Fifth in a series of articles on how the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command is supporting the Army’s six modernization priorities.
By Maj. Gen. Cedric T. Wins
A fleet of unmanned aircraft systems moves into an area while Soldiers on the ground maneuver into position. Several Soldiers are armed with the latest laser weapon system, while others are tracking enemy missiles using heads-up displays on their helmets. Attack helicopters carrying rockets and missiles fly overhead, waiting with ground-based launchers for the signal.
While each system in this scenario performs a different task, combined they are a powerhouse of resources to defeat the complex threats our military forces face. Coupled with advanced radar technology that determines the range, elevation, size and speed of incoming aircraft and projectiles, and laser systems that complement missile and gun system lethality and range, these capabilities will create tiered, layered defense, which is one of the key tenets of the National Defense Strategy.
To support the National Defense Strategy and the Army modernization strategy, which target 2028 for a multidomain operations-ready force, we need to strike the right balance among near-, mid- and far-term technology to provide overmatch against peer adversaries and evolving air and missile threats. We accomplish this by conducting in-house research and engineering and by working with industry to leverage emerging technology that can be adapted for military use. We also collaborate with academic partners, as well as other government agencies, the Army Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office (RCCTO), program executive offices and Soldiers to develop and demonstrate technology to make it available as quickly as possible.
This strategy is integrated into the U.S. Army Futures Command’s (AFC) modernization effort, which is ensuring that Soldiers are ready and armed with the latest technology. As part of the AFC, the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command (CCDC) supports the effort by helping to shape future concepts and by synchronizing and integrating science and technology across the future force modernization enterprise.
Our priorities and investments are driven by guidance and directives defined by the secretary of the Army, the chief of staff of the Army and our higher headquarters, AFC. Weekly communication with Gen. John M. Murray, AFC commander, provides an opportunity to highlight key events and technology developments across the CCDC enterprise, ensuring that we are aligned to support the Army’s No. 1 priority—readiness.
We work closely with the cross-functional teams by providing a lead person and experts who support each modernization priority. Monthly modernization priority update meetings give representatives from the cross-functional teams an opportunity to share information about their work. While each cross-functional team drives modernization for its respective area, all of the teams work with the science and technology (S&T) community so that their efforts are positioned to transition into programs of record in program executive offices.
The CCDC air and missile defense S&T portfolio is focused on key projects that support the Army’s strategy. While the CCDC Aviation & Missile Center is leading the effort across the Army air and missile defense modernization priority, other CCDC centers round out the team; these include Armaments; Army Research Laboratory (ARL); the Data and Analysis Center; and Command, Control, Computers, Communications, Cyber, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C5ISR), along with the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command and the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center.
The team also leverages investments and maintains close contacts with the other services, the Missile Defense Agency, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and others. While CCDC is responsible for most of the S&T funding in the air and missile defense portfolio, these partners have been key in identifying joint opportunities for air and missile defense modernization and interoperability improvements.
A critical part of the Army’s strategy involves moving away from stovepiped capabilities that are not interconnected and cannot communicate with each other toward layered defenses that will work together to protect against a full spectrum of air and missile threats. For example, to communicate, Soldiers rely on remote systems such as satellites and aircraft, both manned and unmanned, as well as computers. Communication among joint forces and across multiple domains will be particularly important in future battles, where adversaries will attack land, air, sea, space and cyber operations.
CCDC is increasing combat capability by providing technology and engineering expertise to support the Army’s air and missile defense strategy. The technologies will become critical capabilities that will increase in lethality and range to create domes of protection. These domes of protection will work together and provide layers of defense, giving Soldiers the weapons they need to dominate any adversary and to protect U.S. and friendly forces and high-value assets.
DOMES OF PROTECTION
Layer 1: BLADE (smallest, most mobile dome of protection)
At the tactical edge, maneuvering Soldiers need to have local protection to shoot moving targets such as unmanned aerial systems (UAS), which range from Group 1 (very small UAS) to Group 5 (the largest UAS). The Ballistic Low Altitude Drone Engagement (BLADE) is a set of enabling technologies that are integrated with an armament system to defeat smaller unmanned aerial systems at close ranges, which includes the distance a Soldier can see a UAS without using binoculars. Its intuitive interface makes the BLADE easy for Soldiers to use.
The BLADE system works with the Common Remotely Operated Weapon Station (CROWS), and uses advanced fire control and precision targeting enablers to detect, track and defeat unmanned aerial systems. Mounted on a tactical vehicle, CROWS contains a sensor suite and fire control software that allow the warfighter to remotely engage targets. CROWS can engage targets during the day or at night, and includes a daytime video camera and a thermal camera.
Anyone who has fired a machine gun knows how difficult it is to hit a moving target; the radar and fire control software in the BLADE enabled it to hit a small UAS with a short burst of fire during an engineering test that the BLADE team conducted on prototypes in June at Fort Dix, New Jersey.
A final Level 6 technology readiness demonstration for the BLADE system will be conducted later this year. Technology readiness levels refer to the maturity of a technology and range from Level 1 to Level 9. (See “Levels of Technology Readiness” graphic, Page YY.) Level 6 is a model or prototype that has been tested in an operational environment, such as an aircraft or vehicle. Once we get a technology to the point where it can transition out of CCDC, which is typically Level 6, it transitions to program managers and program executive offices who make the technology a program of record, which means funding has been approved so the program can move forward.
Layer 2: MMHEL
One of the key areas the Army is accelerating is solid-state high-energy laser (HEL) technology. More-efficient laser technology will enable laser-directed energy to be carried on smaller, more mobile Army platforms, which will increase combat capability and improve sustainment. Solid-state laser systems can engage and destroy incoming munitions and drones at a low cost per kill compared with fielded air and missile defense systems.
CCDC’s Army Research Laboratory supports the Army by developing and maturing new fiber laser technology that gives lasers higher power and more efficient output with reduced size, weight and complexity. These higher-power laser systems will have increased lethality and range. The main advantage of fiber lasers is that the laser beam quality is extremely high, which enables the laser beam to focus tightly at long distances. Delivering the laser power into a small area is the key to lethality at long ranges.
The Multi-Mission High Energy Laser (MMHEL), a laser weapon system integrated onto a combat platform, is part of the family of laser technology that the Army is developing. In addition to lethal effects, high-energy lasers can be used for long-range surveillance and tracking.
A Level 7 operational demonstration with the MMHEL will be conducted in fiscal year 2021 using a variety of targets. Then, in fiscal year 2022, RCCTO will field a platoon of four Stryker vehicles with an experimental MMHEL prototype with residual combat capability in support of Maneuver – Short-Range Air Defense.
Layers 3 and 4: MADT and Next-Gen Fires Radar
The Maneuver Air Defense Technology (MADT) project is developing critical technologies to enable a greater level of protection by hitting larger aircraft at increased ranges compared with fielded Short-Range Air Defense Systems.
The MADT missile interceptor technologies are designed for integration into the Maneuver – Short-Range Air Defense (M-SHORAD) platform. The Army recently announced that the first five prototypes of that platform will be delivered for testing beginning in October. These short-range air defense systems will be mounted on a new Stryker variant with a turret that will initially hold two HELLFIRE missiles, an M230LF 30 mm chain gun, a 7.62 mm machine gun and four Stinger missiles. M-SHORAD will provide 360-degree air defense protection for Stryker and armored brigade combat teams.
As part of a complex system of ground-based radars, satellite sensors and interceptor missiles, missile interceptor technologies work by using infrared sensors on satellites to monitor heat signatures produced by launching rockets. Once a launch is established, tracking is transferred to radar systems that help verify the missile’s trajectory.
Missile interceptor technologies are also designed to operate with current and next-generation fires radar technology via the network. Next Generation Fires Radar is a collaborative CCDC, Aviation & Missile Center, ARL and C5ISR project to develop technology for an all-digital radar system that will substantially increase performance and reliability over current and planned radars by enabling multiple target tracking and adaptive beam forming. Multimission systems enabled by Next Generation Fires Radar will provide Soldiers with a more resilient capability because they will be able to operate across multiple radar bands for improved performance and survivability.
We are designing, developing and integrating advanced software architecture and digital components into a state-of-the-art radar test bed with an open systems software environment. A government-owned test bed and open architecture software will enable the Army to field new capabilities more quickly and increase competition for best-of-breed upgrades. The test bed, which is planned for fiscal year 2021, will demonstrate improved readiness by allowing Soldiers to perform maintenance and upgrade cycles primarily through software changes.
Layer 5: HEL-TVD
Many of our projects begin as prototypes or technology demonstrators, which enable us to refine technologies and inform the Army’s path ahead. The High Energy Laser Tactical Vehicle Demonstrator (HEL-TVD) is a good example.
The current HEL-TVD is a 100 kilowatt -class laser system on a Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles platform. It consists of a laser projected through a high-velocity, target-tracking beam control system; power and thermal management systems to power and cool the subsystems; and agility to defeat complex targets. During the past few years, Army S&T work on this effort made significant progress in integrating a militarily significant power level on a tactically relevant platform.
Now the Army is leveraging that progress to merge the HEL-TVD with similar efforts by the Navy and the Office of the Secretary of Defense. This partnership will allow the services to achieve a higher-power system that can protect sites from rockets, artillery and mortars and unmanned aerial systems, as well as more stressing threats—significantly increasing the warfighting capability being transitioned.
While the RCCTO pursues this rapid prototyping initiative, the S&T work continues on the next-generation capability. ARL is currently developing proof-of-concept fiber lasers and components and plans to reach Technology Readiness Level 4 (or higher) in 2028.
Layer 6: LOWER-AD (largest dome of protection)
The Patriot missile system is instrumental in protecting forward-deployed forces, friends and allies against incoming air and missile threats. The CCDC Aviation & Missile Center is developing and demonstrating the Low-Cost Extended Range Air Defense (LOWER AD) missile interceptor technology that is smaller and less costly than larger systems. The LOWER AD project will demonstrate critical technologies to defeat subsonic cruise missiles and lethal unmanned aerial systems, leaving the advanced Patriot interceptors for the more stressing threats.
The LOWER AD technology will make it possible to reduce the size of the missile, which in turn will allow more missiles per launcher. Internal components of the LOWER AD missile technology will include improved navigation and a low-cost seeker and warhead, which will maximize its capability to protect defended areas and troops.
LOWER AD will conduct a flight test in fiscal year 2021, using various targets at extended ranges to demonstrate Level 6 maturity of the technology. A flight test with the ballistic test vehicle will be conducted in the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2019 to verify key component performance.
To develop air defense technologies for a maneuverable, multimission force, we work closely with other government, academic and industry partners. Some of the key projects include digital radar technology, missile interceptor components, air defense gun technology and integrated fire control. We collaborate with industry by leveraging traditional contracting methods, Small Business Innovation Research initiatives, cooperative research and development agreements and a number of different collaborative consortiums, including the Defense Ordnance Technology Consortium and the Aviation and Missile Technology Consortium.
With academia, we have teamed with Carnegie Mellon University to develop advanced algorithms that can be applied to air defense, and the University of Oklahoma to work on advanced radar hardware. CCDC ARL has cooperative agreements and grants with the University of Oklahoma and the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory to develop algorithms and techniques, as well as digital array operation. ARL has also established a cooperative agreement with Penn State University to develop advanced fiber lasers, and the CCDC Data and Analysis Center has a biannual agreement with the University of Alabama Industrial and Engineering Management Department.
The CCDC enterprise is closely integrated and synchronized with the Air and Missile Defense Cross-Functional Team, which maintains a prioritized list of air and missile defense S&T projects. We have aligned our S&T portfolio 100 percent with the Air and Missile Defense Cross-Functional Team priorities, and we work closely with them to support the air and missile defense modernization priority.
CCDC supports the Air and Missile Defense Cross-Functional Team by providing research, development and engineering expertise to demonstrate near-, mid- and far-term technology. CCDC engineers who work with the cross-functional team keep leadership informed about their activities, and coordinate with representatives from the other centers. These representatives provide periodic cross-functional team and CCDC execution reviews, and they meet regularly for road mapping and status updates, including program executive office and program manager transition agreement partnerships.
The representatives also reach back to their respective centers for information to support the cross-functional team. For example, when the cross-functional team requested a cost-benefit analysis of air and missile defense technology, a CCDC Data and Analysis Center representative pooled the expertise of a group of analysts who quickly conducted risk and performance analyses to support the project.
The CCDC Data and Analysis Center also provides feedback on new equipment training, developmental testing, operational testing and flight tests as they relate to human-systems integration, including how to increase Soldier system performance and reduce physical and mental workload.
Together, CCDC and our partners are developing air and defense capabilities for a maneuverable, multimission force. These capabilities will support multidomain operations by creating not only a tiered, layered defense, but also domes of protection to keep Soldiers—on the ground and in the air—safe. These domes will provide the future force with innovative technologies and capabilities that will give Soldiers and our allies a decisive edge.
For more information, go to the CCDC website at https://www.army.mil/ccdc.
MAJ. GEN. CEDRIC T. WINS is the commanding general of CCDC. He graduated from the Virginia Military Institute and was commissioned in the field artillery in July 1985. His military education includes Field Artillery Officer Basic and Advanced Courses, U.S. Army Command and General Staff College and the National War College, where he earned an M.S. in national security and strategic studies. Wins also holds an M.S. in management from the Florida Institute of Technology.
This article is published in the Fall 2019 issue of Army AL&T magazine.
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