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Archive for the ‘Disruptive Tech’ Category

Army Awards Laser Weapon System Contract

Saturday, August 10th, 2019

REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. — The U.S. Army issued a contract award to accelerate the rapid prototyping and fielding of its first combat-capable laser weapon system.

This prototype will deliver 50 kilowatt (kW)-class lasers on a platoon of four Stryker vehicles in Fiscal Year 2022, supporting the Maneuver-Short Range Air Defense (M-SHORAD) mission. The directed energy M-SHORAD capability is intended to protect maneuvering Brigade Combat Teams from unmanned aerial systems (UAS), rotary-wing aircraft, and rockets, artillery and mortar (RAM).

“The time is now to get directed energy weapons to the battlefield,” said LTG L. Neil Thurgood, Director of Hypersonics, Directed Energy, Space and Rapid Acquisition. “The Army recognizes the need for directed energy lasers as part of the Army’s modernization plan. This is no longer a research effort or a demonstration effort. It is a strategic combat capability, and we are on the right path to get it in Soldiers’ hands.”

High energy lasers engage at the speed of light and provide a solution to a constantly evolving threat space, while reducing the logistics trail associated with conventional kinetic weapon systems. In May 2019, the Army approved a new strategy for accelerating the rapid prototyping and fielding of a variety of directed energy weapons to enable Army modernization.

As the first step in delivering prototypes with residual combat capability, the Army Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office (RCCTO) has selected two vendors to build the directed energy M-SHORAD mission prototypes in order to foster competition and stimulate the industrial base for directed energy capabilities. Those vendors, Northrop Grumman and Raytheon, are subcontractors in an Other Transaction Authority (OTA) agreement between the Army and Kord Technologies.

Under the OTA award action, issued on July 26 in the amount of $203 million, Kord has teamed with Northrop Grumman and Raytheon to develop the competing prototypes with support from General Dynamics Land Systems, which makes the Stryker, for integration work. Under the terms of the contract, the two laser vendors have approximately one year to produce the required laser subsystems, integrate them onto the Stryker platform, and complete a competitive performance checkout leading into a range demonstration against various threats.

After the Army evaluates the results, it plans to purchase three additional laser-equipped Strykers, for a total of four prototype vehicles that would be fielded to an operational M-SHORAD platoon in Fiscal Year 2022. The OTA award has the potential to increase to $490 million for the delivery of the four prototypes.

The directed energy M-SHORAD prototypes are part of the progression of an Army technology maturation initiative known as the Multi-Mission High Energy Laser (MMHEL).

“Both the Army and commercial industry have made substantial improvements in the efficiency of high energy lasers — to the point where we can get militarily significant laser power onto a tactically relevant platform,” said Dr. Craig Robin, RCCTO Senior Research Scientist for Directed Energy Applications. “Now, we are in position to quickly prototype, compete for the best solution, and deliver to a combat unit.”

The Army is also welcoming participation from additional vendors who were not selected for the OTA awards, but desire to compete for the same M-SHORAD requirement and timeline using their own internal research and development funding.

In a related effort, the Army is also adapting its High Energy Laser Tactical Vehicle Demonstrator (HEL-TVD) system into a prototype program order to increase its combat effectiveness and speed up its delivery to Soldiers.

The Army will adjust the current HEL-TVD, a 100 kW-class laser system integrated on a Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles platform developed by Dynetics and subcontractor Lockheed Martin. Under the new directed energy strategy, the Army is leveraging progress made in that effort in order to merge the HEL-TVD with similar technologies in development by the Navy and the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

This partnership will allow the services to achieve a higher power system, of approximately 250-300 kW-class, that can protect sites from RAM and UAS as well as more stressing threats — significantly increasing the warfighting capability being transitioned on the original timeline. The Army’s goal is to deliver four such prototype lasers integrated on tactical vehicles, for a capability known as High Energy Laser-Indirect Fire Protection Capability (HEL-IFPC), to a platoon by Fiscal Year 2024.

“By teaming with the other services and our industry partners, we will not only save resources, but exponentially increase the power level and get a better system to Soldiers faster,” Thurgood said.

The Army RCCTO, headquartered at Redstone Arsenal, Ala., is chartered to develop rapid prototypes and field residual combat capabilities. Its current focus areas are hypersonics and directed energy.

By Claire Heininger, U.S. Army

SOFWERX Novel Passive sUAS Detection and/or Tracking System

Friday, August 9th, 2019

What does 5 days, drones and $120K have in common? They all add up to SOFWERX’ fastest prize challenge to date. Submit your novel passive solution to detect and/or track sUAS 14 August at teamwerx.org/detect for your chance to win!.

2019 Special Operations Forces Warrior Operational Requirements Discussion Symposium and 2019 Joint Special Operations Command Capabilities and Technology Expo

Thursday, July 18th, 2019

The Program Executive Office Special Operations Forces Warrior (PEO-SW) and Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) will conduct a combined 2019 SWORDS/JCTE (previously SOFWIC) event on November 6, 2019.

The purpose of this event is to provide industry with an opportunity for a focused engagement with members of PEO-SW and JSOC to share ideas that facilitate the delivery of innovative capabilities to Special Operations Forces (SOF).

The SWORDS/JCTE General Session will be open to all interested vendors. The General Session will consist of introductory presentations by Special Operations Forces Acquisition, Technology & Logistics (SOF AT&L) leadership, an overview of PEO-SW warfighting commodity areas, an overview of JSOC Capability and Technology Interest items and forecasted contracting opportunities for FY20 and beyond. Immediately following the general session, the remainder of the day will consist of 60-minute invitation-only sessions of selected vendors to discuss their White Paper and/or Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) Proposal submissions to USSOCOM personnel. No other vendors will be allowed in these sessions besides the presenting vendor. However, the PEO and Deputy PEO, program manager, and representatives from the Director, Science and Technology (S&T) office, Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) office, Technology Industrial Liaison Office (TILO), SOFWERX and the Joint Acquisition Task Force (JATF) will be available throughout the day to discuss collaboration opportunities.

In particular, USSOCOM is interested in the following capabilities:

1) Ground Mobility:
a. Suspension/ Seat shock absorption technology for Ground Mobility Vehicle 1.1/Non-Standard Commercial Vehicle (GMV 1.1/NSCV)
i. Vehicle – Suspension system related upgrades/replacement to increase performance, durability and reliability.
ii. Occupant – Vehicle occupant technology that improves the isolation between the input from the terrain and the corresponding input to an occupant thus reducing Operator fatigue.
b. Means of reducing driver cognitive workload in lone driving or convoy situations by adding autonomy or other driver aids.
c. Payload Enhancement (GMV 1.1) – solutions that enable the vehicle to carry more payload without significantly degrading performance.
d. Battery Technology (NSCV, GMV 1.1) – Mature 12 Volt (or higher) battery technology for cold temperature start and/or reduced size without degrading Cold Cranking Amperage or AMP hours. Mature battery technologies that can withstand cold start scenarios down to -50 degrees Fahrenheit and also extend the timeline for silent watch. Reducing size, but not performance, is ideal as well. Certified for flight is required.
e. Light Vehicle Safety Improvements and Accessories for Light All-Terrain-Vehicle (LTATV) – Improvements to general safety items to include (but not limited to): seating, roll cages, stability control, driver assist functions, etc.
f. Visual Augmentation Integration to enhance Mobility (all platforms) – Solutions to allow for enhanced terrain navigation, better awareness of vehicle surroundings in day, night or adverse weather conditions. Mobility is also enhanced by technology allowing the vehicle driver to keep his eyes and focus on the road more often during operations while still having all the key vehicle operational data available to the driver (e.g. HUD, lane monitoring). Information provided to the driver, perhaps in an augmented reality manner, which helps the driver identify if the route taken is suitable or capable of navigation based on the vehicle.

2) PM – Lethality: Special Operations Forces require a comprehensive, systems-of-systems, innovative strategy to fulfill small unit lethality objectives against pacing threats. Evolving from SECDEF, Joint Staff, USSOCOM and COCOM guidance the PM for SOF Lethality will implement rapid acquisition authorities to evaluate capabilities that fulfill the Nation’s strategic objectives. The systems of systems development strategy will be outlined as the Lethal Integrated Operator-Network (LIO-N) (see Figure 1, found on Attachment #01). The LIO-N integrates tactical “at-the-edge” lethality with emerging networked information and autonomous systems to enable precision engagement from close quarters to over-the-horizon distances with organic and non-organic target engagement methods.
a. Visual Augmentation Systems (VAS): Sensor technologies being developed include image intensification thermal imaging, short wave infrared, multi-spectral, fusion, and other sensor types. Developments will decrease weight, increase range, increase situational awareness, provide data, image processing, image, filtering, determine wind speed, observe bullet trace, and sensor fusion to be able to detect, identify, classify and engage targets at greater ranges. Intra-Soldier Wireless (ISW) integration – is the emerging standard of wireless interoperability amongst devices worn by a soldier. Any device that connects through wireless to other soldier-worn devices must integrate ISW (See Figure 2, found on Attachment #01).
i. Signature Reduction technologies for Targeting Laser (Out-of-Band and Notional Laser) – Laser designation technologies that are able to be perceived through typical and widely fielded Image Intensification technologies. Notional laser could exist only in virtual reality and be perceived through an integrated augmented reality display inside an eyepiece of Night Vision Goggles (NVG) (ISW integration).
ii. Precision Aiming laser with built in range finding (up to 2000m), ballistics, and environmental sensing capable of blue tooth and Near field communications (ISW integration).
iii. Head-mounted Devices – Looking for weight saving technologies or novel methods to move weight off of the head (ISW integration).
iv. Capabilities Include technologies that utilize Virtual Reality (VR) and / or Augment Reality (AR) information solely, together, or in combination with actual reality (R), to improve SOF operational mission effectiveness. Man portable system, that can process georeferenced imagery on a laptop (or desktop) computer, or other mission suitable, portable computational device, to create a three dimensional (3D) virtual rendering of a potential objective area in an austere environment. The virtual rendering can then be used to conduct a virtual walk through of the objective area for mission planning and rehearsal purposes. This virtual environment is also capable of allowing an Operator to assign and place mission critical points of interest that can be translated into the Operator’s Tactical Assault Kit (TAK), (ISW integration).
v. Hand Held Devices – Seeking size, weight, and power enhancements on handheld VAS commodities (ISW integration).
vi. Weapon Mounted Devices – seeking size, weight, and power enhancements on weapon mounted VAS commodities (ISW integration).
vii. Ballistic reticle design options that accommodate current and future crew served weapons for increased accuracy both day and night (ISW integration).
viii. Precision Variable powered optics capable of acquiring targets at 50-1500m and beyond (ISW integration).
ix. Next Generation Target Location Device – Increased target location accuracy capabilities that reduce target location error (TLE) for next generation hand held observation and targeting systems (ISW integration).
x. Thermal Beacon Technologies (Mid Wave Thermal or other Spectrum solutions) range >1.00µm. The thermal scene of a battlefield environment is often cluttered and dynamic. This presents a difficult scenario for a human observer to pick out a thermal signal from a friendly device (ISW integration).
b. Ammunition and Weapon Systems:
i. Signature reduction for Small Arms – Sound, Flash, Thermal.
ii. Machine Gun Suppressor capable of surviving high volume/rate of fire.
iii. Intermediate Caliber (.338NM) – Long Range Machine Gun 2000m to include new tripod, long range-ruggedized optics, and polymer ammunition.
iv. Suppressor for MK27 Gen 4.
v. Programmable Ammunition: Munitions (all types: small/medium/large caliber, grenades, shoulder launched) with programmable capabilities, including terminal effects (Point Detonating, Delay Detonating, Air Burst, etc.) and/or trajectory (direct fire, top attack, course correction, guidance, etc.
vi. Precision Strike Capabilities capable of providing precision fires on ranged targets (1k-50k). Seeking improved and extended datalink capability that enhances overall range and ATAK control of multiple munitions.

3) Soldier Protection, Survival, and Equipment Systems (SSES):
a. Body Armor – Novel technologies and designs that significantly decrease weight while increasing or maintaining level of protection.
b. Ballistic Helmet – Lightweight ballistic helmet and optional modular mandible that defeats the 7.62x39mm MSC projectile at muzzle velocity; Pad/liner technology to meet or exceed a 14 ft/s impact with less than 150G acceleration, while maintaining comfort and stability of the helmet.
c. Special Operations Eye Protection – High visible light transmission laser protection (visible and IR); ability for a single lens to adapt to various lighting conditions near instantaneously. Technology to mitigate fogging of lenses.
d. Extremity Protection for Extreme High Altitude – Airborne operations are conducted at extreme high altitudes with air temps below -40 C. These temps can lead to vasoconstriction in the extremities. Seeking active heating capabilities to reduce likelihood of vasoconstriction and maintain dexterity during these airborne operations and throughout all phases of the mission.
e. Logistics – Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) compliant internet accessible web application (certified mixed/feeder system) for the Special Operations Forces Personal Equipment Advanced Requirements (SPEAR) program capable of property accountability, warehouse management, logistics/supply functions, financial, and personnel management data to include the conversion of measurements to sizes using an approved algorithm for Special Operations Forces-Peculiar (SO-P) individual equipment. Integration with the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) logistics enterprise is mandatory.

4) Tactical Combat Casualty Care Medical Systems (TCCC):
a. Novel FDA approved technologies that apply to individual casualty care and casualty evacuation.
b. Active Cooling and Heating Whole Blood Storage Container – As SOF medics transition from crystalloid and colloid to whole blood for traumatic hemorrhagic resuscitation they are facing major logistical challenges due to the limited temperature range for storing and transporting whole blood far forward on the battlefield. Seeking portable active cooling and heating storage container capable of holding 1-2 units of blood within the FDA regulation temperature range for four (4) to five (5) days. The light weight container should be small enough to fit inside of, or attached to, the current USOCOM Medic Aid Bag and be powered by standard commercial batteries commonly found in a deployed environment.
c. Handheld Battlefield Ultrasound – SOF medics have a requirement for a handheld ultrasound device capable of use in a battlefield environment. Due to the space and weight limitations within the Special Operations medical aid bag, the battlefield ultrasound should be limited to a single universal transducer which can be used for a range applications. The single universal transducer must be durable enough for the battlefield environment and able to function on the Android operating system.

5) Electronic Counter Measures (ECM):
a. Increased battery power density providing the same equipment operating life at a size/weight reduction of up to 50%.
b. High performance multi-band antennas that can be used for electronic countermeasures systems, communications systems, and other functions while reducing SWAP on platforms/operators.

6) Counter – Unmanned Aerial Systems (C-UAS):
a. Passive radar – Radar detection that operates in a passive/promiscuous mode rather than active emitting. Ability for multiple/simultaneous detections.
b. Auto Pilot detection – Detection of non-RF telemetry like Pixhawk, Mavlink, etc., autopilot drone modes. Small, lightweight, low power solutions.
c. Detection – Detecting drones using LTE cellular technology.
d. Kinetic Defeat – Small, lightweight kinetic/hard kill solutions.

SWORDS/JCTE will be held on Wednesday, November 6, 2019 at the Tampa Marriott Westshore, 1001 N Westshore Blvd, Tampa, FL 33607.

Those interested in submitting white papers and/or CRADA proposals should visit www.fbo.gov for full details.

All vendors, whether or not the submit white papers/CRADA proposals must register to attend the general session at swords2019.eventbrite.com. This site will close on October 15, 2019 or when maximum capacity has been reached.

New Cyber-Enabled System Provides a Key Countermeasure to Drone Threats

Sunday, July 14th, 2019

MOJAVE DESERT, Calif. — In the desert of the National Training Center, Soldiers got an opportunity to try something completely new. Along with the challenges of 14 grueling days of force-on-force and live-fire training exercises, the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division (3/1 CD) tried out a cyber-based prototype that complements electronic warfare systems to combat enemy drones, which are a growing threat to U.S. ground troops.

Using the Army’s enhanced cyber-enabled Counter-Unmanned Aerial System (C-UAS) capability, Soldiers with the 3/1 CD were able to detect and counter common small drones during their training. The new prototype alerted Soldiers to the presence of a drone and provided a means to target it, for protection across the brigade.

This integration of cyber-enabled prototypes with existing signal, intelligence and electronic warfare capabilities allowed the Soldiers to fix on a target and engage their fires cell, said Capt. Christopher Packard, electronic warfare and cyber electromagnetic activities chief for the 3/1 CD.

“That’s the goal right there, to reach the commander’s end state and to meet his intent for lethal targeting–those are some of the main concepts to focus on,” Packard said. “I think we’ve done well here, getting intelligence information as it’s passed …. that we can use for targeting. I’m looking forward to seeing where this goes in the future.”

CYBER SOLUTION SOUGHT

While the Army has a wide variety of solutions to counter drones, the new capability focused on bringing precision cyber techniques to bear as a complement to those other C-UAS systems. A small group of software developers within the U.S. Army Cyber Command (ARCYBER) and the Defense Digital Service custom-built software, developed a user-focused design and modified commercial off-the-shelf equipment to create pilot systems in early 2018.

Growing demand for a more robust and scalable solution generated a need for a rapid prototype. The Defense Digital Service completed the specialized software of the pilot system and transitioned development of a prototype to the Army Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office (RCCTO), which crafted an acquisition approach that integrated software and hardware. Working with Tobyhanna Army Depot and ARCYBER, RCCTO launched prototype production in November.

In less than three months, the integrated team sprinted and surged to deliver the new cyber C-UAS capability to the 3/1 CD. The new system is an interim solution that will continue to evolve as the Army applies direct Soldier feedback to improving design and performance. The integrated team is incorporating feedback from the unit’s rotation at the National Training Center (NTC) at Fort Irwin, California, which took place Jan. 7-25, as they develop a phase two prototype, to be delivered later this summer.

“This effort allowed the 3/1 CD to receive valuable C-UAS training ahead of their upcoming mission set,” said Jack Dillon, RCCTO’s cyber lead. “It also provided critical feedback that we are already feeding into the next version.”

A FAST-MOVING TEAM

Receiving a request to produce a never-used-before, cyber-enabled C-UAS on Aug. 22 and delivering it by Nov. 12 is not business as usual. However, ARCYBER, RCCTO and Tobyhanna, working in lockstep, were able to deliver.

“The RCCTO and Tobyhanna helped out with taking it from an advanced prototype and turning it into an engineering design model,” said 1st Lt. Aneesh Patel, with ARCYBER’s Cyber Solutions Development Detachment — Georgia, 782nd Military Intelligence Battalion, 780th Military Intelligence Brigade. “We designed our own hardware and schematics, but what we didn’t have was the proper ability to scale, and I think that’s important in a bridging strategy and for any prototype.”

The ability to turn a concept into a small package of operational prototypes for use by a unit required a proper yet flexible acquisition strategy that would also set the foundation for increased production later. In turning a concept into an operational prototype, Tobyhanna had to put together a complete drawing package using items from the depot and create the prototype while keeping to strict quality standards.

“We must do everything per Army regulations,” said Joe Lynn, a project manager for Tobyhanna Army Depot, located in Pennsylvania. “So, once everyone came on-site and saw what we do here, and that we’re basically a one-stop shop from concept to combat, it brought a better understanding.”

The process also required constant communication. This came in the form of coordination on the ground during the NTC rotation with the unit’s electronic warfare Soldiers, and during biweekly technical and synchronization meetings involving Tobyhanna, ARCYBER, the Defense Digital Service and RCCTO. Tobyhanna also hosted multiple face-to-face meetings to expeditiously solve technical questions and challenges. On the project management end, RCCTO worked in parallel to address typical program, legal and budget reviews. Of particular note, in addition to constructing the prototype from an engineering concept, the RCCTO, ARCYBER and Tobyhanna put in place a training plan for the 3/1 CD.

SOLDIER INPUT, ON THE GROUND

This rapid approach unfolded on the ground at NTC, as Soldier input went directly to engineers on-site so that they could make changes quickly, sometimes within hours.

“Having that agility really made it possible to have mission success and also to get a lot of feedback to better the system,” Patel said. “Being a newer system and a new tool for a maneuver unit, there are going to be a lot of things we don’t know as [cyber] engineers, and a lot of their specific needs for the capability that may not have gotten through to us. So being out there was very important to this and any other project like it.”

For example, to enhance the overall training experience, RCCTO, Tobyhanna and ARCYBER were able to quickly design and deliver custom mounting systems consisting of cables, brackets and other hardware for vehicle and fixed-site implementation during the prototype deployment at NTC. This fixed-site configuration, part of the unit’s tactical operations center (TOC), was a new design put together days before the unit received it, and proved paramount to Soldiers’ effectiveness in using the system.

“We fielded a completely new configuration kit, the TOC kit,” said Capt. Adam Schinder, commander of the Expeditionary Cyber Support Detachment, 782nd Military Intelligence Battalion. “It was perhaps the most successful implementation of the C-UAS solution. As a result of being statically configured and continuously monitored and plugged in, the unit found the TOC kits extremely successful.”

During the 3/1 CD’s rotation, ARCYBER embedded five Soldiers with the NTC’s opposing force who had the ability to attack the unit with their own “enemy” drones, thus providing more realistic training.

“The system was able to give the supported unit situational awareness of drones that threatened the formation across a wide front,” Schinder said. “It alerted the unit to the presence of the drone, and then it provided automated force protection at the request of the operator. Simply put, we flew the drones, we deployed the devices and we successfully defeated the threat.”

CONCLUSION

This phase-one cyber precision drone detection system will be followed by an upgraded phase-two version slated for delivery to the U.S. Special Operations Command for an operational assessment this summer. Phase two will maximize the capability’s operational life span by incorporating multiple software updates to improve performance. Both efforts will begin to help inform the Army’s overall requirements for cyber-based C-UAS.

Already, RCCTO and ARCYBER are coordinating with partners in the C-UAS community to optimize investments and share technical cyber approaches. They are also advancing new versions that are software-based for easy portability into mounted and dismounted C-UAS platforms.

“Ultimately, the momentum gained through this partnership will increase cyber integration into equipping efforts within the multidomain operations paradigm,” Dillon said. “It’s a great example of the type of partnership that can produce meaningful operational prototypes while setting conditions for transition to programs of record.”

By Nancy Jones-Bonbrest

This article is published in the Summer 2019 issue of Army AL&T magazine.

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.