14 Aug 20. ‘Help and guidance’: Land combat plan outlines SICPs for industry. With the release of the Land Combat and Protected Vehicles and Technology Upgrades Plan on Thursday, Minister for Defence Industry Melissa Price has outlined a framework for small businesses to work with government to build and grow one of the key sovereign industrial capabilities envisioned by Canberra.
The Implementation Plan – which identified opportunities for Australian businesses – was released alongside the Department of Defence’s overarching Industry Plan for the land combat SICP.
As defined by Defence, the priority captures the following:
- Combat vehicles – vehicles operated in sustained close combat and designed to generate warfighting advantage through lethality and protection systems.
- Protected vehicles – vehicles designed to enable the safe movement of personnel and/or equipment through a conflict environment, however, not designed for sustained close combat.
- Technology upgrades – an improvement to the quality or usefulness of a system or platform, or a change that incorporates a new function or component. An upgrade is generally connected with design changes to improve the systems’ capability or performance.
The third SICP implementation document released by the current government, the release of the plan follows the first tranche of SICP plans: the Combat Clothing and the Munitions and Small Arms Plans, posted as of December 2019. Implementation and Industry Plans for the remaining seven SICPs will be released throughout the year.
According to Minister Price, it provides a useful point of reference to both businesses already operating as part of the defence supply chain, as well as those looking to get involved, in order to “invest in a way that best supports the Australian Defence Force’s capability needs”.
“The Morrison government is delivering a record $270 billion of defence capability for our men and women in uniform, backing small businesses and creating thousands of Aussie jobs in our defence industry,” Minister Price said.
“The release of this plan is a significant step in providing greater clarity, supporting industry to make the most of this unprecedented opportunity.
“My number one priority is giving small business the tools they need to be involved in our defence industry, and grow their businesses to enable them to enter global markets.” (Source: Defence Connect)
13 Aug 20. AM General CEO on acquisition by a private equity firm. KPS Capital Partners is acquiring Humvee-maker AM General, the private equity firm announced last month, marking a new chapter for the South Bend, Indiana-based vehicle maker.
AM General President and CEO Andy Hove will continue to lead the company, and KPS Partner Jay Bernstein said the firm would continue to build on the ubiquitous Humvee, leveraging the company’s “research, technology, innovation and new product development, as well as its heritage and iconic brand name.”
The Humvee appears to have some growth ahead. For one, U.S. Army budget documents call for $1.5 billion through 2025 to pay for modernization of its fleet of High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles and their up-armored variant. That can include replacing major components, applying new technologies or replacing vehicles entirely. After the Army reaches its procurement objective for the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, made by Oshkosh, it will have an enduring requirement for 54,800 Humvees.
Otherwise, AM General ― which has advertised both its Brutus 155mm and Hawkeye 105mm mobile howitzers ― is expected to participate in the Army’s mobile howitzer shoot-off evaluation at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona, next year.
Meanwhile, the Army is expected to complete a new tactical wheeled vehicle strategy in fiscal 2021, which has thus far received congressional support, per the House and Senate versions of the annual defense policy bill.
Hove, who has said KPS will continue to execute AM General’s existing strategy, spoke with Defense News on Aug. 6. This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
Private equity firm KPS Capital Partners is in the process of acquiring AM General. At this preliminary stage, what would you say are KPS’ plans and vision for the company?
I think [KPS partner] Jay Bernstein represented it in his quote in the announcement that they feel really good about the capabilities of AM General and the strategy we’ve been executing. We’ve discussed with them where we can go. They’re confident in our business and the growth prospects of AM General. They feel good about and stand behind our strategy, and we’re going to work together with them.
Will the company focus more on the Humvee, or do you see it becoming more flexible? What is the future for the Humvee? Who are its customers these days?
To say we’re only focused on the Humvee today would not be a correct premise. We’ve made investments across the board, in base automotive systems, and then automotive systems that have a particular special use. Our core focus is in solving very complex mobility challenges for customers. So the Humvee has a great future. I would offer that you turn to not what I say about what the Army will do but what the Army says they’re going to do on the Humvee fleet, which is to steadily and systematically manage a very large fleet by systematic replacement of that fleet and recapitalization of that fleet going forward.
They’ve been buying new-built Humvees to replace old Humvees over the last four years at a pretty heavy clip and have announced their intention to continue to do that going forward.
We’re obviously going to focus on the Humvee because there’s significant demand. It is today the world’s leading military 4×4 in its class, and we build more of them than any other military vehicle manufacturer in the world, and especially more than anybody in our weight class.
That won’t be the only thing we invest in. You can see our investments in the Hawkeye, which brings game-changing breakthrough technology [in relation to] how artillery systems are moved around and employed on the battlefield, together with a whole other range of implementing technologies such as autonomous navigation, off-board power and those kind of things. The U.S. Defense Department is an important customer, but a considerable portion of our businesses is global business, so we take a global view of how we solve mobility challenges for our customers around the globe.
The Army recently issued a request for information about replacing heavy trucks. Is that a potential opportunity?
We certainly feel like we have something to offer, a range of things to offer there, and that RFI’s only been out for a couple of weeks. We’ll will certainly take a closer look at that. We’re also taking a look at the JLTV competition they announced back in February.
Defense News recently characterized AM General as “largely stagnant” since losing the competition for the JLTV in 2015 to Oshkosh. Do you want to push back at all to talk about AM General’s time under McAndrew & Forbes?
The JLTV decision was 2015, and the four years since the announcement on the JLTV competition we’ve built more military vehicles than Oshkosh or any other military vehicle manufacturer by a long shot, and sold them to more customers around the globe than anyone else. I think that’s far from being stagnant. There are a lot of adjectives you can apply to the company. “Stagnant” would not be the one I would apply.
Private equity firms will typically set up companies they buy for faster growth, and then potentially that’ll lead to a future sale. Do you think that’s something that might happen here, and what do you predict? Is there any indication of time horizons for KPS?
KPS has made a lot of smart investments, they have a pattern, but they’re not going to be pigeonholed into a particular time frame for a next-step strategy. (Source: Defense News)
13 Aug 20. Digital Concepts Engineering Ltd (DCE) has won a contract in the UK government’s Defence and Security Accelerator’s (DASA) Map the Gap competition to develop a semi-autonomous reconnaissance and survey system that will help troops safely and stealthily advance into enemy territory over water. DCE will lead its part of the Map the Gap industry team with a vehicle based on their rugged X series of remotely operated vehicles (ROVs), which incorporates DCE’s Marionette robotic vehicle architecture, the heart of the Map the Gap solution. Other organisations and technologies supporting DCE’s bid are Jacobs’ 6th Sense data analytics, drones & autonomous routing provided by Frazer-Nash Consultancy and Eijkelkamp Geopoint SoilSolutions’ ground sampling expertise. Map the Gap ground surveys will be carried out using a submersible ROV carrying data sensors, soil sampling tools and sonar equipment, while the surrounding area will be scanned from the air by drone. The Map the Gap competition was run by DASA on behalf of the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory. The programme covers two phases for the development and demonstration of a number of system demonstrators able to tackle the key issues of gap crossing survey. The total funding for Phase 1 of the Map the Gap programme is approximately £1.2m, with a further £2.5m anticipated for Phase 2 activities.
Robert Hammond-Smith, DASA Delivery Manager for Map the Gap, said: “Our vision is to ultimately remove personnel from these dangerous tasks with a remote system that allows more crossing locations to be surveyed, increasing the choices available to commanders and giving an opportunity to surprise the enemy.”
Lionel Nierop, DCE’S Business Development and Operations Director, commented: “We are delighted to have won a contract on DASA’s prestigious and technically demanding Map the Gap competition. DCE’s successful bid with our X-4 ROV and our Marionette universal control system builds on our previous work in defence and nuclear applications. This win demonstrates the opportunities presented by long-term collaboration between a wide range of innovative companies, working alongside the government, and we are looking forward to successfully meeting the Map the Gap challenge together.”
11 Aug 20. How’s my driving? Researchers measure trust in autonomous vehicles. Scientists at the Army Research Lab are using facial recognition technology to gauge the trust soldiers have in their robotic teammates, enabling developers to identify changes in trust levels that might indicate increased wariness in high-risk environments and allow them to calibrate systems so that they work efficiently with humans whose native trust levels vary.
In convoys of automated vehicles, some supervising soldiers tend to over-trust the automation, while others may mistrust the system from the start. Using a simulated autonomous driving scenario, the researchers found soldiers could be placed in one of four basic trust categories based on their demographics, personality traits, responses to uncertainty and initial perceptions about trust, stress and workload associated with interacting with automated vehicles.
For their experiment, the researchers had 24 participants, ages 18–65 years, perform a leader-follower driving task operating a simulated vehicle on a two-lane closed-circuit roadway. Participants had to navigate the road, avoid collisions and decide whether to engage their vehicle’s autonomous assistant to help them maintain speed and lane position with respect to the leader.
Throughout the driving task, each participant’s face was recorded via a webcam mounted to the simulation screen, which allowed the researchers to measure their facial expressions on a frame-by-frame basis for each task, and classify those expressions as indicating either happiness, sadness, surprise, fear, anger or contempt.
The researchers used a model-based clustering method that showed marked differences in their levels of subjective trust described four trust-based patterns in their paper. They concluded that trust calibration metrics may not be the same for all groups of people and that trust-based interventions, such as changes in user display features or communication of intent, “may not be necessary for all individuals, or may vary depending on group dynamics.”
One group, for example, had a high desire for change, were open, extraverted and conscientious. “Tied with their low neuroticism scores, we expect this group to be novelty-seeking, be less impacted by stress or workload, and thus be more willing to accept and trust automation,” the researchers wrote. “When identifying trust calibration metrics, we expect members of this group to use the automation and be willing to hand off and take away control, but they may be prone to overtrust.”
Another group exhibited high emotional uncertainty indicating greater negative trust response when the reliability of the automation was low. Those with low cognitive uncertainty, but high agreeableness and conscientiousness, suggested they preferred predictable, planned behavior but would be willing to give automation a chance. The fourth cluster included the youngest participants who did not respond emotionally to uncertainty, but tended not to seek novelty and preferred predictability and structure in uncertain conditions. The researchers said they expected those in that group “to have higher stress and workload while interacting with automation and to exhibit a general negative response to automation.”
With human-autonomous teaming gaining momentum in the military, the researchers said they were interested in finding ways to evaluate affect-based trust, which refers to the “attitudinal state in which the individual makes attributions about the motives of the automation,” they said in their paper.
“It is often stated that for appropriate trust to be developed and effectively calibrated, an individual’s expectations must match the system’s actual behaviors,” said Catherine Neubauer, an ARL researcher and lead author of the paper. “We believe this approach extends the state-of-the-art by explicitly evaluating facial expressions as a way to quantify and calibrate affect-based trust in response to automation level capability and reliability,” she said. “It could also provide a method to understand the continuous variations in trust during a human-agent interaction, as opposed to the standard approach of participants self-reporting changes in trust after an interaction has occurred.”
ARL researchers will use facial expression analysis to help reveal when trust-based interventions are needed to improve soldier responses to automation, lab officials said. They also plan to study how group-based interventions can improve trust and team cohesion when soldiers must jointly perform high-consequence tasks with automated agents, such as the Next Generation Combat Vehicle. (Source: Defense Systems)
11 Aug 20. South Korea to develop unmanned technologies for K1 MBT and K9 SPHs. South Korea will develop technologies that would enable the Republic of Korea Army (RoKA) to field unmanned versions of its K1 main battle tanks (MBTs) and K9 155 mm tracked self-propelled howitzer (SPH), an official at the Agency for Defense Development (ADD) told Janes on 5 August.
Janes understands that the ADD-led programme is expected to commence in December and will deliver a completed study by November 2024. The agency has budgeted KRW7.38bn (USD6.19m) for this work.
Key lines of research include a common remote-control architecture and remote driving as well as autonomous navigation technology. The agency will also explore mission systems that address the unique characteristics of both MBT and SPH operations, such as mobile target remote aiming and tracking technology for the former.
In contrast, researchers will aim to develop autonomous deployment, automatic heat dissipation, and automated shooting preparation systems for the K9 SPH.
An earlier concept study released by the Korea Institute of Military Science and Technology (KIMST) in 2016 offers a possible configuration of an unmanned K1 MBT. For example, the MBT’s turret roof is equipped with a 360° situational awareness suite and a remote-controlled weapon station (RCWS), while a carousel-type automatic reloading system and a remote-control fire control and targeting suite have been installed within. (Source: Jane’s)
11 Aug 20. Turkish Hizir vehicles exported to East Africa. A shipment of Hızır light armoured vehicles made by the Turkish company Katmerciler AŞ was delivered to an East African country, shipping data has shown.
Katmerciler announced in 2019 that it had received the first export order for the Hızır from an African customer it did not identify, saying it was worth USD20.7m.
The company announced the delivery of the first batch of vehicles on 20 July, when it tweeted photographs showing 15 Hızırs waiting to be loaded on to a ro-ro cargo ship at a port that could be identified as Mersin in Turkey. It said the vehicles were now on their way to Africa, without revealing their destination.
The ro-ro cargo ship seen in the photographs could be identified as Jolly Cobalto (IMO: 9668960), which AIS tracking data showed left Mersin on 18 July. It stopped at Jeddah in Saudi Arabia, an unlikely destination for Turkish armoured vehicles painted green, before heading to Djibouti, where military vehicles destined for Ethiopia are typically offloaded. (Source: Jane’s)
10 Aug 20. Australia invests in Army’s autonomous vehicle fleet. Defence Minister Linda Reynolds and Defence Industry Minister Melissa Price have announced a $12.2m investment into Australian industry designed to enhance the Australian Army’s experimentation, prototyping and exploration of autonomous vehicle and emerging technologies.
Minister Reynolds said the development of robotic and autonomous systems are central to meeting Australia’s future operational challenges, including humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, and combat operations.
“In the 2020 Force Structure Plan, I set out how Defence plans to seize these opportunities through greater development and implementation of robotic and autonomous systems,” Minister Reynolds said.
The contracts will be delivered over the next three years and include:
- $7.7m contract with BAE Systems Australia to convert 16 M113AS4 armoured personnel carriers into optionally crewed combat vehicles (OCCVs), increasing the OCCV fleet available to 20 vehicles and support experimentation over two years. Conversions will be conducted in South Australia by BAE and in regional Victoria by Defence’s Joint Logistic Unit (Victoria);
- $3.5m contract with the Institute for Intelligent Research and Innovation (IISRI) at Deakin University for the expansion of Army’s leader-follower vehicle technology prototyping;
- $135,000 contract with QinetiQ Australia for the modelling of the value of conversion of a Bushmaster protected mobility vehicle to hybrid-electric drive; and
- $897,000 contract with EPE for small wheeled robots to experiment with human and machine teaming in reconnaissance roles.
Minister Reynolds added, “These technologies are ‘disruptive technologies’ that provide marked advantages on the modern battlefield by bolstering ADF capability while protecting Australian personnel.”
Minister Price expanded on the comments by Minister Reynolds, saying the investment will boost robotic and autonomous vehicle studies and help to build opportunities for local defence companies.
“These are exciting times for developing world-class, cutting-edge technology right here in Australia. We are investing $12m to boost Defence’s experience and understanding of new and emerging technologies in partnership with Australian industry and academia,” Minister Price explained.
Army’s Robotic & Autonomous Systems Implementation & Coordination Office (RICO) was launched in March 2020 to explore, co-ordinate and develop concepts for disruptive technology in pursuit of its Robotic and Autonomous Systems Strategy (RAS).
Many of the emergent capabilities entering service over the next decade will be impacted by RAS technology. As such, Army should remain cognisant of how RAS technology can be inserted into new and legacy systems and how rapidly the technology will change.
According to the RAS, “Army should also start to experiment with and prototype emerging technology to appreciate the value that it may bring, how it may alter the way we fight and integrate; and most importantly to shape future procurement activity to generate a modern Army for the future joint operational environment.”
There are five fields Army will seek to gain advantage and harness the range of technologies that are expected to emerge in the immediate and intermediate future:
- Maximising soldier performance through reducing their physical and cognitive loads;
- Improving decision-making at all levels;
- Generating mass and scalable effects through human-machine teaming;
- Protecting the force; and
Minister Price added, “There is a global increase in the use of these types of technologies and investments like these ensure both Defence and Australian industry are well positioned to take advantage and further develop these state-of-the-art technologies.” (Source: Defence Connect)
10 Aug 20. Oshkosh is tinkering with a uniquely British JLTV. Britain has moved a step closer to completing a deal for purchasing Joint Light Tactical Vehicles (JLTV) following the award of a contract allowing platform builder Oshkosh Defense to trial proposed UK sub-systems on the vehicle.
The British Ministry of Defence signed a demonstration phase deal with the US government in June to investigate the integration of UK equipment on the JLTV as part of a proposed foreign military sales agreement.
Program officials here said the work being undertaken by Oshkosh is to help them better understand the choices to be made and reduce risk during manufacturing.
The US vehicle has been selected by the British Army as the preferred option for the first phase of its Multi-Role Vehicle-Protected program aimed at replacing command, liaison and light logistics vehicles.
A second MRV-P package, unrelated to JLTV, involving purchase of larger vehicles for ambulance and general purpose duties is still in competition.
The demonstration deal has not been officially announced but radios, electronic countermeasures and other equipment are among the items specified by the British for trialing on a modified JLTV.
Mike Ivy, the senior vice president for international programs at Oshkosh Defense, confirmed the work is underway.
“The MRV-P program has funded a series of technical work packages that take the UK requirements and ensure proper fit and integration into JLTV,” Ivy said.
The Oshkosh Defense executive said the work is being undertaken at the company’s headquarters in Wisconsin. “The contract will conclude by December 2022,” said Ivy.
Nobody is saying yet when a production contract might finally get signed, or for how many vehicles.
Talks between the British and US governments on a proposed JLTV purchase have been underway for more than four years.
Cost has been cited by some media reports as one of the reasons the two sides have failed so far to finalize a deal.
Ivy said talks to conclude the deal were still underway.
“The timing for the purchase of JLTV, the quantity of vehicles and subsequent delivery is the subject of ongoing discussions between the UK MoD and US DoD,” he said.
British armed forces minister James Heappey told Parliament in January the intention was to decide on the JLTV procurement this year.
That, though, was before Covid-19 struck, causing the delay of a defense review until around the end of the year and chronically damaging the financial prospects of military equipment spending.
Equipment programs are regularly being delayed as the MoD seeks to balance its books.
Most recently officials cited the defense review as one of the reasons for delaying a major 155mm howitzer program by more than two years.
Analysts and the media here have said the Army may be a big loser if its budget takes a hit as the government defense review pivots towards sectors like space and cyber and away from conventional weapons like armored vehicles and artillery.
The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency said in 2017 the British had been approved to purchase 2,747 JLTV vehicles at a cost of $1bn.
The Parliamentary Defence Committee , also in 2017, said the expectation was that 750 vehicles would likely be procured.
Whatever number the British settle for Ivy said that Oshkosh is mindful of the importance of UK content for its contracts with the UK MoD.
“The MRV-P program is no exception. Once the work packages have been completed by Oshkosh and the configuration has been determined by the UK MoD, Oshkosh will present options on shared work content that can be completed in collaboration with UK partners,” said the executive.
(Source: Defense News)(See: BATTLESPACE UPDATE Vol.22 ISSUE 26, 29 June 2020, CONTRACT NEWS IN BRIEF, UNITED KINGDOM, LAND, Oshkosh JLTV contract)
10 Aug 20. Automation: The future of the combat vehicle? Much has been made of the thrust towards automatisation in recent years – but, until recently, it’s been largely limited to the civilian space. Over the weekend, the Robotic Combat Vehicle Soldier Operational Experiment came to a close in Fort Carson, Colorado – and the results have outpaced the service’s expectations.
Over the course of the week to come, US Army modernisation officials will round off the service’s first experiment with Robotic Combat Vehicles (scheduled to end 14 August).
While plans have been in the works since late last year – with successive rounds whittling the field down to just a few bids back in January – Army’s Combat Capabilities Development Command and Next Generation Combat Vehicle Cross-Functional Team has given short shrift to all else bar:
- QinetiQ North America and partner Pratt & Miller: which plan to provide four of their seven-ton EMAV robots (Expeditionary Modular Autonomous Vehicles) to serve as the RCV-Light; and
- Textron: which plans to provide four of its 10-plus-ton Ripsaw mini-tanks to serve as the RCV-Medium (Textron also offered a stripped-down Ripsaw variant for RCV-Light).
The multi-test phase hopes to upgrade today’s generation of RCVs from the “geriatric” M113 troop carrier to a family of purpose-built family of RCVs. As the selection process shows, as well, the service plans on introducing unmanned RCVs that cover a broad range of roles, from smaller scouts through to “mini-tanks”.
Over the course of the past five weeks, 4th Infantry Division soldiers based at Fort Carson have been carrying out cavalry-style combat missions in modified Bradley fighting vehicles to direct robotic surrogate M113s. Though Textron has been sidelined for the moment (its prototype is still being improved and refined), the success seen by the QinetiQ team is likely to pile pressure to perform on the latter.
So, what troubles, if any, have the testers encountered? For one, autonomous vehicles have difficulty interpreting the natural environment.
“Right now, it’s very difficult for a robot that looks at a puddle. It doesn’t know if it’s a Marianas Trench, or if it’s two inches deep,” said Major Cory Wallace, the Army’s Robotic Combat Vehicle Lead. “It’s something that we as human beings can contextualise, but the robot has a hard time doing it.”
While this might run counter to much of what you’ve heard in recent years about the state of autonomous vehicles in the private sector, it’s well worth remembering that those are designed to drive on standardised roads. Army vehicles, on the other hand, are required to traverse rough and inhospitable terrain where problems such as these are likely to be more significant in scope – exactly the reason the trials are being carried out in the hilly terrain south of Colorado Springs.
The testers also took issue with target recognition technology, which seeks to link the robotic vehicle with the control platform.
“It works while stationary, but part of the challenge is how do you do that on the move and how that is passed to the gunner,” said Brigadier General Richard “Ross” Coffman, director of the Army’s Next Generation Combat Vehicle-Cross Functional Team.
“We’ve got some challenges to get the control vehicle and the robot vehicle to communicate adequately beyond 1,000 metres.
“The distance between the robot and the controller is a physics problem and, when you talk flat earth, you can go over a kilometre from the controller to the robot.”
“This experiment was 100 per cent successful … because we learned; the whole purpose was to learn where the technology is now and how we think we want to fight with it in the future,” said BG Coffman.
“All of the technology was not successful; it’s a sliding scale. Some knocked our socks off, and some — we’ve got a little bit of work to do.”
One of the areas BG Coffman points to as a win was the communications system – which worked much better than planners have initially expected.
“The interface with the crew … so the soldiers see where they are, they see where the robots are, they can communicate graphics … it just absolutely blew us away,” he said.
“The software between the robotic vehicle and the control vehicle – while not perfect – performed better than we thought it would.”
The service plans to build on the wins (and losses) seen at Fort Carson with a battery of subsequent wet runs; the first of which is scheduled for Fort Hood, in Texas’ arid centre. Though this won’t take place til 2022, the interim will take both parties back to the drawing board to hash out communications, infrared, and navigational issues.
“Is the technology where we thought it would be, should we continue to spend money on this effort or should we cease effort?” BG Coffman said. That’s what he plans to ask, at least, after the conclusion of both runs – building towards a final 2023 decision on whether the program will become a formal program of record.
Nevertheless, the benefits of being able to engage actors remotely, without the need for boots on the ground, have been manifest over successive Gulf deployments (and other counterinsurgency operations carried out since Vietnam). It’s a politically appealing way of conducting warfare – and what’s more, it might even have operational appeal too. (Source: Defence Connect)
06 Aug 20. The US Army Just Wrapped Up Its First Robot Vehicle Experiment. Here’s What It Learned. U.S. Army modernization officials are about to finish the service’s first experiment to see whether the Robotic Combat Vehicle effort can make units more deadly on the future battlefield.
For the past five weeks, a platoon of soldiers from the 4th Infantry Division has been conducting cavalry-style combat missions using two-person crews in specially modified Bradley fighting vehicles to control robotic surrogate vehicles fashioned from M113 armored personnel vehicles in the Robotic Combat Vehicle Soldier Operational Experiment.
The platoon has operated in the rugged terrain of Fort Carson, Colorado, testing different technologies to control the robotic vehicles, sending them out hundreds of meters ahead to scout for enemy positions.
“This experiment was 100% successful … because we learned; the whole purpose was to learn where the technology is now and how we think we want to fight with it in the future,” Brig. Gen. Ross Coffman, director of the Army’s Next Generation Combat Vehicle-Cross Functional Team, told defense reporters Thursday during a virtual roundtable discussion.
“All of the technology was not successful; it’s a sliding scale. Some knocked our socks off, and some — we’ve got a little bit of work to do.”
The experiment, scheduled to end Aug. 14, is one of three designed to evaluate the performance and potential of robotic combat vehicles on the battlefield, Coffman said.
Some of the technology tested in the experiment worked better than anticipated, he added.
“The interface with the crew … so the soldiers see where they are, they see where the robots are, they can communicate graphics … it just absolutely blew us away,” he said. “The software between the robotic vehicle and the control vehicle — while not perfect — performed better than we thought it would.”
There were challenges with the target recognition technology that links the robotic vehicle with the control vehicle.
“It works while stationary, but part of the challenge is how do you do that on the move and how that is passed to the gunner,” Coffman said. “We’ve got some work to do with that.
“We have some work to do with the stability systems with the weapon systems as you are going across terrain,” he continued.
Another challenge will be to get the control vehicle and the robot vehicle to communicate adequately beyond 1,000 meters.
“The distance between the robot and the controller is a physics problem and, when you talk flat earth, you can go over a kilometer from the controller to the robot,” Coffman said, adding that potential adversaries are wrestling with the same challenge.
Several defense firms participating in the experiment have “created radio waveforms to get us the megabytes per second to extend that range” in dense forest terrain, he said.
“That’s the hardest part, is you get into a dense forest, it’s really hard to extend the range,” he said. “We tested them; we went after them with [electronic warfare] … so we have a really good idea of what is the realm of the possible.”
The Army announced in January that it had selected QinetiQ North America to build four prototypes of the Robotic Combat Vehicle-Light, and Textron to build four prototypes of the RCV-Medium. Both companies were present at the experiment, but their prototypes are still being finalized and did not participate.
After the experiment, an independent evaluation will be conducted on the technical and tactical performance of the robots to decide whether manned-unmanned teaming in combat vehicles can make combat units more effective, Coffman said.
In the first part of fiscal 2022, the Army is scheduled to conduct a second experiment at Fort Hood, Texas, using the same M113 robot vehicles and Bradley control vehicles to focus on company-size operations. The service also plans to conduct a third experiment in the future that will focus on more complex company-size operations.
After each of these experiments, the Army will decide “is the technology where we thought it would be, should we continue to spend money on this effort or should we cease effort?” Coffman said.
The service is also scheduled to make a decision in fiscal 2023 on when manned-unmanned teaming with RCVs will become a program of record, he said, adding that no decision has been made on when the Army will equip its first unit with the technology.
Coffman admits that the technology is “not 100% there yet,” but he remains confident that combat leaders will one day have the option to send unmanned combat vehicles into danger before committing soldiers to the fight.
“This is about soldiers and this is about commanders on the battlefield and giving them the decision space and reducing the risk of our men and women when we go into the nastiest places on Earth,” he explained. (Source: glstrade.com/military.com)
11 Aug 20. DASA awards contracts for semi-autonomous reconnaissance systems. The UK’s Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA) has awarded contracts worth a total of £1.3m for the development of semi-autonomous reconnaissance and survey systems. These systems will help troops to stealthily and safely move into enemy territory across water obstacles such as rivers.
Royal Engineer reconnaissance troops currently survey both banks of the river, which exposes them to danger and compromises the operation by raising interest in the location to the enemy.
According to DASA, the aim is to remove personnel from such dangerous tasks with a remote system and increase the choices to commanders while surprising the enemy.
Run on behalf of the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl), Map the Gap competition announced in December 2019 it had sought ideas from industry and academia for the development of a new remote system that can survey potential crossing sites by collecting data about the river banks.
British Army Ground Manoeuvre Capability assistant head for manoeuvre support ground Colonel Simon Bradley said: “We are hugely excited by the benefits the Map the Gap project may realise. The reconnaissance of multiple potential crossing sites at the forward edge of the battle exposes soldiers to significant risk.
“Replacing and/or augmenting manned reconnaissance with a remote, beyond line-of-sight system will not only reduce the threat to life; it will also offer the ability to survey multiple crossing sites in a far more timely and efficient manner.
“In turn, this will provide greater choice to ground commanders and more opportunities to out-manoeuvre our opponents. It will be a force multiplier for our next generation bridging systems.”
Phase 1 funding from the competition was awarded to five small and medium sized business. This funding will help the companies to pace up their innovative solutions and test with the British Army.
Scytronix received funding of £251,900 for a proposal on a drone mountable crossing assessment system that makes use of low frequency electromagnetic scanning techniques.
Wight Ocean secured £309,282 to develop an amphibious bottom crawler that can navigate and transit water crossing to collect near real-time data, which can be used for analysis.
Funding of £272,656 was given to Nordic Unmanned, which has to demonstrate unmanned aerial systems sensors, data exploitation, and a semi-autonomous capability for engineer reconnaissance.
Digital Concepts Engineering received £331,133 to develop an unmanned ground vehicle and a drone ‘team’ with several sensors to collect and present data.
Funding totalling £177,789 was awarded to Foundry Cube, which in collaboration with Ultrabeam Hydrographic has to demonstrate an autonomous and amphibious hydrographic survey vehicle that is similar to a pedalo whilst using novel techniques tools and sonar and lidar technologies. A further £2.5m is anticipated for development in Phase 2.