Quantico Tactical

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US Army Announces Industry Day For Next Generation Squad Automatic Rifle

Friday, June 2nd, 2017

The PM Soldier Weapons has announced a classified (yes, classified) Industry Day at Ft Benning on 25-27 July 2017 for the Next Generation Squad Automatic Rifle (NGSAR) which a single incremental program to replace the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW) in Brigade Combat Teams (BCT) and select support units during the next decade. Remember, NGSAR is one of the Army’s budget priorities.

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It will combine the firepower and range of a machine gun with the precision and ergonomics of a carbine, yielding capability improvements in accuracy, range, and lethality. The weapon will be lightweight and fire lightweight ammunition with improved lethality. The NGSAR will help to reduce the heavy load that burdens Soldiers and that has a significant negative impact on their mobility, survivability, and firing accuracy. Soldiers will employ the NGSAR against close and extended range targets in all terrains and conditions. The NGSAR will be compatible with and dependent on legacy optics and night vision devices to meet required capabilities. It will also be compatible with the Small Arms Fire Control system currently in development and possess back-up sights. It is anticipated the NGSAR support concept will be consistent with (comparable to) that of the predecessor M249 SAW involving the Army two level field and sustainment maintenance system. The NGSAR will achieve overmatch by killing stationary, and suppressing moving, threats out to 600 meters (T), and suppressing all threats to a range of 1200 meters (O).

Loads of technical data and requirements follow.

Mandatory Key Performance Parameters (KPP) described below identify the mandatory system capabilities for the NGSAR. These KPPs are essential to the development and improvement of an effective military capability that will make a significant contribution to the characteristics of the future joint force.

KPP 1 System Survivability:
The NGSAR is a mission critical system that must be survivable to chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear (CBRN) exposure to include effects of electromagnetic pulse and cyber-attacks. The NGSAR must be operational after exposure to chemical, biological, radiological, and cyber-attack (T). The NGSAR must be operational after exposure to chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, cyber threats and electromagnetic pulse (O).

KPP 2 Operator System Training:
Soldiers will be trained to comply with the accuracy requirements in this document under simulated combat stressful conditions. Training on the system will be standards-based, leveraging technology in system design to minimize the training time and resources needed for operators/maintainers to achieve system competency. The following criteria will help to ensure system trainability:
1. TASK STEPS: 85% (T) to 95% (O) of tasks to operate and maintain the system will require less than 10 steps (including sub steps).
2. JOB/MEMORY AIDS: 85% (T) to 95% (O) of tasks that require 10 or more steps (including sub steps) will have job/memory aids that provide written procedures or diagrams to enable operators to perform the tasks without the need for extensive memorization.
3. MEMORIZATION: No more than 8 (T) and preferably 3 or less (O) discrete facts, terms names, rules, or ideas will be required to be memorized on any system task.
4. Instrumentable Multiple Integrated Laser Engagement System (I-MILES) Small Arms Transmitter (SAT) Tactical Engagement System (TES) Small Arms Transmitter (SAT). The NGSAR sight system must not interfere with the design, installation, or operation of the current I-MILES SAT and future Army-Tactical Engagement Simulation System (A-TESS) SATs when installed for Live Force-on-Force training.

KPP 3 Accuracy:
The NGSAR will have the capability to provide the P(i) metrics on the target sets located in the classified annex. This will require accurate P(h) along with ammunition capability.

KPP 4 System Weight:
The NGSAR combat configured weapon including sling, bipod and sound suppressor will weigh no more than 12 pounds (T) 8 pounds (O). This does not include ammunition or magazine.

KPP 5 Ammunition Weight:
The NGSAR ammunition will weigh 20 percent less than tactical brass equivalent caliber ammunition (T) 50% (O). Note the NGSAR ammunition could be a caliber not currently in use by the US Army. In that case the equivalent weights will be calculated through interpolation by the USG.

Key System Attributes (KSAs) described below are considered essential to achieving a balanced solution/approach to a system, but not critical enough to be designated a KPP.

KSA 1 Sustainment:
1. Operational Availability (AO): The NGSAR at the system level will be no less than 94.2% (T), 95.1% (O) measured over an extended period of operations consistent with (and indicative of) the annual wartime system usage cycle.
2. Reliability: The NGSAR will be functional in all operational environments (hot, basic, cold, severe, extreme sand/dust). Reliability of the NGSAR, measured at the system level (functions of weapon plus ammunition addressed collectively as an integrated capability) during equipment operation in accordance with wartime usage.
2.1 Class I (Immediately Operator Clearable) Failures: The NGSAR will demonstrate 94.5% (T), 99.3% (O) probability of successfully completing a day of wartime operations (daily average of 450 rounds fired per weapon) without incurring more than one immediately operator clearable (Class I) EFF as defined in the NGSAR Reliability FDSC (EFFs of Class I severity are clearable in 10 seconds or less).
2.2 Class II (Operator Clearable) Failures: The NGSAR will demonstrate not less than 90.1% (T), 99.2% (O) reliability of successfully completing each individual wartime mission specified in the OMS/MP (most demanding mission involves 293 rounds fired per weapon) without incurring a Class II operator clearable EFF (which requires more than 10 seconds to clear).
2.3 Class III (Non-Operator Clearable) Failures: The NGSAR will demonstrate not less than 90.6% (T), 92.0% (O) reliability of successfully completing the 72-hour wartime scenario specified in the OMS/MP (1,349 rounds fired per weapon) without incurring a non-operator clearable (Class III) EFF.
2.4 Barrel Life: The NGSAR will have a barrel life capable of meeting KPP accuracy/dispersion requirements with no more than a 10% degradation for 10,000 (T) and no degradation for 20,000 rounds (O).

KSA 2 Total Ownership Cost (Weapon Only):
Intentionally left blank.

KSA 3 Size:
NGSAR will have a maximum length of 38 inches and no longer than 35 inches with the buttstock in the stowed configuration (T); 35 inches maximum length and no longer than 32 inches with the buttstock stowed (O).

KSA 4 Rate of Fire:
NGSAR shall be capable of a rate of fire of 60 rounds per minute for 16 minutes and 40 seconds without a barrel change or risk of cook-off. Cyclic 200 rounds without cook off (T). NGSAR will be capable of 108 rounds per minute sustained for 9 minutes and 16 seconds without barrel change or risk of cook off. Cyclic 300 rounds without cook off (O).

KSA 5 Controllability:
NGSAR shall enable the Soldier to maintain a clear sight picture during automatic fire engagement of moving targets from the prone position with bipod (T). NGSAR will allow the Soldier to maintain a clear sight picture during engagement of moving targets from the kneeling position (O). Low recoil will allow the Soldier to better control the weapon and remain on target improving probability of hit. Recoil energy limitations will be in accordance with Test Operations Procedure 3-2-045 and Table 1 of TOP 03-2-826A.

KSA 6 Firing Modes:
NGSAR will have the capability to fire in automatic and semi-automatic modes (T). NGSAR will be capable of firing two rounds with one trigger pull with both rounds impacting the target within 1 inch at 100 meters in automatic or semi-automatic modes (O).

KSA 7 Weapon Signatures:
1. Suppressed sound signature at the shooter’s ear will be less than the suppressed M249 (T). The NGSAR will be unable to localize by sound beyond 300m (O). Localize is defined as the detection and subsequent identification of the weapon system, to include the type of weapon, and its location to the degree that an enemy could return effective fire on it. Improved suppression is for combat ammunition only and will not interfere with Training Aids, Devices, Simulators, and Simulations (TADSS.)
2. Suppressed flash signature will be less than the M249 (T). The NGSAR will be unable to be localized by flash out to 300m (O). First round flash will not be greater than the flash from subsequent rounds. Improved suppression is for combat ammunition only and will not interfere with TADSS.
3. The NGSAR thermal signature will be equal to or less than the M249 (T). NGSAR will possess advanced signature management capability to reduce thermal signature (O).
4. The NGSAR suppressed will produce less toxic gasses than the M249 unsuppressed firing M855A1 ball ammunition. The NGSAR suppressed will produce less toxic gases at the shooter than the M249 unsuppressed firing M855A1 ball ammunition (O).

KSA 8 NGSAR Ammunition:
1. NGSAR Combat Ammunition: NGSAR combat ammunition must provide the probability of incapacitation as listed in the NGSAR CDD classified annex. There must be a Tracer and Ball variant; the Tracer ammunition must provide a visual signature observable by the shooter with unaided vision during both daylight and night conditions (30-degree oblique from either side of the weapon) out to 600 meters (T). The ammunition must provide a visual signature observable by the shooter with unaided vision during both daylight and night conditions (30-degree oblique from either side of the weapon) out to 1200 meters (O).
2. Live Fire Training Ammunition: NGSAR live fire training ammunition must be accurate enough to hit single “E Type” silhouettes at 600 meters with 50% probability of hit (Ph) using conventional weapons zeroing techniques, with a maximum range that does not exceed 2400m. The ammunition must provide a visual signature with unaided vision during both daylight and night conditions to 600 meters. The objective version of this round possesses sufficient accuracy to be used for qualification on reduced range scenarios. Normal weapon wear and tear caused by the live fire training ammunition shall be equivalent to or less than the legacy M855 cartridge. Penetration performance of the M855 at 600 meters and the associated testing procedure was quantified for industry in MIL-C-63989. The penetration performance sought is worse performance than the M855 against AISI steel targets at all ranges over 5 meters. The objective live fire training cartridge penetration performance shall be less than the legacy M855 cartridge at all distances over five meters. This shall be demonstrated using the maximum thickness of AISI 1010 steel plate that the legacy M855 is expected to reliably perforate (V50; zero obliquity) at five meters. No perforation of that target is what is sought. For safety purposes, plate thickness may be extrapolated by suitable precision penetration experiments done at greater distances.
3. Force-on-Force Training Ammunition: NGSAR force-on-force training ammunition shall replicate the flash and noise of NGSAR combat ammunition. The NGSAR will possess a feature (such as a training bolt) that precludes the use of combat ammunition. The ammunition will have distinct, identifiable markings to enable identification under both normal and reduced visibility conditions. The operator will not be required to bore sight or zero the weapon to effectively use the force-on-force training ammunition. Any projectile fired must be accurate to hit single “E Type” silhouettes at 30 meters with 50% probability of hit using conventional weapons zeroing techniques. Any projectile shall be made in at least three colors that will wash off with the use of water. The ammunition shall not contain heavy metals, volatile, or ozone depleting chemicals and shall be non-toxic to allow for firing indoor without creating a toxicity problem. The use of this ammunition shall in no way degrade the weapon’s current performance (when the weapon is reconfigured for combat/service ammunition) or degrade the useful life of these weapons. The operator and other soldiers must be able to visually identify that force-on-force training ammunition is loaded into the weapon from a distance of 5 meters under daylight conditions (T). Force-on Force training ammunition must not penetrate human skin clothed in the standard Army issue uniform nor fracture or break the standard Sun, Wind, Dust (SWD) Goggle lens (LEXAN 1.52mm thick) when fired at a distance of 1.0 meter (39.3in) from the muzzle of the weapon. Force-on Force training ammunition must not penetrate human skin nor fracture or break the standard Sun, Wind, Dust (SWD) Goggle lens (LEXAN 1.52mm thick) when fired at a distance of 0 meters from the muzzle of the weapon (O).
4. Blank Training Ammunition: The NGSAR blank ammo will be utilized for force-on-force skill development and will have distinct identifiable markings to enable identification under both normal and reduced visibility conditions. The use of NGSAR blank ammo shall not degrade the weapon’s current performance (when the weapon is reconfigured for combat/service ammunition) or degrade the useful life of these weapons. The NGSAR blank ammo, when fired at one meter will not penetrate human skin clothed in the standard Army issue uniform. NGSAR blank ammo must fully complement all current and planned TADSS devices relying on blank ammunition for force-on-force training devices (i.e. I-MILES) (T). The NGSAR blank ammo, when fired at zero meters, must not penetrate human skin clothed in standard Army issue uniform (O).
5. Drill Ammunition: NGSAR drill ammunition must facilitate the performance of weapon operator tasks similar to live ammunition to include chambering weapons, clearing weapons, weapon maintenance tasks (including verification of proper weapon setup after maintenance procedures) and ammunition familiarity without risk of activating energetic materials. It must be standardized and easily discernible from other types of ammunition by Soldiers under training representative conditions (T=O).

KSA 9 Mobility:
Soldier mobility has a direct correlation to combat effectiveness. The lightweight NGSAR and ammunition with improved ergonomic features will not result in a reduction in Soldier mobility, agility, responsiveness, as measured by time to complete an Army obstacle course, such as the LEAP-A course, relative to the current baseline system with a combat load of ammunition (T). Soldiers carrying the NGSAR with a combat load of ammunition shall demonstrate a 10% improvement in Soldier mobility as measured by time to complete an Army obstacle course, relative to performance with the baseline system (O).

Additional Performance Attributes (APA) listed below are performance attributes of a system not important enough to be considered a Key Performance Parameter (KPP) or Key System Attribute (KSA), but still appropriate to include. Details to be provided during Industry Day.

APA 1 Integration
APA 2 Protective Materials
APA 3 Shot Counter
APA 4 Operational Controls
APA 5 Back-Up Sight
APA 6 Field Stripping and Tools
APA 7 Compatibility with Personal Protection Equipment
APA 8 Visual Signature
APA 9 Sling
APA 10 ID Markings
APA 11 Cleaning Kit
APA 12 Blank Firing Adaptor (BFA).
APA 13 Data Transfer (Intelligent Rail)
APA 14 – Weapon System Maintenance Ratio (MR)
APA 15 – Mean Time to Repair (MTTR)
APA 16 – Special Tools

It’s unfortunate that the Army has chosen to conduct this program at the classified level as they will preclude the vast majority of the industrial base. Few actual firearms manufacturers have facility clearances, let alone employees with active DoD security clearances. Let’s hope they sort this out.

For full details on the industry day event, visit www.fbo.gov.

Program Manager Individual Weapons Issues Request For Information To Industry For 7.62mm Interim Combat Service Rifle

Friday, June 2nd, 2017

For the last couple of months we’ve been talking about the US Army’s 7.62 rifle requirements.

For quite awhile it looked like they were going to leverage the M110A1 Compact Semi Automatic Sniper System program by purchasing additional Heckler & Koch G28s like they are doing for the Squad Designated Marksman Rifle’s directed requirement for 6069 rifles. Unfortunately, the CSASS weapon would need some changes for the ICSR role. For instance, it’s semi automatic and we understand that was a major sticking point. Consequently, they’ve released a Market Survey to industry in order to identify companies capable of producing a rifle which meets their requirements.

This slide was briefed by PM Soldier Weapons at the recent NDIA Armaments Conference and shows the ICSR as a directed requirement and has been in development for awhile.

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Desired Attributes of Interim Combat Service Rifle:
• The rifle must be a Commercial Off The Shelf (COTS) system readily available for purchase today. Modified or customized systems are not being considered.
• Caliber: 7.62x51mm
• Available barrel lengths, to include 16 and 20 inch barrels, without muzzle device attached.
• Muzzle device capable of or adaptable to auxiliary devices for:
— Compensation of muzzle climb
— Flash suppression
— Sound Suppression
• Fire Control: Safe, Semi-automatic, and fully automatic capable.
• All controls (e.g. selector, charging handle) are ambidextrous and operable by left and right handed users
• Capable of mounting a 1.25 inch wide military sling
• Capable of accepting or mounting the following accessories.
— Forward grip/bi-pod for the weapon
— variable power optic
• Detachable magazine with a minimum capacity of 20 rounds
• Folding or collapsing buttstock adjustable to change the overall length of the weapon
• Foldable backup iron sights calibrated/adjustable to a maximum of 600 meters range
• Weight less than 12lb unloaded and without optic
• Extended Forward Rail

This requirement was initially driven by a need to defeat a threat at 600m, but Army Chief of Staff GEN Mark Milley’s recent testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee indicates that the proliferation of inexpensive armor which defeats out 5.56mm ammunition by our adversaries to be the current culprit. GEN Milley testified that the Army had developed a 7.62 round which will defeat that body armor. The ICSR is intended to fire that cartridge.

While the RFI mentions the production 10,000 rifles, remember, that’s a nice round number and not indicative of the actual requirement. Basis of Issue has been tossed around, ranging from four per squad to pure fleet fielding for IBCTs.

Naturally, this move to a full and open competition also means that the ICSR may not be the same rifle already selected for use as CSASS and SDMR. From a logistics standpoint this seems unwise to have two different (three if you count the legacy M110s) 7.62mm rifles in service at the same time with few, if any, compatible parts.

We’ve already discussed how the basic load goes from 210 rounds for 5.56mm to 104 rounds for 7.62. Now, consider a 12 lbs rifle with additional optic and other accessories, further driving the weight up. In addition to the load bearing burden, there is another issue at hand which must be considered. Not only is the rifle and ammunition heavier, it’s also more arduous to shoot, and that’s just on semi. The Soldier must hold the weapon on target and deal with the increased recoil impulse. Anyone who shoots both 7.62 and 5.56 regularly will tell you that they just don’t shoot as much 7.62 at a time as they do 5.56. When we add full automatic fire into the equation, we begin to enter relatively unknown  territory. Even when the US Army last issued a 7.62 rifle, the M14, only one Soldier per squad had a full automatic rifle (M14E2) which was configured slightly differently than the semi auto M14 carried by his squad mates. Go back further to the days of the M1 Garand and its .30-06 M1 cartridge and you find a completely different weapon for full auto fire, the M1918 Browning Automatic Rifle.


However, finding a COTS, fully automatic 7.62 rifle will be a challenge. Aside from FN’s Mk17 SCAR Heavy and HK417, there aren’t many others. We suspect the Army will end up looking at a bunch of AR10esque “COTS” guns which coincidentally have just recently been modified to fire full auto. They’ll be reliable guns in semi auto fire, but unproven for long-term full auto use.

Granted, it’s easier to get to an intermediate cartridge (6.5mm family) with a 7.62 platform, if that’s the actual, ultimate goal. The impending release of the Small Arms Caliber Study and USASOC’s current evaluation of 6.5 rounds will certainly inform such a move, but it’s still years off.

Based in these factors, there are many who would understandably prefer to just wait it out for the development of an intermediate cartridge and build a gun around that.

 However, as we recently wrote, the US military currently finds itself at the nexus of a US small arms renassiance. Requirements exist. Solutions, although not perfect, exist. And most of all, political will exists to resource the acquisitions. Rarely do we find ourselves in this position, so we must capitalize on the opportunity. Hopefully, the Army fully considers the full impact of fielding this weapon and make wise choices.

To read the full Sources Sought Notice, visit www.fbo.gov.

Army To Issue New M17 Modular Handgun To Ft Campbell Troops First

Wednesday, May 3rd, 2017

Earlier today at the NDIA Armaments Conference, PEO Soldier’s PM for Soldier Weapons, LTC Steven Power stated that the First Unit Equipped for the M17 Modular Handgun will be the 101st at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, during the first quarter of Fiscal Year 18. He also stated that other units on Fort Campbell would also receive the first of 190,000 Pistols the Army plans to buy.

In addition to multiple other Army units on the post, the 5th Special Forces Group ( Airborne) and elements of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment are also there. Yesterday, USASOC Deputy Chief of Staff for Requirements (G8), COL Samuel Ashley stated that despite adoption of the GLOCK 19 by elements of the command, it was part of the Army’s fielding of the M17 as a replacement for their M9 pistols.

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In January during SHOT Show, the Army selected the SIG SAUER P320 as its new modular handgun. However, in Februrary, GLOCK protested the award. The GAO has until 5 June to make a decision on whether or not to sustain the protest. Despite this, the Army has developed a fielding plan for the new pistol, no matter who produces it.

US Army 7.62 Rifle Update

Wednesday, May 3rd, 2017

Last month, we told you about a directed requirement from Army Vice Chief of Staff GEN Daniel Allyn for a new 7.62 Squad Designated Marksman Rifle and internal, service discussions for expansion of that capability as a Battle Rifle, to all members of the rifle squad.

Based on briefings conducted at the NDIA Armaments Conference by PEO Soldier’s PM Weapons team, along with discussions with industry, we have an update on Army plans to field a new 7.62 NATO capability within the next 24 months.

First off, although a contract has been awarded for H&K’s Compact Semi Automatic Sniper System, the weapon remains unfunded for FY17. Currently, type classification is planned for FY18.

However, the Army is also committed to concurrently fielding an SDMR based on the same platform as the CSASS.

According to briefing slides provided by PM Soldier Weapons, an Army directed requirement to engage enemy personnel at the Squad level from 0-600m, dated December, 2016 will purchase “6,069 HK G28E rifles” via an urgent material release.

The Army plans to use the existing M80A1 ammo for the SDMR, which is a 7.62 version of the 5.56mm M855A1. The rifles are said to be configured in a similar fashion to the CSASS, with Geissele M-Lok rail and OSS suppressor. However, the SDMRs will be outfitted with an as-of-yet still unselected 1-6x variable optic rather than the CSASS optic from Schmidt & Bender.

While there has been talk of adding up to two SDMRs per Squad, internal Army discussions continue about expanding the basis of issue of a 7.62 rifle, now referred to as the Interim Service Combat Rifle to all BCT members. However, there is still no formal requirement for the ISCR, and acquisition officials are leaning forward on the foxhole in anticipation, prepared to make this happen as quickly as possible.

PEO Soldier Talks About The Advanced Combat Helmet Gen II

Thursday, March 30th, 2017

PEO Soldier held a press conference earlier today regarding the Advanced Combat Helmet Gen II fielding. Officiating the event was LTC Kathy Brown, PM Soldier Protective Equipment. She was assisted by APM, MAJ Brandon Motte.

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From World War II until the 1980s, the US military relied on a stamped steel helmet with liner, commonly referred to as the “Steel Pot”.

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It was replaced by the Personal Armor System, Ground Troops or PASGT. Its nickname was the ‘Kevlar’ after the material it was made from.

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In the late 1990s, USSOCOM began to take advantage of new para-Aramid materials and embarked on a program called the Modular Integrated Communications Helmet. The helmet’s design was modified slightly to a more streamlined shell than the bulky PASGT and it was quickly adopted by the US Army as the Advanced Combat Helmet, in the early 2000s as active combat in the Middle East stepped up.

Right up front, LTC Brown told us that this is the greatest weight reduction we’ve ever seen in headborne protection. She went on to say , “I’m very proud of the work we’ve done here. Our soldiers and civilians are highly technically skilled.”

For both Large and XLarge the reduction is 24% over the legacy ACH, while for Medium and Small helmets, it is 21%. The average is 22%. For example, the XLarge legacy ACH is 3.88 lbs while the ACH Gen II in XL is 2.94 lbs, or a 24% weight reduction.

The goal of the upgrade program was to offer weight reduction with equal protection of the legacy helmet. They’ve definitely accomplished that mission.

Chief engineer Jacob Hopping said, “Reductions in weight mean more alert Soldiers.” The Legacy helmet is Kevlar, while the new ACH II is polyethylene which accounts for the weight reduction.

Along the way of fielding helmets, the US Army worked on a program with the US Marine Corps called Enhanced Combat Helmet which uses High Density Polyethylene to defeat rifle caliber threats. It’s currently used in high threat environments like Iraq, and is available via Rapid Fielding Initiative.

Additionally, the Army has access to ballistic appliqués which attach to the top of a helmet and offer full rifle caliber threat protection. Once again, these are only used in high threat environments.


The Advanced Combat Helmet Generation II looks almost identical to the ACH Soldiers have been wearing for 15 years, but it weighs 9 ounces to almost a pound less than the legacy helmet. The new helmet is made from ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylene, a lighter material than Kevlar, but reportedly just as strong. (Photo Credit: Ron Lee, PEO Soldier)

The ACH Gen II is going to look very similar to your legacy ACH, just lighter. While the helmet will be issued in Tan 499/Coyote 498, rather than the Grey looking Foliage Green, there will continue to be a helmet cover and, when used, the ballistic appliqué can be hydrodipped in colors or camouflage patterns as needed.

Since Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support is handling this contract, the other services will also be able to requisition this helmet for their use via NSN. While the Army still hasn’t worked out a strict timetable on fielding of the ACH Gen II, it will be a one-for-one replacement of the legacy helmet and offer a full refresh of the Army’s head protection for both combat and training.

Jacob Hopping mentioned that, “In a few years, working with material developers and manufacturers, we’ll be able to maximize weight reduction and increase threat protection to optimize protection for the head.” While much work is being done with HDPE, he mentioned that perhaps the next Gen Kevlar may show even better protection.

LTC Brown said that this new capability is at the current limits of materials, but engineer Andy Meloni added that they’re not only only looking at materials, but new manufacturing processes are also under development. Andy Meloni supports the ACH II as a matrixed engineer from the Natick Research, Development and Engineering Center.

Ultimately, the Army is looking for a revolutionary leap in the performance-to-weight ratio of ballistic material but they see that as still a decade away. Until then, they’ll look at ways to integrate increased capability to current equipment.

Below is an article by the Army News Service which describe some this capability as well as some other armor technologies. (more…)

US Army Issues RFI For Cold Temperature and Arctic Protection System

Thursday, March 30th, 2017

The U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Command (NSRDEC), Natick, MA is conducting a market investigation to identify domestic suppliers and manufacturers of potential sources for materials, individual garment items and complete clothing systems for the development of a Cold Temperature and Arctic Protection System (CTAPS). This RFI will exclude handwear and footwear. The effort will develop a multi-layer system that will provide a minimum of no melt and no drip next-to-skin layers, environmental protection from wind and water, and provide tailorable protection for temperatures spanning a range from 45 Deg F to -65 Deg F in as few garments as possible.  Essentially, it’s a replacement for Extended Cold Weather Clothing System (ECWCS) Generation III which is an adaptation of USSOCOM’s Protective Combat Uniform.

Here are some slides from late last year describing CTAPS. You’ll also notice a reference to “Environmental Protection System,” an overarching program, of which CTAPS is but one component. For example, there will also be a hot/wet aka jungle component of EPS.




According to the RFI, new cold weather materials, end items, and systems should be light weight with better durability, provide high compressibility/good recovery for packing in the ruck, have improved moisture management, and be fast drying while maintaining insulation. The performance of the current seven layer (it’s actually levels not layers, but the RFI refers to them as layers) ECWCS Gen III is the baseline for characteristics and protection upon which materials, individual garments, and complete clothing systems will be compared. The individual garments or layers of the clothing system can be categorized into three areas: base layer (next-to-skin), insulating layer, and outer shell. While flame resistance is not a requirement at this time, materials and items that are flame resistant will be considered. It is also desired to expand no melt/no drip performance beyond the base layers without negatively impacting other performance attributes.

The Government will require 90 days after the 21 April 2017 submission date to make an initial assessment of the proposed technology(s) potential to fulfill CTAPS needs. The Government will integrate selected technologies and designs into test garments for field evaluation in winters 2018 and 2019 to establish operational effectiveness and Soldier acceptance. A test method matrix upon which materials and/or end item garments and systems will be evaluated is attached. Concurrently, NSRDEC will be seeking test methods to better predict operational effectiveness in the field. The Purchase Descriptions of the current ECWCS materials are available upon request. Interested sources may submit any combination of material samples (textiles), end item samples (garments), or complete system samples (ensembles) along with technical information as outlined in item (a) below. The samples will be degraded or destroyed during evaluation and will not be returned to the vendor. If a source chooses to submit samples, no payment will be made by the Government for such samples.

I’m glad to see the government going at the RFI in this fashion. This way they can take a look at best of breed in each category. Unfortunately, when full systems are evaluated against one another, costs are easier to anticipate and control but individual components may be wanting. Natick has been briefing this program since last Summer’s OR and while everyone in industry is excited, there has been some hesitation over the Army’s intent to own the IP for any solution it adopts. This may preclude some of the best solutions from being submitted.

For full details, visit www.fbo.gov.

US Army Showcases Soldier Protection System Gear

Sunday, March 19th, 2017

Last week, the Army News Service released this story about the equipment developed under the Soldier Protection System program.

During the development effort, this is a full size poster, PEO Soldier was using to demonstrate the SPS concept. It will give you a good idea of what we’re talkingaboit.

They’re working on new posters with the gear they selected during the development process. Here are some images from that photo shoot, from PM SCIE’s Facebook page.

Below, in the Army’s article, you’ll get a glimpse of the equipment they actually selected. They’re also featuring the Integrated Head Protection subsystem which took an extremely long time to downselect. Although they’re showing this particular helmet off, don’t forget, the Army just awarded a contract to Revision for the ACH II. Although it’s no slouch, lowering the weight of the helmet by 24% at the same ballistic performance of the ACH, it doesn’t have all of the bells and whistles of the SPS helmet.  You won’t be seeing this helmet anytime soon.  

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This photo showing the SPS IHPs as well as the ACH is from the PM SCIE Facebook page.

In fact, delays are a common issue with this program. Much of this has to do with some questionable decisions. From its outset, SPS was on, then off, then on again. Once it was under way, requirements were altered by PEO Soldier after the Torso and Extremity Protection’s subsystem candidates were submitted by industry, lowering them in order to allow the government submission to win. Even then, the government’s winning system lacked the required female variant, which is allegedly still under development. There were other issues with the baseline system but its very production has been delayed due to contract protests. Worse yet, there have been acceptance test failures of its protective armor. Furthermore, production of the Ballistic Combat Shirt was delayed due to protests.

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LTC Kathy Brown meets with Army News Service. (Photo from PM SCIE Facebook Page)

Like any organization, they have their triumphs and their failures, but PEO Soldier long ago stopped responding to my requests for information, after I published a series of articles critical of their mishandling of the camouflage and SPS efforts. Program Manager, Soldier Protective Equipment LTC Kathy Brown has met with several reporters regarding this system but they won’t answer the most important question…”why?” Why did they make those choices? Several vendors offered turnkey solutions. The Army has spent two years trying to get their government owned design on the street.

Don’t get me wrong. I want to see them succeed. I’m a former Soldier myself and this equipment is designed to protect the lives of Americans; that’s precisely why I want to see them get it right.

New Soldier armor weighs less, offers more options

WASHINGTON (Army News Service) — The average generation II improved outer tactical vest weighs about 26 pounds. But the new torso and extremity protection system or TEP, under development now at Program Executive Office Soldier, sheds about five pounds of weight and also adds a wide degree of scalability that commanders can make use of depending on threat level and mission.

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The Torso and Extremity Protection System” or TEP, under development now at Program Executive Office Soldier, sheds about five pounds of weight from the IOTV, and also adds a wide degree of scalability that commanders can make use of depending on threat level and mission. (Photo Credit: C. Todd Lopez)

The TEP is part of the new Soldier Protection System under development now at PEO Soldier. The SPS includes both the TEP and the integrated head protection system.

RANGE OF OPTIONS

The TEP can replace the IOTV, at less weight and greater scalability, depending on the mission. It includes the modular scalable vest, the ballistic combat shirt, the blast pelvic protection system, and a battle belt, which is aimed at getting weight off a Soldier’s shoulders and onto the hips.

With the TEP, commanders can require Soldiers to go with full protection — which provides the same level of protection as a fully-loaded IOTV — or go all the way down to wearing soft armor under their uniforms for missions that require less protection.

“It’s about giving commanders on the battlefield the ability to use the modularity capability of the equipment to fit their particular mission profile or protective posture level,” said Lt. Col. Kathy Brown, the product manager for Personal Protective Equipment at PEO Soldier, Fort Belvoir, Virginia.

BALLISTIC COMBAT SHIRT

The IOTV sometimes required Soldiers to wear the deltoid auxiliary protection — cumbersome parts that snapped on to the IOTV and protected their shoulders. Soldiers might have also been asked to wear the smaller, easily-lost collars that also snapped on to the IOTV. Both are gone with the TEP. They’ve been replaced by the ballistic combat shirt, which is a shirt with breathable fabric and which also includes those smaller ballistic protection parts built in. Soldiers would wear the BCS under the TEP’s modular scalable vest.

“We have tested it,” Brown said of the ballistic combat shirt. “Soldiers like it. There is 95 percent Soldier acceptability of it. What we are working on now is tweaking the sizes.”

NEW PELVIC PROTECTION

The TEP also includes the blast pelvic protection system, which is designed to protect a Soldiers thighs and groin against ballistic threats and burns. The BPPS is meant to replace the current combination of the pelvic undergarment and the pelvic outer-garment, or “PUG” and “POG.” The PUG has sometimes been referred to as “ballistic underwear.”

Brown said the BPPS “provides the same level of protection” as the PUG and POG combined, including both burn and fragment protection. She said Soldiers have reported that it feels more like it is “part of the pants.”

BELT TAKES LOAD OFF SHOULDERS

The battle belt included with the TEP is part of a weight management system, but it also offers some protection as well.

“It’s designed to remove the weight from your shoulders and put it on your hips,” Brown said. Whereas Soldiers might strap a radio or other gear onto their IOTV in the past, the battle belt can now take that gear and move the weight onto a Soldier’s hips.

Brown said that after successful ballistic testing, production of the TEP will begin in probably May of this year, and that Soldiers could see it in 2018 or 2019.

NEW HELMET

Another part of the Soldier Protection System is the integrated head protection system, or IHPS. In its full configuration, it looks similar to a motorcycle helmet.

The IHPS consists of a base helmet, similar to the polyethylene enhanced combat helmet that some Soldiers are already wearing. The IHPS also includes add-ons for the base helmet, including a visor, a “mandible” portion that protects the lower jaw, and a “ballistic applique” that is much like a protective layer that attaches over the base helmet. The complete ensemble is known as the “high threat configuration.”

Brown said that eventually all deploying Soldiers will get the IHPS with the base helmet, which is the standard configuration. Other Soldiers, vehicle gunners in particular, will also get the mandible portion and the ballistic applique as well, known as the turret configuration.

The IHPS currently has a Picatinny rail mounted on the side for attaching gear, and will also provide for attaching head-mounted night vision goggles.

NEW SUNGLASSES

The visor portion on the IHPS provides ballistic protection to a Soldier’s face but doesn’t provide any protection against the sun. So Soldiers wearing it will need to wear darkened sunglasses underneath the visor if they are in bright environments.

Maj. Jaun F. Carleton, also with PEO Solider, had a pair of new sunglasses that are authorized for use by Soldiers if they want to buy them, or if their commanders buy them for them.

The sunglasses, which also come in a face mask version as well, start off as un-darkened — offering no protection against the sun. But with the press of a button, LCD modules that adhere to the lenses darken and provide protection against the sun. That happens in less than a second.

“The benefit is that using one pair of protective eyewear, you wouldn’t have to switch from a clear goggle to a dark goggle — you’d have one protective eyewear for all conditions,” Carleton said.

Brown said the goggles will be available for units to be able to requisition as part of the Soldier Protection System.

“If we are able to drive the price down, the Army could eventually make a decision to include that on the list of items that we carry for deploying Soldiers,” Brown said.

SOLDIER TESTING

Brown said the IHPS will likely be available to deploying Soldiers sometime between 2020 and 2021.

As part of extensive human factors evaluations, Brown said that PEO Soldier has used Soldiers, extensively, to evaluate the new gear.

“We had a massive scale of Soldiers to evaluate the equipment, usually over a three-week to month-long timeframe, where they would perform their different mission sets, where they will execute basic rifle marksmanship, and ruck marches,” she said.

Afterward, she said, those same Soldiers were asked what they think of the gear through a qualitative evaluation methodology (Soldier survey).

“They would give us the good, the bad, the ugly,” Brown said. “It’s extremely important to get Soldiers’ input. First, Soldiers are brutally honest and they are going to tell you exactly how they feel about the equipment. Second, why buy equipment Soldiers won’t wear? And third, who’s better to give us the best answer about how the kit should be designed than the Soldier who will actually wear the equipment?”

US Army Unveils New Jungle Combat Boot

Monday, March 6th, 2017

The US Army is poised to issue a new Jungle Combat Boot based on an RFI to industry just five months ago in October. This is an impressive example of what can happen when the Army works with industry. Well done!

Let’s hope the manufacturers get these out there soon for private purchase by Soldiers not assigned to the 25th ID.

WASHINGTON (Army News Service) — The standard issue combat boot most Soldiers wear today, the one most commonly worn in Iraq and Afghanistan, is great for sandy dunes, hot dry weather, and asphalt. But it’s proven not so good in hot and wet environments. So the Army has developed a new jungle boot that some Soldiers will see this year.

Last September, Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Mark A. Milley directed the Army to come up with a plan to outfit two full brigade combat teams in Hawaii, part of the 25th Infantry Division there, with a jungle boot. The Army had already been testing commercial jungle boots at the time — with mixed results — but didn’t have a specialized jungle boot, so Program Executive Officer Soldier, headquartered at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, had to get a plan together to make it happen.

By October of last year, the Army had made a request to industry to find out what was possible, and by December, contracts were awarded to two boot manufacturers in the United States to build a little more than 36,700 jungle-ready combat boots — enough to outfit both full IBCTs in Hawaii.

“This is important to the Army, and important to Soldiers in a hot, high-humidity, high-moisture area,” said Lt. Col. John Bryan, product manager for Soldier Clothing and Individual Equipment, with PEO Soldier. “We are responding as quickly as we possibly can, with the best available, immediate capability, to get it on Soldiers’ feet quickly, and then refine and improve as we go.”

MIXING LEGACY WITH TECH

Right now, the new jungle boot the Army developed will be for Soldiers at the 25th ID in Hawaii — primarily because there are actually jungles in Hawaii that Soldiers there must contend with. The new boots look remarkably similar to the current boots Soldiers wear — they are the same color for instance. And the boots, which Bryan said are called the “Army Jungle Combat Boot” or “JCB” for short, sport a variety of features drawn from both the legacy M1966 Vietnam-era jungle boot and modern technology.

The M1966 Jungle Boot — which featured a green cotton fabric upper with a black leather toe that could be polished, had a solid rubber sole which Soldiers reportedly said had no shock-absorbing capability. The new boot uses a similar tread, or “outsole,” as the M1966 “Panama style” — to shed mud for instance and provide great traction, but the added midsole is what makes it more comfortable and shock absorbing, said Albert Adams, who works at the Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center.

The outsole of the new boot is connected to the leather upper via “direct attach,” Adams said. That’s a process where a kind of liquid foam is poured between the rubber outsole and leather boot upper. It’s “a lot like an injection molding process,” he said.

The foam layer between the rubber sole and the upper portion of the boot not only provides greater shock absorbing capability, but he said it also keeps out microbes in hot, wet environments that in the past have been shown to eat away at the glues that held older boots together. So the new boots won’t separate at the soles, he said. “It provides a high level of durability, and it also adds cushioning.”

Also part of the new boot is a textile layer that prevents foreign items from puncturing through the sole of the boot and hurting a Soldier’s foot, Adam’s said. The M1966 boot accomplished that with a steel plate. The new boot has a ballistic fabric-like layer instead.

Staff Sgt. Joshua Morse, an instructor at the Jungle Operations Training Center in Hawaii, said the puncture resistance is welcome. He said punji sticks, familiar to Vietnam War veterans, are still a problem for Soldiers, for instance.

“They use these punji pits for hunting purposes,” he said. “In Brunei, you are literally in the middle of nowhere in this jungle, and there are natives that live in that area, and still hunt in that area, and it can be an issue.” And in mangrove swamps, he said, “you can’t see anything. You don’t know what’s under your feet at all. There are a lot of sharp objects in there as well.”

The new JCB also features a heel with a lower height than the M1966 model, to prevent snags on things like vines in a jungle environment. That prevents tripping and twisted ankles. Among other things, the boot also has additional drainage holes to let water out if it becomes completely soaked, speed laces so that Soldiers can don and doff the boots more quickly, a redesigned upper to make the boots less tight when they are new, an insert that helps improve water drainage, and a lining that makes the boot breath better and dry faster than the old boot.

“You’re going to be stepping in mud up to your knees or higher, and going across rivers regularly,” Adams said. “So once the boot is soaked, we need it to be able to dry quickly as well.”

FEEDBACK FORMED FINAL DESIGN

Morse has already been wearing and evaluating early versions of the JCB and said he thinks the efforts made by the Army toward providing him with better footwear are spot on.

“The designs were conjured up in a lab somewhere, and they were brought out here, and the main focus was the field test with us,” Morse said. “A lot of us have worn these boots for a year now, different variants of the boots. And all the feedback that we’ve put into this, and given to the companies, they have come back and given us better products every single time.”

Morse said he hadn’t initially worn the new jungle boots that he had been asked to evaluate. On a trip to Brunei, he recalled, he went instead with what he was familiar with and what he trusted — a pair of boots he’d worn many times, the kind worn by Soldiers in the deserts of Iraq and Afghanistan.

“I wore a pair of boots I’d had for a couple of years,” he said. “I wore them in Brunei and I had trench foot within a week. But then I thought — I have this brand new pair of test boots that they asked me to test; they are not broken in, but I’m going to give them a shot. I put them on. After 46 days soaking wet, non-stop, my feet were never completely dry. But I wore those boots, and I never had a problem again.”

The Army didn’t design the new JCB in a vacuum. Instead, it worked with Solders like Morse to get the requirements and design just right — to meet the needs of Soldiers, said Capt. Daniel Ferenczy, the assistant product manager for Soldier Clothing and Individual Equipment.

“We worked with Soldiers to come up with this boot. We take what Soldiers want and need, we boil that down to the salient characteristics, hand that over to our science and technology up at Natick; they work with us and industry, the manufacturing base, to come up with this product,” Ferenczy said. “This is a huge win, a great win story for the Army, because it was such a quick turnaround. Industry did a fantastic job. Our product engineers are also top of the line. And we had a ton of Soldier feedback … we really dealt very closely with what the Soldier needs to get where we are.”

In March, the Army will begin fielding the current iteration of the JCB to Soldiers in the first of two brigade combat teams in Hawaii. During that fielding, the boots will be available in sizes 7-12. In June, the Army will begin fielding the JCB to the second BCT — this time with a wider array of sizes available: sizes 3-16, in narrow, regular, wide and extra wide. They will also go back and take care of those Soldiers from the initial fielding who didn’t get boots due to their size not being available. A third fielding in September will ensure that all Soldiers from the second fielding have boots. Each Soldier will get two pairs of JCBs.

In all, for this initial fielding — meant to meet the requirement laid out last September by the Army’s chief of staff — more than 36,700 JCBs will be manufactured.

By December, the Army will return to Hawaii to ask Soldiers how those new boots are working out for them.

“Al Adams will lead a small group and go back to 25th ID, to conduct focus groups with the Soldiers who are wearing these boots and get their feedback — good and bad,” said Scott A. Fernald, an acquisition technician with PEO Soldier. “From there, the determination will be made, if we had a product we are satisfied with, or if we need to go back and do some tweaking.”

AUTHORIZED FOR ALL

Fernald said that sometime between April and June of 2018, a final purchase description for the JCB will be developed — based on feedback from Soldiers that wore it. He said he expects that in fiscal year 2019, an indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity contract will be signed with multiple vendors to produce the final version of the JCB for the Army.

Bryan said the JCB, when it becomes widely available, will be wearable by all Soldiers who want to wear it — even if they don’t work in a jungle.

“From the get-go we have worked with the G-1 … to make sure we all understood the Army wear standards for boots,” he said. “One of the pieces of feedback we have gotten from Soldiers before they wear them, is they look a lot like our current boots. That’s by design. These will be authorized to wear.”

While the JCB will be authorized for wear by any Solider, Bryan made it clear that there will only be some Soldiers in some units who have the JCB issued to them. And right now, those decisions have not been made. For Soldiers who are not issued the JCB, if they want to wear it they will need to find it and purchase it on their own.

“We are not directing commercial industry to sell them,” Bryan said. “But if they build to the specification we’ve given them for our contract, they can sell them commercially and Soldiers are authorized to wear them.”

(US Army Photos by David Camm)