• Congressmen, Army break ground on future site of R&D hangar

    CERDEC I2WD Flight Activity Director Charles Maraldo, CERDEC Associate Director Robert Zanzalari, Rep. Jon Runyan of New Jersey’s third district, RDECOM Director Dale Ormond, CERDEC I2WD Director Henry Muller, Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey’s fourth district, and Army Corps of Engineer- New York District Commander Col. Paul Owen break ground at the CERDEC Flight Activity Hangar groundbreaking ceremony at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst April 11. The CERDEC research and development hangar is scheduled to be completed early 2016 and will enable CERDEC to continue its C4ISR advancements as related to aircraft. (U.S. Army Photos by Mike Burke)

    By Kristen Kushiyama

     

    JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. – Congressmen, U.S. Army senior executive service members and other military officials gathered at the Joint Base’s Lakehurst section for a ceremonial groundbreaking at the site of a future Army research and development aircraft hangar here April 11.

    Reps. Jon Runyan and Chris Smith from New Jersey’s third and fourth districts joined leaders from the Army’s research and development community and the Army Corps of Engineers for a symbolic “first dig” at the hangar site slated for completion January 2016. The Research, Development and Engineering Command’s communications-electronics center, or RDECOM CERDEC, hosted the event.

    The Army awarded Pennsylvania-based Bedwell Company a $42 million contract for the 107,000 square foot facilities construction overseen by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers-New York District.

    Located on the only tri-service joint base in the country, the hangar will be a much-needed addition to the CERDEC Flight Activity, which is managed by the CERDEC Intelligence and Information Warfare Directorate, or I2WD. The CERDEC Flight Activity provides a unique development and integration capability to government agencies, academic institutions or industry partners with valid Defense Department missions.

    The new hangar and immediate surrounding area will include high-bay and low-bay aircraft hangars, aircraft-component maintenance shops, administrative facilities, a fixed-wing taxiway and a rotary-wing landing pad, said Henry Muller, CERDEC Intelligence and Information Warfare director.

    CERDEC I2WD Director Henry Muller, Rep. Chris Smith and Army Corps of Engineer-New York District Commander Col. Paul Owen break ground at the CERDEC Flight Activity Hangar groundbreaking ceremony at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst April 11.

    The space has “joint military-use potential” meaning that other Defense Department organizations could use the hangar, said Charles V. Maraldo, CERDEC I2WD Flight Activity director.

    The hangar will support future mission requirements of the CERDEC I2WD Flight Activity, which provides end-to-end aviation support for emerging C4ISR technologies, quick-reaction capabilities to units, and post-production aircraft modifications for program executive offices and project managers, said Maraldo.

    The increased capabilities and space will allow CERDEC to maintain and expand its support to Defense C4ISR-aviation systems programs.

    “CERDEC averages about 40 aircraft research and development modifications every year, and they take place up here providing those new capabilities to the Soldiers,” said Dale Ormond, RDECOM director.

    RDECOM, a major subordinate command of the Army Materiel Command, operates throughout the country and develops technology and engineering solutions for U.S. Soldiers.

    CERDEC Associate Director Robert Zanzalari, Rep. Jon Runyan and RDECOM Director Dale Ormond break ground at the CERDEC Flight Activity Hangar groundbreaking ceremony at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst April 11.

    “At RDECOM we are all about helping a guy or gal on point in the middle of nowhere, execute their mission and come home safely, and that’s what we do every day putting new capabilities in the hands of Soldiers,” said Dale Ormond, RDECOM director.

    The new hangar will allow for increased support for the Soldier.

    “As the guy who’s been on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan in a different role, you never really know what goes on behind the scenes to have the products and things you need to help you protect your Soldiers, save lives and execute your mission,” said Col. Paul Owen, Commander of the New York District of the Army Corps of Engineers.

    “As a Soldier on the ground we certainly realize the dedication and support of your organization [CERDEC] that goes into saving lives,” said Owen.


    CERDEC is part of RDECOM, 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, which 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 delivers it.

     


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  • Knowledge of Power Is More Power

    CERDEC electrical engineer Noel Pleta deployed to Afghanistan in support of Project Manager Mobile Electric Power serving as a power assessment engineer on a team responsible for assessing and improving the energy stability of forward-deployed units throughout Afghanistan. (U.S. Army photos courtesy of CERDEC)

    Assessments enable commanders to optimize energy, operational effectiveness

     

    By Edric Thompson

     

    When it comes to power and energy, Army research and development (R&D) continually seeks to develop solutions to increase performance, reduce consumption, increase efficiency and ensure power availability. However, the benefits of innovation cannot be leveraged to their fullest potential if the power grid is not set up properly, which may lead to redundancies, waste and safety issues. Unfortunately, in theater, this is the case more often than not.

    In August 2012, the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command (CERDEC) electrical engineers Noel Pleta and Jennifer Whitmore deployed to Afghanistan in support of Project Manager Mobile Electric Power (PdM MEP) where they served as power assessment engineers on a team responsible for assessing and improving the energy stability of forward-deployed units throughout Afghanistan. What they found were conditions so poor that they had to overhaul several combat outposts (COPs) and village stability platforms (VSPs) just to lay a sound power and energy foundation before implementing the new operational energy plans.

    “Many of the COPs were on their last leg of generator power causing them to shut down their sustainment of life support systems and focus on the tactical support systems. We found that backup power for tactical operation centers [TOCs] wasn’t consistent. If the TOC goes down, the mission is compromised as well as the Soldiers’ safety, and that’s a priority. That’s why it’s so important to do it right the first time,” said Pleta.

    The assessments, which included a detailed layout of the area, the state of current power sources and power consumption rates, allowed them to tailor optimized power grid plans, design new distribution systems, replace legacy systems with more efficient equipment, fix electrical issues that posed safety concerns and implement energy improvement plans that supported quality of life measures such as dining facilities and latrines.

    “We need to view energy requirements as a commodity and focus more on decreasing demand in addition to the efforts to increase supply.”

    For 13 years, the CERDEC Command, Power & Integration (CP&I) Directorate has used its in-house government expertise in support of PdM MEP to perform approximately 100 power assessments, both inside and outside of the United States, for the Army, Navy and Marines. This work has supported TOCs, COPs, VSPs, combat support hospitals, command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR) platforms and technologies and other military tools that require power.

    During this time, CERDEC CP&I has developed a unique set of assessment capabilities and methodologies that not only inform commanders, but help them to design, build and implement optimized tactical power grids.

    “Successful missions require us to consider energy from planning through execution. Power assessments enable commanders to improve operational effectiveness by understanding how to optimize power requirements,” said Edward Plichta, Power Division chief for CERDEC CP&I.

    “Knowing how much energy Soldiers need is important, but we also need to know where the redundancies and unnecessary drains exist. We need to view energy requirements as a commodity and focus more on decreasing demand in addition to the efforts to increase supply,” Plichta said.

    Since 2012, CERDEC CP&I has supported PM MEP forward power assessment teams in rebuilding 31 COPs and 35 VSPs in theater. As a result of CERDEC team efforts with PM Mobile Electric Power, COPs and VSPs are using more energy efficient generator sets, resulting in a 21 percent lower fuel consumption across the fleet. Units are able to log energy/fuel consumption, track maintenance frequency, and note trends.

    ASSESSING POWER NEEDS
    Power assessments begin with a detailed data collection process that includes a site survey of all the equipment. CERDEC CP&I works closely with PMs and units to gather requirements—such as power distribution systems, layouts, wiring diagrams and existing and projected equipment and assets—and combines these with manufacturer data to help determine their power profile. This aids in producing solutions with right-sized generator sets and optimized environmental controls, which are particularly important as environmental control units consume 60-70 percent of all energy used at a COP or forward operating base (FOB). Analysts use the assessments to generate a database that can be referenced and adjusted to the solution set or assessment if further optimization is required.

    AutoDise, a planning tool jointly developed by CERDEC CP&I and PM MEP, enables commanders to plan more efficient grids by allowing them to generate virtual before-and-after layouts of COPs, VSPs and FOBs. The user enters relevant data—such as the number of tents, servers and anything that uses power—and the software projects the overall power and fuel consumption per hour.

    “It can also determine power distribution configurations, the cables that would be required for wiring and whether units are utilizing the existing generator set properly,” Pleta said. “We’re training instructors at Fort Lee [Virginia] so they can teach Soldiers and generator mechanics on how to use this unique capability in theater. Meanwhile, we’re beta testing version 7.0 now and hope to release the upgrades next year.”

    CERDEC CP&I engineers then generate and implement an optimized solution set that includes the AutoDise layouts, equipment lists and fielding plans—all of which can be adjusted as needed. Everything from before-after configurations to the types of equipment on site is documented and rolled up into a report that is given to the unit, providing the commander a full record of system layouts should he choose to the duplicate system.

    SOLDIER FRIENDLY
    But a power assessment is more than just a method to estimate the power consumption of tactical operations centers, platforms and systems; it’s a capability that uniquely positions the R&D community to help the Soldier, Pleta said.

    “Power assessments allow engineers first-hand experience to see how equipment is used in the field versus how folks in the lab think it is going to be used. They also provide a more accurate load profile that helps in projecting fuel savings and other theoretical calculations. We feed this documentation back into the R&D process so we can chronicle efficiencies, gauge fuel savings and determine the size or type of grid needed,” Pleta said.

    Power assessments – which include a detailed layout of the area, the state of current power sources and power consumption rates, allow teams to tailor optimized power grid plans, design new distribution systems, and replace legacy systems with more efficient equipment.

    Since 2012, CERDEC CP&I has supported PM MEP forward power assessment teams in rebuilding 31 COPs and 35 VSPs in theater. As a result of CERDEC team efforts with PM MEP, COPs and VSPs are using more energy efficient generator sets, which has reduced fuel consumption across the fleet by 21 percent . Units are able to log energy and fuel consumption, track maintenance frequency and note trends.

    “The smaller bases in theater sometimes have poorly managed power sources and improper or unsafe electrical distribution. The equipment modifications resulting from CERDEC-supported assessments have led to significant savings in acquisition and operational savings during this period. In one example, a COP that was totally dependent on aerial resupply saved 93 gallons of fuel per day. This is equivalent to 42 air drops of 800 gallons each. CERDEC personnel were critical to the successful completion of this PM MEP effort,” said Christopher Bolton, chief for PM MEP’s Technical Management Division.

    CERDEC CP&I will continue this critical support and provide immediate in-theater solutions as well as continued PM support in this area.

    CP&I engineers have also extended power assessments to the Soldier in order to collect information regarding the actual individual and squad requirements during a mission. Using these data points as a performance baseline, CP&I engineers will identify redundancies and areas where consumption can be reduced.

    “We’re uniquely qualified to examine the suite of C4ISR devices that the Soldier requires, and we see a gap where we can provide value added by conducting power assessment to validate those requirements,” said Jonathan Novoa, power management thrust lead for the CERDEC CP&I Power Sources branch.

    As with the small base power grids, the Soldier power assessments will be used to develop novel solutions to lessen the overall Soldiers burden.

    “We’re looking for ways to manage and decrease the power draw of that equipment through intelligent load management and enhanced situational awareness. We want to enable our Soldiers to make energy-informed decisions on the battlefield so they can manage the availability and consumption of energy on their person just like they currently do with food and ammunition,” Novoa said.

    (Tara Clements contributed to this article)


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  • Army fuel reformation looks to increase efficiency, save lives

    RDECOM CERDEC hosts defense partners for a demo of the Solid Oxide Fuel Cell 10 kW power unit. It exhibits high efficiency, a low acoustic signature, a low visible signature, and weighs less than the Army’s current 10 kW Tactical Quiet Generator Set. (U.S. Army CERDEC Photo/ Allison Barrow)

    By Allison Barrow and Joyce Brayboy

     

    ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. – Fuel is the second largest transported item in the field next to water. As a result, fuel truck convoys that deliver fuel are vulnerable to enemy attacks, which have resulted in loss of money, time and lives.

    To combat this problem, scientists and engineers from the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command are working to lessen the reliance on fuel truck convoys by reducing the amount of military fuel, called jet propellant 8, or JP-8, the Army needs in theater and improving the efficiency of its use.

    One way they are doing this is through reforming JP-8 so that it can be used in efficient portable energy systems, like fuel cells and other novel power sources, which primarily operate on hydrogen or other cleaner fuels.

    “The goal is to take the logistic fuel that’s already all over the battlefield, that’s there and available to the Soldiers, and convert it to something that can be used in smaller and renewable systems,” said Steve Slane, RDECOM’s communications-electronics center, or CERDEC, Command, Power and Integration (CP&I) Directorate, Power Generation and Alternative Energy Branch chief.

    Engineers and scientists from CERDEC, along with RDECOM’s Army Research Laboratory and Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center are working to reform JP-8 and integrate it into systems so it can be converted seamlessly and locally.

    “Fuel reforming is one of those leap-ahead technologies that could allow JP-8 to be transformed into valuable fuels that can be used and generated on the battlefield forward. So instead of shipping propane and methanol and kerosene and gasoline, why not reform JP-8 locally to power those systems?” said Slane.

    The process of reforming fuel entails high-temperature catalytic reactions that covert a liquid fuel, in this case JP-8, into a lighter, gaseous fuel.

    Dr. Dat Tran, U.S. Army Research Laboratory electro-chemistry, is focused on extracting sulfur from JP8, or Jet Propellant 8, a fuel widely used in the Army. (U.S. Army ARL Photo/Joyce P. Brayboy)

    This comes with two main challenges because of the sulfur contained in JP-8 and its complex composition, said Dr. Terry DuBois, subject matter expert in fuel reforming and combustion in CERDEC CP&I’s Power Division.

    First, sulfur can deactivate catalysts, which means it can limit the life or poison catalysts during the reforming process and make it inoperable. Second, sulfur can accelerate carbon formation, where solid carbon particles form in the reactor, clog the flow of the reactor or deactivate catalysts and cause it to fail, said DuBois.
    “Those are two big challenges for us in reforming; how do we transform JP-8 to a hydrogen-rich stream and deal with the two mechanisms for killing the reactor?” said DuBois.

    This fuel transformation effort is a main focus for CERDEC, TARDEC and ARL.

    The challenge is developing a practical fuel reformation process for better energy conversion that would have to be portable, quick and easy to use, said Dr. Zachary Dunbar, an ARL fuel cell team member.

    Dr. Dat Tran, ARL fuel cell team lead, has tested at least 300 different combinations of materials during the last four years while he has been investigating fuel reforming with the team, he said.

    “JP-8 is a complicated and dirty fuel. The sulfur is a huge problem because it can hurt the fuel cells,” Tran said. “Sulfur has many different compounds that behave differently. The compounds in sulfur make it hard to find an agreeable material.”

    While ARL conducts the basic research of fuel reforming, CERDEC integrates the basic research into a system and evaluates it, while also performing further research and development of fuel reforming materials.

    The Reformer Test Bed is used for catalyst and process condition evaluation of fuel reformers. (U.S. Army CERDEC Photo)

    “Both of the efforts that we have ongoing are focused on addressing desulfurization of JP-8, and ARL is pursuing complimentary R&D on unique materials for sulfur absorption. In addition, ARL is looking at membranes that can selectively separate hydrogen from the gaseous reformed fuel stream so that you have a pure hydrogen stream,” said DuBois.

    “CERDEC’s in-house program is looking at catalytic materials. So we have ongoing research work evaluating different catalytic materials and how well they stand up to chemical compounds found in JP-8. We are also evaluating sulfur absorbent materials and processes on a long-term basis,” said DuBois.

    TARDEC also works in fuel reforming by integrating it into fuel cell power systems.

    “The main applications are combat and tactical vehicle Auxiliary Power Units, silent propulsion for unmanned ground systems and extending the silent range of electric vehicles for scout or reconnaissance missions,” said Kevin Centeck, TARDEC Nonprimary Power Systems team lead.

    “TARDEC is also investigating the requirements for a fuel reformation system to be integrated with a commercial automotive fuel cell stack, which could help reduce cost and increase reliability of fuel cell power systems,” said Centeck.

    CERDEC, ARL and TARDEC collaborate on their fuel reforming efforts for the Army through fuel cell test and integration working groups with other Defense Department partners through quarterly program and design reviews.

    CERDEC is taking fuel reforming one step further by working to integrate its efforts into its Energy Informed Operations, or EIO, initiative, which aims to make power systems “smart” by enabling “smarter” monitoring on the systems as well as integrating them into a smart tactical microgrid.

    This smart technology will enable and inform Soldiers with data such as, “How much fuel do I have left? When are the fuel trucks coming next? What’s my energy status?” said Slane.

    “The efficiencies gained by using grid data to control power and inform operations will increase availability and reliability of power while reducing the burden of fuel logistics, storage and cost,” said Slane. “CERDEC CP&I is uniquely qualified to cover all this because we have our mechanical engineers who are working fuel reformation and combustion but we also have engineers within the mission command community here working on intelligent micro-grids through EIO.”

    RDECOM will continue to work to address the challenges with fuel reforming and integrate it into a full power system that can then be transitioned to the field.

    “Reducing the amount of fuel is really a goal of what this organization is about,” said Slane. “Fuel reforming is one of the key technology areas that will enable us to reduce fuel on the battlefield, reduce the amount of truck convoys, the amount of storage needed and the cost of operating in austere environments.”


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  • Army harnesses sun to reduce casualties from sniper attacks

    By Edric Thompson

     

    ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. — The U.S. Army is harnessing the elements to help reduce casualties from sniper attacks on forward operating bases.

    The U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command’s research laboratory and aviation missile and communications-electronics RD&E centers — the Army Research Laboratory, or ARL, the Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center, and the Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center, or CERDEC — have integrated and deployed wind and solar harvesting systems to provide continuous energy to company-level, force protection systems used by U.S. Army combat units in theater.

    A joint venture by ARL, Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center, known as AMRDEC, and industry, the Hostile Fire Detection Sensor, or Firefly, is a 360-degree surveillance system that uses acoustics fused with Short Wave Infrared detectors to locate enemy shooters for more accurate return fire.

    Firefly detects line-of-sight and non-line-of-sight hostile fire and classifies these as small arms, heavy machine gun or rocket/mortar. It calculates geo-location of the shot and provides self-position and heading in a standard cursor-on-target format. The Firefly can be either a mobile or fixed system, attached to the Soldier’s backpack while on patrol, or mounted at forward operating bases.

    The Firefly system was initially deployed to Afghanistan in May 2012 to support a fires detection requirement. However, deployment sites faced challenges in sustaining conventional power delivery to Fireflies along perimeter walls due to enemy attacks when Soldiers were above the wall line changing batteries.

    “In our attempts to solve the power issue, we discovered that CERDEC had sponsored the development of RENEWS power kits, which offered more complete solutions for charging the power supplies,” said William Lawler, an electrical engineer in ARL’s Sensor Integration Branch. “They immediately provided us with several kits, which we sent to AMRDEC for integration with Firefly and testing. Once it was determined that this solution satisfactorily extended the power supply, CERDEC provided several solar versions of the kits for deployment.”

    The Reusing Existing Natural Energy, Wind & Solar system, or RENEWS, enables the harvesting and utilization of wind and/or solar power and is intended to produce up to 300 watts of energy field usage in silent, remote operations where the supply of power and fuel resupply is difficult or risky, noted Daniel Berka, an electronics technician in CERDEC’s Command, Power & Integration directorate, or CERDEC CP&I.

    RENEWS consists of a wind turbine, three 124-watt flexible solar panels, a power conditioner, an AC inverter, and a battery storage/charging unit that contains six BB-2590 rechargeable batteries; it can be hooked into either the solar panels or the wind turbine for continuous charging. The BB-2590 battery, which was developed by CERDEC CP&I, is lighter than the standard BB-390 battery and features better capacity.

    “RENEWS offers options; solar was preferred in this case, using the solar panels to charge the six-pack of batteries during the day. We connected a cable from the RENEWS kit to the Firefly, giving them 1.2 KW of continuous energy to run the Firefly system. There still was some maintenance to check the Six-Pack and clean the dirt off the solar panels, but the Soldiers are not going up there every day because the solar panels are within the walls, so they’re not exposed to enemy fire,” Berka said.

    Limited pairings of the two systems have gone to theater as a package, with the most recent deployment being April 24.

    “Integration is absolutely a critical, relevant and priority S&T (science and technology) investment, and RDECOM is uniquely positioned to provide this to the Army,” said Dale Ormond, director of U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, known as RDECOM. “We are the only organization that has the flexibility and technical expertise to execute the Army S&T mission across a broad portfolio of services. We can draw on a wide range of strengths and technical competencies from each of our centers and laboratories to develop holistic solutions that meet real operational needs. It provides better technical solutions for Soldiers and it enhances the Army’s ability to be more flexible and adaptive against asymmetrical threats.”

    The integrated solution also provided an opportunity for CERDEC CP&I to gather additional operational feedback to be used in efforts to reduce Soldier load and logistical support, said Pedro Passapera, chief for CERDEC CP&I’s Experimentation and Simulation Branch.

    “Changing power sources and delivering fuel can be dangerous for Soldiers in the field. We are always looking for opportunities to collaborate with other organizations in order to address small unit power issues while reducing the logistics footprint,” Passapera said.

    “Operational feedback allows us to see areas for improvements that would make the technology more effective for mission support,” Passapera continued. “Other Soldiers will benefit from this because we will use the feedback to make adjustments to the current or next generation system and provide the data back to the appropriate decision makers. This was a perfect fit.” said.

    CP&I has deployed 40 complete RENEWS systems and more than 60 solar systems to units, Passapera noted.

    AMRDEC is seeking to transition Firefly to a program of record in late fiscal year 2013, noted Timothy Edwards, Ph.D., lead for AMRDEC’s Firefly team.

    RDECOM, whose mission is to develop technology and engineering solutions for America’s Soldiers, 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.

    “This integrated solution has been very successful and is still serving the warfighters in Afghanistan. Working across RDECOM truly is the best way to support the warfighter,” Edwards said.


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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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  • Tell me where it hurts

    Army Research and Development Improves Translation Technologies for Military Medics

     

    Amanda Rominiecki

     
    When providing medical care, it is critical that medics are able to converse with patients about their medical needs. Language barriers make communication a challenge and can hinder the delivery of effective medical care. Without the assistance of a human translator, a medic may not be able to accurately capture enough information to fully address a patient‘s needs.

    Maj. Johanna Perdue, a U.S. Air Force Medical Element nurse, and Christina Milo, a MAST team member, communicate through an iPad. The MAST project uses a commercial translation application as a baseline for machine language translation. CERDEC research through MAST has worked to perfect the way complicated words and phrases are collected and added to software in order to improve accuracy. (CERDEC Photo by SSG Bryan Franks)

    Engineers from the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command‘s Communications-Electronics Research Development and Engineering Center (CERDEC) have spent the past year developing strategies and methods for improving machine foreign language translation software in support of military medical translation needs.

    The Medical Application of Speech Translation (MAST) is a collaborative research project between CERDEC, the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command’s, Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center (TATRC), and the U.S. Army Southern Command (SOUTHCOM). TATRC is the sponsor and program manager for MAST, CERDEC provides the engineering support, and SOUTHCOM facilitates access to the operational environment and end-user base.

    “TATRC has identified a need to conduct research on capabilities that will enhance communication for Department of Defense health engagements outside the United States,” said Ray Schulze, Chief, Information Management Branch, for CERDEC‘s Command, Power, and Integration Directorate (CP&I).

    Translation software today learns, or becomes more accurate, in much the same way a small child learns, explained Yaeger, a subject matter expert in the area of machine language translation who has traveled to Honduras three times in the past six months performing technology demonstrations and collecting simulated data for the MAST project.

    “Medics are seeking a small portable solution, basically, translation software that runs on a mobile device that can be used without an internet connection” said Cynthia Barrigan, MAST Program Manager and portfolio manager for global health engagement at TATRC. “In addition, we know that while users are interested in using a translation technology, they are concerned about how it will integrate into their clinical routine in the field and how a patient will react to it. They are also aware that they will need the translation to be very accurate to be useful; giving them a vested interest in seeing real improvements to the current capability.”

    CERDEC has worked in the field of language translation for a number of years, supporting Product Director, Machine Foreign Language Translation Systems, or PD MFLTS, since its inception.

    “We specialize in language translation in the disconnected environment and doing so on various mobile platforms,” said Schulze. “After hearing reports about translation challenges in Haiti, following the 2010 earthquake, TATRC recognized that translation was a pressing need for the medical community and that we could assist with the engineering research and development to help accelerate a medical capability.”

    “The combination of automatic speech recognition, which takes spoken word and converts it into text, and foreign language translation [technologies] already exists, but the accuracy of those technologies is mediocre, at best, when used within the medical domain,” said Schulze.

    In some locations, Soldiers currently have foreign language translation technologies like the Phraselator, initially developed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency in partnership with CERDEC back in 2001. Those systems were developed for expedience in particular Soldier scenarios using, initially, one-way translation, and using generic phrases that require the user to stick to a script. Commercial translation applications also exist, but they are made for tourists in foreign countries.

    A U.S. Marine Corps petty officer interacts with a Thailand native using a translation application on a smartphone. Applications that can be accessed without an internet connection are of most use to medics, who often work in remote locations. CERDEC machine language translation research focuses on internet-independent translation software. (CERDEC photo by Lance Cpl. Kris Daberkoe)

    “Medical providers tend to use complicated terminology that can easily be misinterpreted by a machine”, said Schulze.

    “If you‘re really talking Western medical terms [to a commercial translation app], take mesothelioma for example, it misunderstands that word as Miss Ophelia,” he said.

    The MAST project aims to conduct research and development that can support medical care in the field.

    Armed with a variety of mobile devices loaded with a commercial translation software application called Jibbigo, the MAST team gathered useful operational data and observations, and demonstrated the technology to users.

    To date, collected data has all been scenario-based, meaning engineers created scripts based on their observations of doctor and patient interactions and recorded the scripted conversations between a native Honduran, volunteers and medical students, and SOUTHCOM medics.

    “The more data you give the program, the better it becomes. That‘s the purpose for us going and doing all these recordings,” said Daniel Yaeger, a CACI contractor supporting CERDEC CP&I.

    Translation software today learns, or becomes more accurate, in much the same way a small child learns, explained Yaeger, a subject matter expert in the area of machine language translation who has traveled to Honduras three times in the past six months performing technology demonstrations and collecting simulated data for the MAST project.

    “A child learns by listening to conversations, they absorb it,” said Yaeger. “It‘s very similar to statistical machine translation, which is what we‘re doing. Essentially, you tell the program that this sound means this text. You do that enough times and the algorithms behind the machine translation software actually learn those new phrases.”

    Machine translation is not expected to replace a human interpreter, especially for emergency or complicated medical practices, said both Schulze and Yaeger. Machine translation is meant to augment the number of human interpreters that currently exist.

    CERDEC CP&I engineers followed SOUTHCOM medics on several medical readiness training exercises (to observe how medics interact with patients. This includes observing the process of registration, triage, observing the types of conversations between doctors and patients, common questions a doctor asks, and how human interpreters are being used, said Yaeger. By understanding how medics interact with patients, engineers can determine the specific requirements that would be needed to put a machine translation system in place.

    Each trip to Honduras has used a different set of hardware, microphones, devices, and form factors to gain feedback from doctors.

    “Wireless was big, they don‘t want the wire to get in the way or have to disconnect from anything,” said Yaeger. “So we brought wireless microphones and packaged everything in a neat set up where you can just pick it up and take it where you need it. There are no wires, it‘s ready to go.”

    The observations also revealed a significant challenge to MAST and other translation programs. Shy, quiet patients in a noisy environment make it incredibly difficult for speech recognition software to hear what a patient is saying, let alone translate it.

    “It‘s mostly women and young children that come to these events in Honduras. It‘s very difficult to get them to speak loud enough and then interact with an iPad that they‘ve probably never even seen before. A lot of them are hesitant to touch it,” said Yaeger.

    While simple hardware improvements to the translation device, like an improved microphone, have dramatically improved performance in noisy environments, those same improvements do little to make a patient feel more comfortable.

    To combat this problem, a concurrent CERDEC machine translation project in Thailand has attempted to change the paradigm about what translation software can do for doctors. The common idea is to turn doctors into bilinguals by giving them translation applications. The twist in this program has experimented with taking an individual from the local population and turning them into the translator.

    “Instead of turning the doctor into an interpreter, we turned someone who was monolingual into an interpreter in that language,” said Yaeger. “We call them monolingual facilitators.”

    These facilitators, local volunteers at medical exercises, are trained by a bilingual translator to use the translation software. The doctor interacts with the facilitator in the same way he would with an interpreter, but the device is used to communicate between the two languages.

    “The facilitator is there as a cultural filter between the technology and the patient,” said Yaeger. “The patient doesn‘t have to interact with it [the translation device] at all. They‘re going to have a conversation with someone who lives in their country, speaks their language, and knows their culture. That facilitator will talk back to the doctor using the technology.”

    Not only does this set-up make a patient more comfortable, but it also proves to be more efficient. The same two people, doctor and facilitator, interact and use the technology all day, rather than having to teach each new patient how to use the translation system.

    Machine translation is not expected to replace a human interpreter, especially for emergency or complicated medical practices, said both Schulze and Yaeger. Machine translation is meant to augment the number of human interpreters that currently exist.

    While the recordings from MAST over the past year were scripted, they were all spoken by native Spanish speakers, as opposed to doctors providing medical terms in Spanish, said Schulze. The Spanish language sounds different when spoken by a native speaker compared to a native English speaker. Those differences impact the accuracy of translation software, so it is critical to gather data from native speakers for any machine translation program.

    These efforts are noteworthy advances in CERDEC‘s expertise in language translation, Schulze said. “We‘re not just collecting data. We‘re trying to perfect the process of collecting data for the purpose of improving translation accuracy. An example of this is the work we‘re doing with TATRC within the medical domain.”

    As the process of collecting data is perfected, the technology can be transitioned to other languages and other niche areas outside the medical domain.

    “The key is improving the process–that‘s how it will be transitioned to other domains,” said Schulze. “We ‘talk‘ to computers using a keyboard and mouse, everyday of our lives. It takes longer than simply speaking like we do to human beings, but it‘s just the most accurate way to interact with machines. Accurate speech recognition and language translation could revolutionize the way Soldiers will interact with computers and frankly the entire world.”

     


    • Amanda Rominiecki is a RDECOM CERDEC Public Affairs Specialist.

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  • Army Examines Feasibility of Integrating 4G LTE with Tactical Network

    CERDEC enabled a mounted/hand-held computing environment that allowed for the dissemination of mission command data, imagery, streaming video, and voice between dismounted Soldiers and fixed command posts.

    Edric Thompson

    The Army employed a 4G cellular network this summer at its integrated capabilities testbed at Fort Dix, NJ to address integration with current network designs and to allow actionable intelligence for dismounted squads.

    The U.S. Army Research, Development, and Engineering Command’s (RDECOM) Communications-Electronics RD&E center (CERDEC) enabled a mounted/hand-held computing environment that allowed for the dissemination of mission command data, imagery, streaming video,and voice between dismounted Soldiers and fixed command posts.

    “We’ve had a long-standing collaboration with CERDEC PD C4ISR & Network Modernization; they handle the network pieces and infrastructure while our focus is developing the user interface to portray the information in the most optimal way for the dismounted Soldier.”

    This was achieved by integrating a fourth-generation Long Term Evolution (4G LTE) network with a multi-tiered transport architecture that leveraged components of the Capability Set 13 design,including the Soldier Radio Waveform, the Adaptive Networking Wideband Waveform, terrestrial communications, and WIN-T Increment 1 and Increment 2 satellite communications.

    “Based on personal experiences or commercials they see, many people recognize that 4G networks introduce greater capacity, which allows you to push more data, larger images, video, etcetera,” said R.J. Regars, software development lead for CERDEC Product Director (PD) command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (C4ISR) & Network Modernization. “But it’s an isolated cloud, which doesn’t translate well to the tactical environment without significant investments in infrastructure to provide reach back from the tactical edge to a brigade or battalion. So you need to look at what can be integrated across the terrestrial communications network, where there’s less bandwidth.”

    PD C4ISR & Network Modernization is a Reaserach and Development program within RDECOM CERDEC that focuses on the future network near-term and several years out, providing the Army with a relevant venue to assess next-generation technologies and to facilitate technology maturation.

    Part of its mission is to provide technology and system maturity evaluation/assessment services to RDECOM centers, labs, and programs of record,” Regars explained. “As such, the exploration of 4G LTE cellular networks was conducted in support of the Soldier Domain initiatives of RDECOM’s Natick Soldier RD&E Center.”

    “We’ve had a long-standing collaboration with CERDEC PD C4ISR & Network Modernization; they handle the network pieces and infrastructure while our focus is developing the user interface to portray the information in the most optimal way for the dismounted Soldier,” said David Darkow, Natick Soldier RD&E Center, or NSRDEC, lead for Soldier Systems integration and experimentation.

    “The configuration and performance of the network will determine what we can push to the Soldier and what we can do in terms of information portrayal,” Darkow said. “We’ll adapt our work to fit the different network types so we can give the Soldier the maximum capability that will come with that network.”

    CERDEC employed a 4G cellular network at its field lab environment to address integration challenges with current network designs.

    “Based on personal experiences or commercials they see, many people recognize that 4G networks introduce greater capacity, which allows you to push more data, larger images, video, etcetera.”

    The PD first explored the use of commercial cellular in 2010 as a proof of concept, combining 3G networks and handhelds with tactical communications systems to transmit biometrics and mission command data, share imagery, send alerts, call for fires, and to run Force XXI Battle Command Brigade and Below Joint Capabilities Release functionality. Data was sent back and forth between dismounts and the tactical operations center.

    In 2011, CERDEC demonstrated the Multi-Access Cellular Extension (MACE) foundational architecture to help pave the way for integrating commercial cellular technologies into current and future force networks, allowing use beyond a fixed infrastructure, such as WiFi access points or cellular base stations. Technologies under MACE seek to enable the secure use of smart devices and the ability to provide direct device-to-device Mobile Ad-Hoc Network-like features, enabling the Army to use multiple commercial wireless solutions, which could save the Army billions of dollars.

    Science and technology efforts addressing the tactical aspects of employing commercial cellular, such as information assurance and policy-based security, will factor into shaping future PD C4ISR & Network Modernization events, said Jason Sypniewski, chief for PD C4ISR & Network Modernization’s Integrated Event Design and Analysis branch.

    “This summer’s exploration of 4G LTE can be viewed as a data point to be correlated across a larger sample size of efforts looking at the tactical cellular arena,” Sypniewski said. “It’s just one example of how extending the development environment to the field can be applied toward building a body of evidence to accelerate informed decisions on the right capabilities and where they should be employed within the network.”
     


    • Edric Thompson is a RDECOM CERDEC Public Affairs Specialist. He holds a B.A. in public relations and English and an M.A in English all from Western Kentucky University.

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  • Army Explores Tactical 4G Telemedicine

    Medics send electronic Tactical Casualty Care Cards over a tactical network so surgeons can see injuries and what treatment have been performed prior to the patient's arrival. The combination of secure tactical communications and knowledge management helps brigade surgeons prioritize treatment and evacuation assets. (Photos by Edric Thompson, CERDEC Public Affairs)

    Edric Thompson

    The Army explored whether real-time, electronic point-of-treatment care was possible or practical this summer at its integrated capabilities test bed at Fort Dix, NJ.

    Key medical and technical personnel from the U.S. Army Medical Research & Materiel Command (MRMC) and the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command (RDECOM) combined prototype medical military software with commercial hand-held technologies and tactical 4G networks to send medical information from the point of injury on the battlefield back to the doctor for real-time communication and decision making.

    “As decision makers look at network modernization, this is the type of information they will want in order to help them make informed decisions regarding telemedicine capabilities and the networks on which they’re going to ride. Our mission is to provide this.”

    “It’s going to build confidence in the medic on the field that’s isolated with a severely wounded Soldier,” said Carl Manemeit, Physiological Monitoring project lead for the MRMC’s Telemedicine & Advanced Technology Research Center (TATRC).

    “If you’ve ever seen the movie, ‘Black Hawk Down,’ the medic is trying to treat the guy with the artery issue in his leg; the medic goes through all his resources, and once he exhausted all his knowledge, he was stuck,” Manemeit said. If he had been connected to the surgeons back at the treatment facility, they could have given him more guidance on how to save that Soldier’s life. By injecting this expertise, we might be able to do that one thing that could save some guy’s life; that’s what we’re looking to do.”

    Medics used man-portable physiological monitoring devices with streaming video, voice, and photo capability, and sent electronic Tactical Casualty Care Cards (TC3) over a tactical network to the surgical facility so surgeons could see injuries and what treatment had been performed prior to the patient’s arrival.

    Medics utilize man-portable physiological monitoring devices with streaming video, voice, and photo capability to send medical information to doctors for real-time communication and decision making.

    “There’s an information gap that lies between the point of injury on the field and point of treatment back at a medical facility,” said Dr. Gary R. Gilbert, TATRC Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation program manager for Secure Telemedicine. “We need to do a better job of being able to record what the medic saw and did prior to the patient being evacuated to the treatment facility, and we want this record to be transmitted to the Soldier’s permanent health records.”

    “Now when the patient goes to a combat support hospital, or gets back to Walter Reed for further care, the doctors can see what happened in the field; and five years from now when the patient goes into a VA [Veterans Affairs] hospital seeking treatment, the care providers can see everything that’s been done,” Gilbert said.

    Currently, medics fill out a paper TC3 that’s attached to the injured Soldier before evacuation to the battalion aid station or the combat support hospital. In some cases, the TC3 never makes it back to the treatment facility, and the information never makes it to the patient records.

    “One of the issues I had with the card is that it’s a piece of paper held on with a metal wire,” said SPC Daniel Vita, U.S. Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases, Fort Detrick, MD. “Pretty much, you would have attached it to the patient through his zipper or around his wrist, but you potentially had the problem of ripping the paper from the metal loop.”

    Vita, who was a medic with the 130th Engineer Brigade Headquarters in Iraq, preferred using tape and a sharpie because “it stayed.”

    “I like the idea of an electronic TC3 because it’s simpler,” Vita said. “It’s a lot easier for the information to get to where it needs to go and it makes it legible. When you filled out a TC3 card and put it on the patient, they didn’t know what was happening until that patient and card got to them. Now doing it electronically, you can send it ahead to the level two or three so they have an idea of what kinds of patients and casualties are coming in.”

    The combination of secure tactical communications and knowledge management may also help brigade surgeons prioritize treatment and evacuation assets so the most critically injured can be treated first.

    “The Army uses medevac, but the bad news is that it costs about $20,000 per patient flight,” said Dave Williams, Project Manager for Theater Tele-Health Initiatives, TATRC. “And if you have six assets and 12 patients, who should they get first? If we can determine which patients can be held and which can be treated and stabilized on site, it might be a less expensive way to save a patient’s life.”

    The work was performed at the integrated capabilities test bed operated by Product Director (PD) Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance (C4ISR) and Network Modernization, an R&D program within U.S. Army RDECOM’s communications-electronics RD&E center (CERDEC).

    “We need to do a better job of being able to record what the medic saw and did prior to the patient being evacuated to the treatment facility, and we want this record to be transmitted to the Soldier’s permanent health records.”

    “This is a forgiving environment because it’s designed for testing and solution proving,” Gilbert said. “If things don’t work, that’s OK; you find out what doesn’t work and you fix it here. There are a lot of technologies required to make this work, and we don’t have all of these. CERDEC is helping to fill in those gaps by providing a variety of radio capabilities that you wouldn’t get at a real brigade: SRW, Wideband Networking Waveform, Adaptive Networking Wideband Waveform, deployable 4G, Airborne relay, connection to Army Warfighter Information Network-Tactical. They provide the infrastructure and we just bring the application.”

    PD C4ISR & Network Modernization focuses on the future network, near-term, and several years out, providing the Army with a relevant venue to assess next-generation technologies and to facilitate technology maturation. The program is also a key component in CERDEC’s support of the agile acquisition process, using its field lab environment to perform risk mitigation and candidate assessment/selection for future Network Integration Rehearsal/Exercise events.

    “These guys are not only preparing the current force to be successful, they’re closing the gaps for the future force with each iteration of these integrated capabilities events,” Williams said. “You don’t solve all the problems in one 12-month cycle. This venue is providing the medics an opportunity to get inside the Program Objective Memorandum cycle to come up with those solutions and iteratively solve them as technologies emerge and grow with us. This has been a complete team effort to develop a solution that did not exist six years ago.”

    This is the third year that PD C4ISR & Network Modernization has examined network capabilities that could support the medic/first responder’s mission.

    During 2011, PD C4ISR & Network Modernization combined fielded tactical radios such as the Enhanced Position Location Reporting System with the Soldier Radio Waveform (SRW) to see if it was possible and feasible to provide enhanced bandwidth and over-the-horizon communications for hand-held medical data. This year, a 4G cellular mesh network was implemented, using SRW to bridge back to the tactical network.

    “We’re examining how best to combine the future and current so we can enable the medical community to perform their mission more efficiently,” said Jason Sypniewski, chief for PD C4ISR & Network Modernization’s Integrated Event Design & Analysis branch. “We’re looking at the Soldier Radio Waveform because it’s a self-healing waveform that allows non-line-of-sight communication; that’s the vision for where the Army wants to go. We’ve looked at EPLRS [Enhanced Position Location Reporting System] because it’s an existing asset on which the medical community could recapitalize.”

    “Cellular technology could be the future of tele-health on the modern battlefield, but we need to know if it can be done, and if so, would it actually enhance the delivery of information?” Sypniewski said. “As decision makers look at network modernization, this is the type of information they will want in order to help them make informed decisions regarding telemedicine capabilities and the networks on which they’re going to ride. Our mission is to provide this.”
     


    • Edric Thompson is a RDECOM CERDEC Public Affairs Specialist. He holds a B.A. in public relations and English and an M.A in English all from Western Kentucky University.

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