VISUAL TRIUMPH: The IVAS will change the way Soldiers fight and win, effectively eliminating the blind spots that can make it so dangerous to dismount from an armored vehicle. (Photos by Courtney Bacon, PEO Soldier)
IVAS Mounted amplifies capabilities for Soldiers, eliminating deadly blind spots.
by Courtney E. Bacon
The Army is looking to apply the critical new capabilities of the Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS) to mounted platforms in an effort to amplify the combat advantage that the system delivers to a single dismounted Soldier.
Maj. Kevin Smith is the IVAS team member responsible for platform integration, out of the Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Cyber, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Night Vision and Electronic Sensors Directorate. He led a platform integration event in January at Joint Base Lewis-McCord, Washington.
“Up until this point, IVAS has really been focused on the dismounted Soldiers and getting that fighting goggle right,” said Smith. “So in parallel, we in the Night Vision Electronic Sensors Directorate have been working to build in applications to leverage both new and existing sensors on the vehicles to give the Soldier not just enhanced visual situational awareness, but also C2 [command and control] situational awareness while they’re inside of a platform or vehicle.”
Soldiers from 1-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team (1-2 SBCT) and 3rd Infantry Division joined the cross-enterprise Team IVAS at Joint Base Lewis-McCord to learn the breadth of the IVAS capability set and to provide feedback on what would be the most operationally effective application as the technology integrates onto larger platforms.
Soldiers in armored vehicles like the Bradley or Stryker can’t consistently maintain visual situational awareness of their position in relation to external forces or targets on the battlefield. Because IVAS uses sensors to enhance natural information visibility and processing, the integrated IVAS team is working to tackle how to best use those sensors to provide a real-time external view of physical surroundings to Soldiers in the back of closed and often moving vehicles.
“In the past, as the Soldier in the back who’s going to actually be dismounting on the objective, you may have a single screen to look at that can maybe toggle between the driver’s view or the commander’s view, or the gunner’s view, or perhaps you’re looking through periscope blocks or asking the crew themselves what is actually happening around you,” said Sgt. 1st Class Joshua Braly of the Soldier Lethality Cross-Functional Team. “But overall, when you are buttoned up in the back of a platform, you have very limited situational awareness to what you’re walking into.”
Beyond addressing the original problem set for the dismounted warfighter, the Army is looking to apply IVAS to these capability gaps of the mounted force in order to allow Soldiers to maintain both command and control and visual situational awareness seamlessly across Army platforms.
“I struggled when I was a squad leader getting out of the bay, not knowing where I was because we get dropped at different spots in the op order,” said Sgt. John Martin, Bradley master gunner from 3rd Infantry Division. “Not having information on the ground was definitely a challenge that tripped us up.”
The squads took turns in the Stryker and Bradley vehicles, testing each camera view and function, power management, communications and the ease of mounting and dismounting with the IVAS. The Soldiers quickly saw that the capabilities being developed for dismounted Soldiers via IVAS are amplified by integrating the system into platforms using world view, 360-degree and see capabilities that leverage the view of external sensors to be transmitted to the Heads-Up Display (HUD) of each individual Soldier.
“There’s always a line between the squads and the tracks, and having this equipment is going to help tie them in so the dismounts in the back can see the actual optics of the vehicle itself and then they can seamlessly work with the crew because everyone can see around the vehicle without actually having to step outside of it,” said Martin. “It has countless uses like land navigation, being able to track things while on the battlefield, moving through urban complexes, moving through open terrain.”
Each Soldier with IVAS can “see through” the vehicle’s body to what its external sensors are feeding into the individual HUDs, as if the vehicle has invisible armor. Soldiers with the SBCT understood the implications for not only command and control, situational awareness management and safety, but also the overall lethality of the force.
“This changes how we operate, honestly,” said Sgt. Philip Bartel with 1-2 SBCT. “Now, guys aren’t hanging out of vehicles in dangerous situations trying to get views on what’s going on. Leadership will be able to maneuver their elements and get view-on-target without having to leave the safety of their armored vehicles. Maneuvering elements with that kind of information will minimize casualties and will overall drastically change how we operate and increase our effectiveness on the battlefield.”
“The fact that we are going to be more lethal on the ground, the fact that we won’t be losing as many guys because everyone can see and track the same information—the capabilities and possibilities and implications of this technology are endless,” added Martin.
Soldier-centered design is a driving principle of IVAS technology development. It calls for the Soldier and squad to be understood and developed as a comprehensive weapon system and it prioritizes Soldier feedback throughout development. By addressing operational capability gaps with a holistic view, it allows the physical interface and load requirements of Soldier kit to be better managed and balanced while integrating leap-ahead technology to increase lethality on the battlefield.
“Right now the technology is in prototype phase, so we’re getting some really good feedback from actual Soldiers here on the ground today, that we can take back and make some critical improvements with, which is awesome,” said Smith. “The reason why we do this is because these requirements need to be generated from the bottom up, not from the top down. So enlisting Soldier feedback is really important to us, so that we understand what they need and what their requirements are.”
The program is revolutionizing the way that acquisition requirements are generated. Though engineers and industry experts have always been dedicated to develop effective products to meet Soldier needs through requirements, best practices have now shown that requirements should be developed hand in hand with and by the end user.
“Whereas before, requirements were generated, in my opinion, inside of silos, we really need the Soldier’s feedback in order to generate a proper requirement that’s best for the Soldier, period,” said Braly. “It’s really important, because we can’t build something that Soldiers are not going to use. We have to get that feedback from Soldiers, listen to Soldiers and implement that feedback. Then it becomes a better product for the Soldier, and they’re going to want to use it. If they don’t want to use it, they won’t, and it’s all for nothing.”
FUTURE OF IVAS
The event was another step toward developing IVAS, which was recently approved to move from rapid prototyping to production and rapid fielding in an effort to deliver next-generation capabilities to the close combat force in line with the accelerated pace in which the battlefield and technology continue to change.
“This is something that none of us imagined we would see in our careers,” said Martin. “It’s futuristic technology that we’ve all talked about and seen in movies and video games, but it’s something that we never imagined we would have the chance to fight with. It’s definitely technology that we are really excited to use as soon as they can get it to us.”
“IVAS is more than just a goggle, it’s changing the way we fight,” added Smith.
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COURTNEY E. BACON is a public affairs specialist providing PEO Soldier PM IVAS contract support on behalf of TMGL LLC. She has a B.S. in biology from George Mason University and is working toward a master’s degree in biodefense and international security from George Mason’s Schar School of Policy and Government. She previously worked in communications and public affairs for the Defense Information Systems Agency.