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Archive for the ‘Disruptive Tech’ Category

SOFWERX – Offline Language Translation Tool Capability Assessment Event

Sunday, June 16th, 2019

USSOCOM PEO-C4 Military Information Support Operations (MISO) is in search of offline translation devices or Android-based applications that are available and/or can be readily available to provide near real-time translation of incoming audio to English and text.

Submit your technology for an opportunity to brief and demonstrate your proposed solution to the MISO evaluation panel at the July Capability Assessment Event, 30-31 July.

For more information and to submit, visit www.sofwerx.org/translator

Army Accelerates Delivery of Directed Energy, Hypersonic Weapon Prototypes

Saturday, June 15th, 2019

WASHINGTON — The Army is accelerating its efforts to field a directed-energy prototype system by fiscal year 2022, and hypersonic weapon prototype by fiscal 2023.

For starters, the Army is fast-tracking the development and procurement of the Multi-Mission High Energy Laser, or MMHEL system, said Lt. Gen L. Neil Thurgood, director of hypersonics, directed energy, space, and rapid acquisition.

The MMHEL is a 50-kilowatt laser retrofit to a modified Stryker vehicle, designed to bolster the Army’s maneuver short-range air defense capabilities, according to officials with the Army Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office.

The Army is slated to field a four-vehicle battery by late fiscal 2022, Thurgood said. The new system was meant to be maneuverable, while protecting brigade combat teams from unmanned aerial systems, rotary-wing aircraft, and rockets, artillery, and mortars.

Further, the Army will consolidate efforts with the other services and agencies to help improve directed-energy technology, the general added. While the Army is executing a demonstration of 100 kW high-energy laser technology on a larger vehicle platform, it is working with partners to exceed those power levels.

HYPERSONIC WEAPONS

In addition to the MMHEL, the Army is expected to field a four-vehicle battery of long-range hypersonic weapon systems the following fiscal year.

Four modified heavy expanded mobility tactical trucks, or HEMTTs, will be equipped with a launcher. Each vehicle will carry two hypersonic weapon systems — totaling eight prototype rounds, Thurgood said.

“The word hypersonic has become synonymous with a particular type of missile,” he explained. “Generally, hypersonics means a missile that flies greater than Mach 5 … that is not on ballistic trajectory and maneuvers.”

The hypersonic system will also rely on the Advanced Field Artillery Tactical Data System 7.0, which is currently available to artillerymen, for command and control.

“Within the Army’s modernization plan, there is multi-domain, and there is the Multi-Domain Task Force. Part of that task force [includes] a strategic-fires battalion and in that strategic fires battalion [will be] this [hypersonic] weapons platform,” Thurgood said.

“It is not long-range artillery. It’s a strategic weapon that will be used … for strategic outcomes,” he added.

RESIDUAL COMBAT CAPABILITY

Overall, the MMHEL and hypersonic systems will both move into the hands of Soldiers as an experimental prototype with a residual combat capability, Thurgood said.

“When I say experimental prototype with residual combat capability, and as we build the battery of hypersonics … that unit will have a combat capability,” Thurgood said. “Those eight rounds are for them to use in combat if the nation decides they want to apply that in a combat scenario. The same [applies] for directed energy.”

In addition to providing an immediate combat capability, Soldiers will have an opportunity to learn the new equipment and understand the “tactics, techniques, and procedures” required to use each system during combat, the general added.

Further, the Army will also receive valuable feedback to help shape potential broader production of each system after they transition to a program of record.

The Army has already initiated the contract process to develop the prototype hypersonic systems. Senior leaders plan to award vendors by August, Thurgood said.

With both systems, “what we’re trying to create [is an] an opportunity for a decision, based on actual use by a Soldier,” he said. “Does this thing do … what we needed it to do? Do we want to continue and make it better, or do we want to have other choices?”

By Devon L. Suits, Army News Service

Vendors Deliver Air Force Flight Helmet Prototypes in Just 9 Months Thanks To AFWERX Vegas

Tuesday, June 11th, 2019

LAS VEGAS—U.S. Air Force fixed-wing aircrews at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. are flight-testing new prototype helmets this summer, thanks in part to an accelerated acquisitions process enabled by the AFWERX Vegas Innovation Hub. In just nine months, more than 100 crowd-sourced user-suggestions and concepts resulted in product presentations selected from 38 companies. From these, three teams of partnered vendors were tasked with the production of prototypes.


At an informal celebration at the AFWERX Vegas Innovation Hub earlier this month, U.S. Air Force personnel took delivery of four helmet designs that may each represent the next generation of fixed-wing aircrew equipment. In just nine months, the AFWERX innovations process generated tangible products for further Air Force testing and development. PHOTO: AFWERX Vegas

Four robust prototypes have now been delivered to the Air Force, ahead of schedule and ready-for-testing.

The fixed-wing aircrew helmet currently issued to the Air Force was last updated in the 1980s. Previous attempts at determining user specifications, and soliciting new designs from industry, had failed to gain much altitude. “Previously, it had taken the Air Force years to fully articulate a requirement and launch an RFP [Request-for-Proposal],” says Mark Rowland, an Innovation Actualizer at AFWERX Vegas. “It took us just a few weeks.”


After approximately two months of problem-definition workshops with stakeholders and experts, as well as an on-line design challenge soliciting ideas from the public, the AFWERX Vegas Innovation Hub hosted 35 non-traditional potential vendors of components and full-helmet solutions in a November 2018 showcase. From these, a total of 10 vendors were configured into three teams. Each was tasked to develop prototypes. PHOTO: US Air Force A1C Bryan T. Guthrie

The prototype helmets were developed with an eye toward decreased weight, improved thermal management and stability, customizable fit, and integration with night-vision and other systems.

“The current helmets worn by aircrews in most fixed-wing aircraft were […] not made to withstand and balance [all the modern technology] that we are putting on them,” explains 1st Lt. Naomi Harper, a program manager with the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center’s Human Systems Division. “If the weight on the helmets is off, the center of gravity is completely off, which can cause neck issues and pain for our aircrews.”

One of AFWERX’s innovation-acceleration secrets? Focus on finding “dual-use” or “Commercial Off-the-Shelf” (“COTS”) solutions that are already in production. Another secret? Involve non-traditional vendors—especially small businesses and start-ups—who may require comparatively little developmental funding to achieve next-level successes.

For vendors who may otherwise lack familiarity with the Air Force, AFWERX can serve as both a matchmaker and a catalyst. The military is a great potential partner, says AFWERX Vegas hub Deputy Director Colby Edwards, because it can often provide critical funding with little contractual commitment and without sharing Intellectual Property (IP) rights in development phases. The opportunity to serve the American warfighter is important, too.

“In the helmet-design challenge, we think AFWERX has helped save the Air Force millions of dollars and years of development, brought-in more competition, and generated more-innovative products,” says Edwards. “Even better—the impact to the warfighter will ultimately be improved effectiveness, safety, and comfort.”

“Now, the AFWERX Vegas team looks forward to seeing the project’s continued successes, as U.S. Air Force program offices and testers begin to work directly with these potential vendors,” he says.

To learn more about the AFWERX Challenge, visit: www.AFWERXchallenge.com

The AFWERX Vegas Innovation Hub was started in 2017 and is funded by the U.S. Air Force to support outreach to the business and academic communities. The location is one of three AFWERX Innovation Hubs—the others are in Austin, Texas and the District of Columbia. Each serves as a nexus for activities focused on delivering design solutions to Air Force problems faster, more effectively, and more efficiently than in the past.

The AFWERX Vegas team reconfigures its process to meet requirements for each Air Force design project. Often, in early stages, the team hosts ideation workshops and online challenges. Through such efforts, AFWERX optimizes participation of subject-matter experts from industry, business, investment, academia, and the military. Later stages can incorporate mini-tradeshows, “Shark-Tank”-like pitch meetings, side-by-side competitive “fly-off” events, and more.

As envisioned by U.S. Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson in 2017, AFWERX is intended to solve some of the toughest challenges that the Air Force faces in an “outside the fence” environment, through innovation and collaboration amongst our nation’s top subject-matter experts. The world is changing quickly—new technologies, new threats, and new opportunities.

To learn more about AFWERX, visit: www.afwerx.af.mil

Textron Systems Lightweight Small Arms Technology Demonstrator in 6.8mm

Wednesday, June 5th, 2019

Textron Systems has been developing the Lightweight Small Arms Technology Demonstrator for many years. Initially, it was chambered in 5.56 mm and 7.62mm and later ported over to 6.5mm. In light of the US Army’s Next Generation Squad Automatic Rifle PON, they created a 6.8mm variant which was used to inform the requirement and prove out the caliber choice.

A belt fed weapon, based on the same technology you see here, is one of six currently being evaluated by the Army under NGSAR.

What sets LSAT apart from all other weapons in the NGSAR PON, is that it uses a unique ammunition type called Case Telescoped which more resembles a shotgun shell than a traditional shoulder case ammo design. It’s very interesting to see how this technology works.

This short video is of a government test fire of a single magazine through a carbine. It was recorded while the video played during a session at this year’s NDIA Annual Armaments Meeting.

SOFWERX Seeks SR SMEs

Thursday, May 30th, 2019

Do you have experience working with autonomous mobile robots, various drone swarm control methodologies or UXS swarms? Apply by 07 June to be a Subject Matter Expert for the SOF Special Reconnaissance Rapid Prototyping Event on 08-12 July! 10 experts will be selected to attend and receive a stipend. Visit www.sofwerx.org/specialrecon for more information. ?
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Top 10 Takeaways from US Army’s Mad Scientist Initiative Meeting

Tuesday, May 28th, 2019

Over the weekend we mentioned the US Army’s meeting of futurists. Here are the top 10 takeaway from that meeting.

“Top Ten” Takeaways from the Disruption and the Operational Environment Conference

1) The Army is having an “Own the Night” moment. It has the opportunity to gain a competitive advantage over adversaries who have spent large amounts of capital and effort on gaining overmatch in niche areas like Anti Access/Area Denial (A2/AD) and anti-tank capabilities. The Army can “Own Unmanned and Autonomous Warfare.” There is a sweet spot in man-machine teaming that can limit vulnerabilities and strengthen cognition, awareness, and proficiency in dense urban environments.

2) Setting norms in AI/autonomy may accelerate development as researchers and programmers have defined left and right boundaries. Currently, uncertainty and lack of clarity are causing delays and trepidation in their development. If the DoD establishes the absolute boundaries of its AI and autonomy policies, it can streamline R&D, S&T, and acquisition / modernization. However, setting firm left and right boundaries does present some risk — with reduced development and asymmetry in adversarial AI development and implementation.

3) Artificial Intelligence and Trust. Successfully incorporating AI into Army formations to gain and maintain competitive advantage over adversaries in an increasingly contested OE will require bridging the gap between AI and humans by establishing trust. A true man-machine relationship plays a critical component in this process. Professional Military Education should improve tech literacy in the areas of AI, robotics, and autonomy, and introduce critical thinking earlier, producing an officer corps that can interact with AI decision-making tools and understand its limitations and vulnerabilities.

4) The Increased Crowding of Space will Create Operational Challenges for the US Army: A maneuver Brigade Combat Team has over 2,500 pieces of equipment dependent on space-based assets for Positioning, Navigation, and Timing (PNT) and Low Earth Space is cluttered with satellites, debris, and thousands of pieces of refuse. This is worsened by a growing space community with over 90 spacefaring countries and companies such as Amazon, Google, and Alibaba racing to capitalize on a potential space boom in the 2020s. The U.S. military will need to determine how to operate in space amongst increasing traffic and potentially non-attributable nefarious space tampering and attack where total space visibility and situational awareness is not possible.

5) Technology forecasting helps us understand what is probable, but with proper planning based on this insight, we can begin to determine what is necessary and influence development and investment. This must be partnered with an agile procurement process that can rapidly adjust to changing technological circumstances, rather than continue to spend money on near-obsolete multi-year exquisite platforms.

6) Scaling up technology in the military may necessitate a change to the ways in which they are developed. The rapidity of technological advancement may force development of whole systems – counter to current acquisition processes – rather than individual technology segments.

7) Disposable versus Exquisite: Current thinking espouses technologically advanced and expensive weapons platforms over disposable ones, which brings with it an aversion to employ these exquisite platforms in contested domains and an inability to rapidly reconstitute them. In large-scale ground combat operations with a peer competitor, the ability to reconstitute will be imperative. The Army (and larger DoD) may need to shift away from large and expensive systems to cheap, scalable, and potentially even disposable unmanned systems.

8) Leveraging Allies in Fielding Future Technology:  International Joint projects with our allies have benefits in cost-sharing, interoperability, and fostering cultural diversity in the development of crucial, complex technologies. Just as NASA collaborated with a variety of international partners for its Europa Clipper mission, so to could the U.S. Army when it comes to AI and autonomous warfare, as well as quantum information sciences, hypersonics, and directed energy weapons.

9) The Army should expand its learning beyond past combat actions and open
the aperture to lessons learned from organizations outside DoD.
The current Army Learning Enterprise captures important information from exercises and combat operations, but doesn’t include research from civilian organizations. NASA’s experience with degraded communications during the Mars Rover mission and robotic disaster relief during the Fukushima cleanup and Hurricane Harvey are incredible resources for Army capability developers, organization designers, and Leaders developing techniques and procedures for technology integration to mine and apply to force modernization efforts. The Army should aggressively pursue and incorporate lessons learned from non-DoD agencies and industry regarding disruptive technologies that have direct military implications.

10) The Changing Nature of Information Warfare: The prevalent and growing presence of fake news, data, and information, coupled with deep fakes, hyperconnectivity, and global economic intertwining changes the nature of conventional information warfare. This new era of information warfare will require increasingly potent algorithms to recognize and defend against false and transfigured information while leveraging the strength of human-tech partnerships in all domains to portray an accurate and trusted common operational picture.

If you would like to learn more about this conference, the agenda and biographies of each of the presenters are here on the Mad Scientist APAN site, while videos of each of the conference presentations can be viewed here on the TRADOC G-2 OE Enterprise YouTube Channel…

Article from Headquarters, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) which co-sponsored the Mad Scientist Disruption and the Operational Environment Conference with the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin and the U.S. Army Futures Command (AFC) on 24-25 April 2019 in Austin, Texas. World-class presenters addressed robotics, artificial intelligence (AI) and autonomy, the future of space, planetary habitability, and the legal and ethical dilemmas surrounding how these disruptive technologies will impact the future of warfare, specifically in the land and space domains.  The following post captures the Mad Scientist Initiative’s “top ten” takeaways from this conference.

Mad Scientist Initiative Helps Illustrate ‘Realm of the Possible’

Saturday, May 25th, 2019

FORT MEADE, Md. — In the distant future, teams of Soldiers equipped with high-powered exoskeletons disembark a series of autonomous personnel carriers outside the enemy’s position. Overhead, a small fleet of drones scans the engagement area, giving each Soldier a real-time view of the battlefield through their heads-up display.

As each team moves into position, they hear a series of explosions on the other side of the enemy base. From over 2,000 meters away, the Army’s high-energy precision fires systems have just disabled the enemy’s anti-access and area-denial capabilities.

At the same time, teams of Soldiers use their exoskeleton suits to leap over the perimeter wall to engage the enemy and secure the compound.

This is one scenario of a future operating environment. In reality, it is nearly impossible to predict how the Army will operate and fight in a distant future, said Matt Santaspirt, an Army Futures Command intelligence representative.

To guide the Army in the right direction, the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command’s Mad Scientist team functions like a scout on the battlefield, always looking ahead and evaluating ideas to help build the force, he said.

Nested within both Army Futures and Training and Doctrine Commands, the MadSci initiative was created to address opportunities and challenges in the Army’s near-, mid-, and far-term future, said Allison Winer, the team’s deputy director of engagement.

The goal is to maximize the Army’s limited resources and help Soldiers fight and win in a futuristic operational environment, she added.

“The Army only knows what it knows; and [the Army] always talks to itself,” Santaspirt said. “We want to break out of that echo chamber.”

“We are harnessing the intellect of the nation to describe the art of the possible,” he added. “We know that you can’t predict the future, but we’re trying to say, ‘Here is a range of possibilities.’ [The goal] is to be less wrong than our adversary.”

To accomplish this goal, the MadSci team compiles information from a wide range of sources, in support of Army senior leaders’ priorities, Santaspirt said.

These sources include traditional mediums: academia, industry, think tanks, labs, reports, and white papers; to the more nontraditional platforms: crowdsourcing, social media, science fiction, and cinema, to name a few.

Beyond the collection of materials, the MadSci team often organizes themed conferences, bringing communities together to address key Army topics. For example, the team recently conducted the Mad Scientist Disruption and the Future Operational Environment Conference in Austin, Texas.

During the conference, presenters addressed robotics, artificial intelligence and autonomy, the future of space, planetary habitability, and the legal and ethical dilemmas surrounding how these disruptive technologies will impact the future of warfare, specifically in the land and space domains, according to MadSci officials.

“We had somebody come in and talk about robotics and how we can use them in an austere environment,” Santaspirt said, adding there were specific examples of robotics used in Fukushima, Japan.

“The approach is to bring together experts … so we can refine those key ideas, and disrupt [the Army’s] assumptions,” he said.

A week after the event, the team posted some key takeaways from the conference on the Mad Scientist Blog. The MadSci blog and other social media platforms are often used as a crowdsourcing tool to help poll an audience or generate conversation about key Army topics, Winer said.

Some of the conference findings included: a need to set left and right boundaries for artificial intelligence and autonomy, increased crowding of assets in space will cause operational challenges, and fake news coupled with hyper-connectivity is changing the nature of information warfare.

Additionally, the MadSci team organizes science fiction writing competitions to help determine possible futures for crucial Army programs, Winer said. For years, science fiction has depicted worlds that are both logically possible, but functionally different than current society.

“Science fiction is used as a kind of forecasting to see what possible futures might look like,” she said. “Aside from being just plain-on cool, it gives the Army a way to use storytelling, historical analysis, and outsourcing to write about the realm of the possible. And it is an effective tool for a lot of businesses and other leaders in industry to try.”

Through their research and continual online engagements, the MadSci team creates a range of possibilities, then later presents their findings to Army senior leaders and key decision makers, Santaspirt said.

“It is a different way of thinking,” Santaspirt said. “If [the Army] can get that out there and start meeting the right people, make certain decisions or investments, or get people thinking in a different way … you might see what we’ve discovered — as it comes to light down the road.”

Mad Scientist Initiative Website

Mad Scientist Initiative videos

By Devon L. Suits, Army News Service

Photos by Peggy Frierson & Mad Science Initiative

SOFIC 19 – 300 PRC Gas Gun Proof Of Concept by CMC Triggers

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2019

With DoD interest in 300 PRC for use as a Precision fire cartridge, CMC Triggers wondered if it could be used in a gas operated rifle. So far, all of the weapons to fire this cartridge have been bolt guns.

This is a sneak peek of the proof of concept CMC put together. Based on an AR design, they wanted to see if it could be done and how it would impact the accessories they make, like triggers and bolt carrier groups. They have no plans to place this into production.