an updated version of the counter-remote-control improvised explosive device electronic warfaresystem.

    Initial production of tanks with ECP1 upgrades is slated to begin in 2017.

    The Abrams ECP program is managed by Product Manager Abrams, which falls under leadership of the Project Manager, Heavy Brigade Combat Team within the Program Executive (PEO) Office for Ground Combat Systems (GCS).

     


    • Bill Good is with Program Executive Office Ground Combat Systems Public Affairs.

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  • Bradley Changes to Upgrade Vehicle Across the Board

    The Bradley ECP is a modification to a system that leaves the essential capability unchanged, so while the Bradley will maintain its classic look on the outside, under the hood will be a different matter. (U.S. Army photo)

    Bill Good

     

    Since the Bradley Fighting Vehicle was first introduced to the Army in 1982 it has been constantly modernized; however, the upgrades conducted over the past decade have been particularly taxing to the platform.

    “It’s important to remember that armor improvements and the Bradley Urban Survivability Kit (BUSK) make today’s Bradley very different than the Bradleys that rolled into Iraq in 2003. The Army has not stopped improving its capabilities, but the Bradley has reached its limit of new capabilities it can accept without making some basic architectural improvements,” said Lt. Col. Glenn Dean, Product Manager for the Bradley and Armored Knight programs.

    Space, Weight, and Power-Cooling, or SWaP-C, limits have been reached within the Bradley’s current configuration, leaving little room for integrating future capabilities. During the conflict in Iraq, the Army upgraded the Bradley to improve Soldier protection. These modifications included improved armor, BUSK integration, and counter-radio-controlled improvised explosive device electronic warfare (CREW) devices. The improvements, while extremely effective, increased the weight and electrical power consumption of the vehicle leaving little remaining margin to add new capabilities. This problem becomes compounded by the need to integrate the Army’s new network systems — the Warfighter Information Network-Tactical, the Joint Tactical Radio System, and the Joint Battle Command-Platform software — and new systems such as next generation CREW devices, all of which require additional SWaP-C or computing capacity to operate.

    To ensure the vehicle can enable the Army’s network investment and incorporate other Army programs of record without further degrading operational performance, basic improvements will be made as part of the upcoming Bradley Engineering Change Proposal (ECP) program. An ECP is a modification to a system that leaves the essential capability unchanged. So while the Bradley will maintain its classic look on the outside, under the hood will be a different matter.

    The current Army plan breaks the Bradley ECP changes into two iterations. ECP 1 is designed to address the weight growth of the vehicle with early delivery of some mature products. It includes four capabilities — extended life; heavyweight track designed to handle larger vehicle weights; heavyweight torsion bars which will restore ground clearance lost to increased weight, improving cross-country mobility and underbelly blast protection; and improved durability road arms and shock absorbers, designed to reduce operating costs and maintenance intervals at increased vehicle weights.

    The Army has not stopped improving its capabilities, but the Bradley has reached its limit of new capabilities it can accept without making some basic architectural improvements.

    ECP 2 is focused on meeting electric power generation and computing requirements for network systems.

    “The intent of the Bradley ECP program is not to degrade the performance of the vehicle. If we simply added a larger generator to the current vehicle, we would get more electrical power, but at the expense of less automotive power for speed, acceleration, and cross-country mobility,” said Dean.

    To address this issue ECP 2 will include an upgraded generator and power distribution system, but will also require an engine and transmission modification to ensure automotive capability is not lost in order to power network systems.

    “The last time we did an engine power upgrade was with the Bradley A2 in 1988. With the ECP program, the Bradley will be able to keep pace with Army modernization, remaining capable and relevant into the next decade and beyond,” added Dean.

    Computing and data handling capability will also weigh heavily in the ECP effort. The digital bus architecture of the Bradley will be improved through incorporation of common intelligent displays, an improved slip ring, improved Ethernet switch, and VICTORY computing architecture standards, all of which will contribute to the integration and handling of the large volumes of data the new Army network systems require.

    Current plans are to apply both ECPs to just over 15 brigades, or about 1,860 vehicles. Some ECP 1 components are projected to be fielded during FYs 14 through 18, depending upon future defense budgets. ECP 2 will begin engineering design in FY13, and is scheduled for initial fielding in FY18.

    “The ECP effort is a total system solution to manage vehicle space, weight, and power to enable the network,” said Dean. “We’re taking the opportunity to deliver the weight management pieces early, since they are the most ready, while we complete the engineering of the rest of the changes. That way we can ensure a constant flow of improvements to the field.”

    The Bradley ECP program is managed by Product Manager Bradley/Armored Knight, which falls under leadership of the Heavy Brigade Combat Team within the Program Executive Office Ground Combat Systems.

     


    • Bill Good is with Program Executive Office Ground Combat Systems Public Affairs.

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  • Systems Engineering Expertise Leads To Success For Advanced Radar Program

    The AN/TPQ-53 Counterfire Target Acquisition Radar provides long-range counterfire target acquisition for mortars, rockets, and cannons. PM Radars and Lockheed Martin recently received an excellence in systems engineering award from DOD for their work with AN/TPQ-53. Systems and quality assurance engineers from U. S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command’s CERDEC supported the Q-53 radar system and developed the predecessor system before it was transitioned to the PM. (US Army photo)

    Kristen Kushiyama

     

    “Systems engineering incorporates multiple engineering disciplines and reduces risk by providing an ordered process that ensures you’ve looked at all available courses of action.”

    A seamless link from development to production helped to distinguish a recent DOD-awarded radar as one of the top five 2012 defense programs of excellence in systems engineering in October.

    The AN/TPQ-53 Counterfire Target Acquisition Radar, commonly referred to as Q-53, leveraged government, industry, and academic organizations to provide U.S. Soldiers with advanced radar that provides 360-degree surveillance capabilities.

    The Q-53 system is managed by Product Manager Radars, or PM Radars, with Lockheed Martin as the prime contractor, and the program traces its roots back to development work done in the Army’s Research, Development and Engineering Command’s Communications-Electronics Center (CERDEC) more than 10 years ago.

    The transition from the science and technology community through to production was a distinguishing factor in recognizing the Q-53, said Leo Smith, Army representative to the selection committee and director of the Program of Record Engineering Support Directorate under the Assistant Secretary of the Army (Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology) Office of the Chief System Engineer.

    “This program was highly ranked among the representatives who selected this year’s winners, and it was one of the few programs that started as an Army Technology Objective or Advanced Technology Development-funded effort that eventually transitioned across the ‘valley of death,’ where so much can happen: the requirements change, for example, or the prime contractor doesn’t get a bid,” said Smith.

    “Systems engineers from across CERDEC directorates along with quality assurance managers from CERDEC Product Realization Engineering and Quality Directorate (PRD) have been working hard for a number of years to make this critical program a reality and have succeeded in doing so,” said Ron Michel, CERDEC PRD director.

    CERDEC first demonstrated the Q-53 technology concept in 2006 through its Army-funded Multi-Mission Radar Advanced Technology Objective (MMR ATO) demonstration, said Hai Phu, a systems engineer working with PM Radars for the CERDEC Intelligence and InformationWarfare Directorate (I2WD).

    “I2WD started with the idea by collecting requirements to get approved by the Office of the Secretary of Defense, and we had five years of development and prototyping on the MMR ATO starting in 2001. It then transitioned to PM Radars and was developed into what we have right now with the Q-53,” said Phu.

    Keys To Success
    Researchers referred to the ground work done across Army acquisition communities as a key factor in the success of the program, starting with CERDEC’s identification of a possible Soldier need.

    “Going back 10 plus years, CERDEC I2WD is credited with identifying the mission need and the technological solution and getting in front of the [TRADOC Capabilities Manager] Fire Brigade at Fort Sill and saying, ‘This requirement doesn’t exist today, but it is a need of yours, and if you make it a requirement it can be met with technology that is now available,’ ” said David Lusk, a consultant from D&S Consultants Inc. who works with I2WD and PM Radars.

    Those involved in the Q-53 program utilized the late RADM Wayne Meyer’s “build alittle, test a little, learn a lot” approach, said Lusk. Part of Q-53’s success was because of this method of incremental building and testing of technologies and systems to increase efficiency when developing systems, he noted.

    “There were technical reviews along the way to ensure the design was progressing as it should, was meeting requirements, and was meeting what the user ultimately wanted,” said Daniel Foster, Booz Allen Hamilton consultant working at PM Radars.

    “Systems engineers from across CERDEC directorates along with quality assurance managers from CERDEC Product Realization Engineering and Quality Directorate (PRD) have been working hard for a number of years to make this critical program a reality and have succeeded in doing so.”

    Evolution Continues
    The Q-53 program continues to apply systems engineering rigor through the Life Cycle Signature Support Plan, a “living document” that allows for new threats to be identified in theater and accounted for, said Jessy Chacko, a CERDEC I2WD systems engineer working at PM Radars. Design changes are then incorporated to defeat those threats.

    “Systems engineering incorporates multiple engineering disciplines and reduces risk by providing an ordered process that ensures you’ve looked at all available courses of action,” said Frank Vellella, PM Radars’ chief engineer and CERDEC PRD’s Radar Branch chief, currently assigned to CERDEC’s Systems Engineering Office. “Without it you’re kind of scatterbrained. But with it, you can break things down logically and reduce risks over the product’s lifecycle because you know you have looked at everything.”

    The Q-53 quick reaction capability system first deployed in 2010. DOD awarded the program its Milestone C decision in February, greenlighting the start of low-rate initial production (LRIP). The first LRIP program of record system will deploy in a few months, said Phu.

    “In the DoD lifecycle, Milestone C is essentially the gate between finishing your engineering and development and going into production,” said Foster.
     


    • Kristen Kushiyama is a CERDEC Public Affairs Specialist.

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  • A User-Friendly Common Warfighter Machine Interface

    The IAMD Project Office of PEO MS conducts quarterly Warfighter Participation Events. Participating Soldiers are exposed to various prototype designs of the icons and navigation ribbons to which they could be exposed in the CWMI, and are tested to gauge their ability to interface with the CWMI. (Photo courtesy of IAMD Project Office)

    MAJ Scott Gill

    Warfighter Participation Events (WPEs) are taking place to collect Soldier feedback to develop a user-friendly Common Warfighter Machine Interface (CWMI) to the Integrated Air and Missile Defense Battle Command System (IBCS) of the Army Integrated Air and Missile Defense. A user-friendly CWMI will optimize tasks and decision-making capability, minimize training requirements and manpower, and ultimately maximize operational effectiveness.

    Technological effectiveness is contingent on the user’s ability to interact with and influence the machine. This is especially true when it comes to the warfighter’s interaction with the CWMI of the Army Integrated Air and Missile Defense (AIAMD) architecture. AIAMD integrates Air Defense Artillery (ADA) sensors, weapons, and a common mission command across a single Integrated Fire Control Network (IFCN), providing a “plug and fight” capability that supplies distributed battle management functionality to enable net-centric operations of the IBCS.

    The AIAMD project currently under development by the Integrated Air and Missile Defense (IAMD) Project Office of Program Executive Office Missiles and Space (PEO MS) is critical to the ADA warfighter as well as the PEO MS portfolio. In order for the IBCS to be effective when it is fielded in 2016, it is imperative that the warfighter be able to interface ergonomically with the IBCS-CWMI.

    Because the ADA warfighter must make decisive combat decisions under severe time constraints and environmental conditions, it is critical that the CWMI be extremely user-friendly.

    Functional Capabilities
    The IBCS is the common mission command element of the AIAMD that provides the functional capabilities to control and manage the AIAMD sensors and weapons via an IFCN operated from the Engagement Operations Centers. The IBCS enables the ADA warfighter to achieve mission objectives in a Modular Open System Architecture environment by providing the capability to control the fight across all sensors and shooters on the IFCN, eliminating “single points of failure.”

    It also provides the potential for greater integration of offensive and defensive fires, and the ability to fully leverage joint platforms. This integration of sensors and shooters under a common mission command enables the ADA warfighter to defend the airspace metaphorically with a unified closed fist, versus the open-fingered stovepipe of the legacy ADA systems whereby the sensors and shooters were not integrated across a common network.

    This graphic describes the seven-step process used to improve the CWMI. Under this process, Soldiers present feedback on the software, which is then incorporated into the design of the next version. (Graphic courtesy of IAMD Project Office)

    Despite the increased capability that AIAMD brings to the warfighter, IBCS effectiveness is contingent upon the warfighter’s ability to interact with the system, making the ergonomics of the CWMI critical to the effectiveness of the IBCS and, ultimately, the AIAMD concept.

    The CWMI is the point where the warfighter integrates with the IBCS and is the warfighter’s sole interface into all functions and data of the IBCS. The CWMI is the handle to the IBCS hammer.

    Because the ADA warfighter must make decisive combat decisions under severe time constraints and environmental conditions, it is critical that the CWMI be extremely user-friendly. For this reason, the CWMI is the only standardized user interface being developed by the IAMD Project Office. This eliminates disparate approaches to user interfaces, simplifies training, and increases survivability, tactical effectiveness, and force efficiency through a common, user-tailorable interface.

    Gathering User Feedback
    One of the IAMD Project Office’s greatest tools to acquire data to improve the CWMI’s ergonomics is through the conduct of quarterly WPEs. Having the system operators involved in development of the CWMI from the outset, to ensure that the end product is designed to meet Soldiers’ needs, is an innovative approach to spiral software development in user integration for PEO MS.

    Soldiers’ feedback is critical in the development of a user-friendly system, because users define their own ergonomic preferences based on their professional lessons learned. The WPEs are designed to capture these preferences, making them critical to the spiral development of the CWMI software.

    The CWMI is the point where the warfighter integrates with the IBCS and is the warfighter’s sole interface into all functions and data of the IBCS. The CWMI is the handle to the IBCS hammer.

    To ensure continuous user feedback and product improvement, the spiral development of the software employs the CWMI User-Centered Design seven-step process. Under this process, a software version is presented to the warfighter at the WPE to collect feedback, which is then incorporated into the CWMI design of the next version to be presented at the following WPE. This cycle is repeated until the final version is developed.

    The IAMD Project Office has conducted six WPEs over the past year and a half. Soldiers of relevant grade and Military Occupational Specialty participate in the WPEs, providing strong feedback consistent with their experience and level of responsibility. Participants are exposed to various prototype designs of the icons and navigation ribbons to which they could be exposed in the CWMI, and are tested to gauge their ability to interface with the CWMI based on the various designs.

    Several methods are used to test the ability to interface, such as interviews, focus groups, exercise observations, qualitative studies using interactive prototype alternatives, quantitative measures such as mouse clicks or error rates, and timed accuracy.

    When the IBCS is fielded in 2016, the warfighter will receive an ergonomically sound, user-friendly system designed by the warfighter for the warfighter, achieving the desired goal of maximum effectiveness and efficiency in AIAMD mission command.
     


    • MAJ SCOTT GILL is the Assistant Product Manager for the IBCS Engagement Operations Centers in the IAMD Project Office of PEO MS. He holds a B.A. in international affairs from the University of Cincinnati and an M.B.A. from Trident University International. Gill is Level III certified in program management. He is a U.S. Army Acquisition Corps member.

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