11 Nov 20. QinetiQ and Pratt Miller Deliver First Robotic Combat Vehicle – Light to U.S. Army. Robotic leaders provide revolutionary solution for the RCV-L Program. QinetiQ Inc. and Pratt Miller Defense announced the delivery of the first Robotic Combat Vehicle – Light (RCV-L) to the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command (CCDC) Ground Vehicle Systems Center (GVSC). The RCV-L is a purpose-built hybrid-electric unmanned ground combat vehicle (UGCV) integrating technology from both organizations.
Robotic experts QinetiQ and Pratt Miller deliver first RCV-L vehicle to U.S. Army GVSC personnel at Selfridge Air National Guard Base on November 5, 2020
The first RCV-L was delivered to GVSC on November 5, 2020. The RCV-L, provided by the team of QinetiQ Inc. (QinetiQ) and Pratt Miller Defense (Pratt Miller), is the first of four systems to be delivered. The culmination of eight months of challenging work, this on-time delivery is a major milestone for the RCV program’s industry/government collaboration.
Michael Rose; Branch Chief for Robotic Combat Platforms, GVSC Ground Vehicle Robotics; shared the following after the delivery took place. “The delivery of the first RCV-L is an exciting result of numerous government organizations and industry working together to achieve our first combat ready robotic vehicle. This unit is the first of four vehicles developed in support of the Manned-Unmanned Teaming (MUM-T) Soldier Operational Experiment, planned for 2022, and represents a significant milestone for the program. QinetiQ and Pratt Miller have successfully developed and delivered these systems within budget and on-schedule even in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. The GVSC team now plans to add Autonomous Mobility as well as Government Furnished Software for the Tethered UAS Multi-Mission Payload and CROWS-J Lethality package.”
“We are proud to deliver the first Robotic Combat Vehicle to the U.S. Army,” said Laurent Lannibois, QinetiQ’s RCV Program Manager. “This delivery will provide the Army with an unmanned vehicle ready for integration into ground combat operations. Our team’s ability to deliver this unparalleled and versatile capability on schedule while working through the unexpected challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic is commendable.”
The team hosted representatives from GVSC along with the Next Generation Combat Vehicle (NGCV) Cross Functional Team (CFT), and Program Executive Office (PEO) Ground Combat Systems (GCS) Product Manager Robotic Combat Vehicle (PdM RCV) the week prior to delivery at Pratt Miller’s New Hudson, MI facility. They demonstrated the RCV-L system and shared the progress of the follow-on vehicle builds.
“This is an important step forward for the RCV enterprise and, more importantly, for our Soldiers,” said Brig. Gen. Ross Coffman, director of the Army’s Next Generation Combat Vehicles Cross Functional Team. “We look forward to getting this prototype into the hands of our Soldiers and getting their feedback on how we can best utilize Robotic Combat Vehicles in defense of our great nation.”
The RCV-L is a purpose-built hybrid-electric unmanned ground combat vehicle (UGCV) configured to meet the specific needs of the program. It builds upon the proven maturity provided by the Pratt Miller Expeditionary Modular Autonomous Vehicle (EMAV) and integrates QinetiQ’s Modular Open System Architecture (MOSA) robotic control systems to make it both highly flexible, and payload agnostic.
Brian Barr, Pratt Miller Product Manager, described the RCV-L, “By building upon years of EMAV development, testing, and experimentation with the United States Marine Corps, we were able to provide the Army with a mature low-risk system that exceeds the objective level speed, maneuverability, and payload requirements in a single system configuration. The EMAV platform’s modular flat deck architecture has been integrated with over 20 payloads and exemplifies the flexibility required to address current and future threats.”
The RCV-L Prototype Project was awarded to QinetiQ North America (now a wholly owned subsidiary of QinetiQ Inc.) with major subcontractor Pratt Miller, in March 2020 through the National Advanced Mobility Consortium. The agreement includes the delivery and support of four RCV-L platforms with procurement options for up to 16 additional RCV-L systems. (Source: PR Newswire)
10 Nov 20. Robotics: Rheinmetall Mission Master to join Dutch Future Manoeuvre Elements trials. Rheinmetall’s Mission Master robotic vehicle will join a two-year Concept Development & Experimentation programme of the Dutch Army. The Robotics and Autonomous Systems (RAS) Unit of the 13th Light Brigade is running a multi-year Concept Development & Experimentation (CD&E) programme to pave the way for an operational unit. In the CD&E programme, various innovative operational concepts will be shaped to create desired Future Manoeuvre Elements that will enable the Dutch Army to execute missions more effectively. These operational concepts include the use of Autonomous Unmanned Ground Vehicles (A-UGV). The Mission Master was transferred in November 2020.
Rheinmetall is a world-renowned manufacturer of state-of-the-art UGV, with a strong focus on autonomous and modular warfare solutions. After initial successful trials in the Netherlands and Scotland, Rheinmetall’s Mission Master is now joining a two-year CD&E programme to further develop these innovative operational concepts, where adaptability and autonomy are the key criteria. In shaping these operational concepts, the RAS unit and Rheinmetall will be collaborating with innovative Dutch enterprises, knowledge centres and universities.
Robotics are already changing the modern battlefield. A modular A-UGV, Rheinmetall’s Mission Master enhances the combat performance of soldiers deployed on the ground in numerous ways. The Mission Master’s artificial intelligence and robotic brawn mean that it can execute a multitude of dull, dirty, and dangerous tasks that troops would otherwise have to perform themselves, letting them get on with the most important thing of all: their core mission.
Ready for action, the Mission Master A-UGV can operate in autonomous or semiautonomous mode as a fully-fledged member of the combat team.
The Mission Master platform is designed for maximum flexibility, and can be readily adapted for a wide variety of different missions thanks to modular build-ons specially engineered for quick installation. It is able perform a wide array of tasks, including cargo transport, casualty evacuation, CBRN detection, surveillance, and fire support (here, the human operator decides if and when to engage targets, something the remotely controlled effectors are never allowed to do autonomously). It can also serve as a mobile communications relay station.
The Mission Master is a robust platform, featuring long-range endurance and a silent drive mode. Its unique all-terrain mobility allows it to manoeuvre in difficult environments both indoors and outdoors. Speed, scalable autonomy and proven high mobility in all types of terrain combine to make the Mission Master a powerful, highly dependable comrade of dismounted forces operating in small groups. The Mission Master is thus a perfect match for the Dutch Army’s CD&E programme.
The handover marks the vehicle’s second success involving a NATO customer. In the UK, Her Majesty’s Armed Forces ordered four Rheinmetall Mission Master robotic vehicles in April 2020. Configured for transporting cargo, these autonomous unmanned ground vehicles are forming part of the British Army’s Robotic Platoon Vehicle programme. This programme is designed to determine the extent to which unmanned vehicles can boost the combat effectiveness and capabilities of dismounted troops at platoon level. The four Mission Master – Cargo vehicles were delivered in spring 2020. In addition, the scope of delivery comprised two stretcher systems that can be integrated into the cargo vehicle in just 60 seconds. The order also included training and service support as well as spare parts. The vehicles were supplied by Rheinmetall Canada, with Rheinmetall BAE Systems Land (RBSL) providing on-location support services in its capacity as cooperation partner. In the Netherlands, Rheinmetall Canada’s cooperation partner is Rheinmetall Defence Nederland in Ede, just east of Utrecht.
09 Nov 20. Meet The US Army’s Future Family Of Robot Tanks: RCV. The Army has outlined draft objectives for a range of Robotic Combat Vehicles, from an expendable light scout armed with a single anti-tank missile to a 30-ton unmanned tank as tough as the 70-ton M1 Abrams.
On a future battlefield, seven-ton tracked robots scout the enemy. Some of these Robotic Combat Vehicle (RCV) Light variants sweep paths through minefields. Others pop smoke to conceal the advance. Still others jam enemy transmissions and take potshots with anti-tank missiles.
Enemy return fire rips through the light robots’ unarmored hulls, but their computer brains keep on transmitting target coordinates to the rest of the force. Precision-guided long-range shells pound the enemy position as larger robots move up, 10-ton mini-tanks called RCV-Mediums that boast machine-guns, missiles, and 30mm chainguns. And the third wave follows not far behind: a hard core of humans in M1 Abrams tanks, escorted by wolfpacks of cannon-toting 30-ton RCV-Heavies.
This vision is years from reality, but the Army is experimenting with surrogate unmanned vehicles. Contractor Qinetiq has already delivered the first of four experimental RCV-Lights; Textron is making four Mediums. Building a prototype Heavy awaits progress on Active Protection Systems, miniaturized missile defenses meant to make a modestly armored 30-ton vehicle as survivable in battle as a 70-ton main battle tank.
The whole Robotic Combat Vehicle family will use common navigational software and control interfaces already being field-tested. Each variant will use the same electronic and mechanical standards, a so-called modular open architecture that should let soldiers in the field plug and play a range of payloads, from missiles to smoke generators to radio jammers.
“We understand four soldiers working with a red-lens flashlight in the middle of the night aren’t going to be able to pull off a 30mm turret,” said Maj. Corey Wallace, a young armored cavalry officer with extensive robotics experience now serving on Army Futures Command’s Next Generation Combat Vehicle Cross Functional Team. But, he told the NDIA Armaments, Robotics, and Munitions (ARM) conference last week, the goal is that “most things are modular” and troops in the field can “swap payloads in 30 minutes or less.”
What The Army Wants
The NGCV team has already drafted seven desired “characteristics” – not formal, mandatory requirements – for the RCV family:
The priority is assured wireless control, with autonomy in second place. That’s because the Army always wants a human gunner deciding whether to fire. For now, as well, the robots will need a remote-control driver as well, so each RCV requites two human operators, plus a sergeant coordinating each pair of robots.
Why? The software is increasingly adept at navigating around obstacles cross-country, well-trained humans are still better at maneuvering under fire from one covered position to another. So the current plan is to let the robots autonomously make their own way to the front line, but, as they close with the enemy, humans take over by remote control.
Based on field experiments so far, Wallace said, the rule of thumb is that the minimum effective range of the control link between the robot and the manned control vehicle should be at least half the effective maximum range of the control vehicle’s main weapon. That lets the control vehicle shoot at targets the robot spots, while keeping it out of ambushes and minefields the robot stumbles into.
The third and fourth characteristics are that the vehicles should have margin for growth and a modular design, compliant with standards such as the Pentagon Interoperability Profile and VICTORY 2. That way, instead of rewiring proprietary interfaces every time you make an upgrade, you can easily swap in new technologies and specialized payloads from any vendor as they become available.
The top priority payload, based on digital simulations and soldiers’ feedback? Defense against small drones, said Wallace. ISIS has already mounted hand grenades on drones, while Russia used drones to spot targets for artillery in Ukraine, so a future adversary is likely to flood the zone with swarms of scouts. The Army looked into drone-killing lasers, Wallace said, but the power supplies are still too bulky for the lighter RCVs. What’s far more compact and feasible, he said, is a jammer that keeps the drone from reporting your position to enemy artillery.
That brings us to the next priority: electronic warfare. Drones aren’t the only thing the Army wants to jam.
“Yes, you are very lethal [if you] blow the … turret off a tank,” Wallace said, “but you are even more lethal if you paralyze that formation’s ability to communicate.”
Defensively, he said, sometimes the best way to hide from enemy sensors is to pump out so much electromagnetic distortion that they know you’re out there, but they can’t tell where or how many of you there are. And if radiation-seeking missiles do find the jammer, well, it was unmanned.
The third-priority payload plays a similar role: smokescreen generation. Just as jamming hides the force from radio-frequency sensors, smoke hides it from visual ones – including infrared sensors.
The fourth priority: a multi-purpose deathzone detector to warn the human troops of chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear (CBRN) contamination. There’s no major-war scenario where CBRN detection isn’t useful, Wallace said. While it’s costly to build manned vehicles that can detect poison gas and radiation without endangering their crews, every RCV can have, as standard equipment, a compact short-range detector to warn the human troops following well behind. A long-range detector might be its own full-up mission package. MY ADD DARPA has done a great deal of work on smaller sensors to detect such things.
The fifth priority is handling another type of hazard: minefields and other obstacles. The Army already has an unmanned minesweeper, the M160 flail. Recently, it’s been experimenting with different specialized robots that can work together to clear obstacles while keeping human combat engineers out of range of enemy fire.
Other potential mission modules worth considering, Wallace said, range from anti-aircraft weapons like Stinger missiles to retransmission nodes for battlefield communications – both priority targets for high-tech enemies and at high risk of destruction. Air defense in particular, he said, “that’s the first thing the enemy wants to kill.”
Firepower & Armor
Besides these specialized load-outs, the Army wants all Robotic Combat Vehicles to be able to spot targets for the rest of the force – especially for artillery – and to have some onboard firepower and protection. The bigger the RCV variant, the bigger the weapons package and, since it’s less expendable, the heavier the armor.
RCV-Light will carry a single anti-tank guided missile (ATGM) to give it one shot against the toughest targets, but otherwise it’ll be designed to fight infantry and unarmored trucks. That could mean anything from .50 caliber machineguns like the 12.7mm M240, to a grenade launcher like the 40mm Mark 19, to even a 30mm M230 chain gun. A “missile boat” variant might carry a whole rack of ATGMs instead, firing on targets laser-designated by other RCVs. “We want you all in industry to innovate,” Wallace told the NDIA conference.
Defensively, though, it’s not worthwhile to weigh down RCV-Light with armor. Instead, the essential sensors, radio uplink, and computer core should proof against a 7.62 rifle round, so they can keep transmitting target data even when the vehicle is totaled.
“If it loses its ability to fire its weapon, it’s not a big deal. If it loses the ability to move, kind of a big deal but not absolutely a game-changer,” Wallace said. “But it needs to be able to sense and have its brain protected.”
RCV-Medium, by contrast, is a lot more like a tank. The Medium will carry a pair of anti-tank missiles to counter tanks and high velocity 30mm autocannon to kill light armored vehicles like BMPs. The Army looked at a 50mm gun, Wallace said, but the weight was too much. Weight may also limit secondary weapons: The Army wants a machinegun atop the turret, able to aim independently at quick, high-angle targets like rooftop snipers, but it may not fit on the Medium.
How heavy is too heavy? Textron’s experimental RCV-M is 10 tons, just three tons heavier than Qinetiq’s RCV-L. While those are not the final designs, the Army does to want keep the Medium well under 20 tons.
Unlike RCV-Light, RCV-Medium will have armor, but not a lot. After studying heavier armor packages, Army decided the Medium only needs to withstand heavy machinegun fire – 12.7mm DShKs and the like – with optional add-on armor against greater threats. And it doesn’t have to be equally well-protected all over, just the brains (as on RCV-L) and the gun turret.
“Its critical function is to be able to shoot,” Wallace said. “It’s not really a big dealbreaker if it can’t move anymore.”
RCV-Heavy is the least clearly defined. It’s meant to be a “robotic tank” with firepower and survivability comparable to the M1 Abrams, Wallace said, but at less than half the weight: 20 to 30 tons, vs. 60 to 70 for Abrams depending on the model and armor kit.
But why does the RCV-Heavy need to be as survivable as an M1 tank, I asked over email, if it doesn’t have human troops inside? Unlike the Lights and Mediums, Wallace responded, the Heavies aren’t mean to operate far ahead of the manned force, but alongside it. It’s intended as a “wingman” maneuvering with the manned tanks, he said, so it has to withstand the same intensity of attacks. You don’t want a barrage of mid-caliber cannon fire can strip the M1s of their RCV-H escort.
“The RCV (H) cannot fulfill its fundamental purpose if it cannot maneuver alongside a tank while in contact with a threat,” Wallace told me. “If medium cannon rounds bounce off an M1A2V3 while they destroy the RCV (H) outright, then one can no longer consider the RCV (H) a decisive lethality wingman.”
Now, making a 20-plus-ton armored vehicle as survivable as 60-plus-tonner is one of the multiple Missions Impossible that sank the Future Combat System 11 years ago. Wallace is well aware of that. A decade later, the Army is urgently putting Israeli-made Active Protection Systems on the M1 Abrams and the 45-ton M2 Bradley. But current APS technology can only shoot down incoming anti-tank missiles, not stop armor-piercing shots from a tank cannon, which move much faster.
“That’s why we’re not going forward with the RCV-Heavy at the same pace, [because] we are acutely aware of the issues that programs like FCS had,” Wallace said. “We’re pumping the brakes with RCV-Heavy. We’re continuing to experiment with surrogates” to test technologies and tactics, he said, “but we don’t want to go full bore until we understand how to do lethality and survivability.” (Source: Breaking Defense.com)
10 Nov 20. Rheinmetall reveals first KF41 Lynx IFVs for LAND 400 Phase 3. Rheinmetall has officially unveiled the first of three Lynx KF41 infantry fighting vehicles designed, developed and manufactured for the Commonwealth of Australia’s $18.1bn LAND 400 Phase 3 program.
Lynx is a next-generation tracked, digitised and highly protected infantry fighting vehicle (IFV) built to meet the stringent military requirements of LAND 400 Phase 3.
The Australian Army needs a new IFV for close combat to close in and defeat an enemy in the most dangerous and lethal environments for Australian soldiers. Rheinmetall is delivering each of the Lynx vehicles to compete in the test and evaluation trials as part of the risk mitigation activity (RMA) to be conducted around Australia over a 12-month time frame from November 2020.
If successful, the Lynx fleet will be manufactured in Queensland at Rheinmetall’s new Military Vehicle Centre of Excellence (MILVEHCOE) at Redbank south-west of Brisbane.
Rheinmetall Defence Australia managing director Gary Stewart said, “Rheinmetall looks forward to demonstrating the capability of this next-generation infantry fighting vehicle. We believe Lynx is the best vehicle in its class and sets a new standard in protection and the lethality needed to survive and defeat any adversary.”
The RMA trials will incorporate a range of tests including lethality, mobility and protection. The vehicle unveiled will be the focus of blast testing at a dedicated Commonwealth facility in coming months. Lynx was unveiled at a closed ceremony with selected Australian industry partners at the MILVEHCOE.
“Lynx has been developed so it is positioned at an ideal level of maturity when Australia needs it to enter service – and it will have a growth path to extend these capabilities through its 40-year life,” Stewart added.
Each of the Lynx vehicles delivered into the RMA trials will incorporate a significant level of Australian industry content and local partners to the Rheinmetall offer for LAND 400 Phase 3 will be announced in coming weeks.
Lynx has been selected by the Hungarian Armed Forces for the delivery of more than 200 vehicles in the first launch order for the vehicle globally.
Rheinmetall Defence Australia will export turrets to the value of $150m manufactured by Australians – and will soon announce further export orders into the Hungarian program, including orders for Australian SMEs.
Rheinmetall is also delivering 211 8×8 Boxer combat reconnaissance vehicles (CRV) to the Australian Army after the vehicle was selected by the Commonwealth after 12 months of RMA trials by Australian Defence Force personnel in 2016-17.
The company is establishing a local industrial capability in Australia for the design, development and manufacture of military vehicles that creates high technology enduring jobs for hundreds of Australians by localising design and manufacturing expertise in electro-optics, weapon systems, fire control and sensor systems, turret manufacturing, variant design and manufacture, integration, armour systems, simulation, training and fleet sustainment.
“Design, development and manufacture of the Lynx in Australia for the ADF will build on the advanced manufacturing jobs at our new MILVEHCOE, as well as a strong industrial network of SMEs across Australia,” Stewart said.
Both the Boxer and Lynx are modular. That means the vehicle can be split in two, with a mission module sitting on a common drive module.
This allows for swap out of mission modules for operational needs, reducing through-life cost for the introduction of new technology, and ongoing fleet management.
Stewart added, “Rheinmetall has taken all of the significant benefits of the Boxer and ensured they are part of the Lynx KF41 package.
“Our partnership with Army and the Commonwealth to deliver the Boxer for Land 400 Phase 2 presents the opportunity to deliver develop a complete armoured vehicle-fighting force for the ADF.”
LAND 400 Phase 3 is a multibillion-dollar Army program, which will recapitalise Army’s Vietnam-era M113 armoured personnel carrier (APC) force, with a combination of a tracked IFV and tracked APC. (Source: Defence Connect)