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U.S. Army’s Missile-Fighting Radar-Blimp Achieves Critical Milestone

By on Wednesday, October 15th, 2014

The East Coast is one step closer to being better defended against cruise missiles and drones. Raytheon Company (RTN) completed a series of laboratory tests that demonstrated the JLENS radar can be integrated into North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD).

JLENS is a system of two aerostats, or tethered blimps, that float 10,000 feet in the air. The helium filled aerostats, each nearly as long as a football field, carry powerful radars that can protect a territory roughly the size of Texas from airborne threats. JLENS provides 360-degrees of defensive radar coverage and can detect and track moving objects like cruise missiles, drones and airplanes from up to 340 miles away.

“The lab tests proved that information from JLENS can be converted into a format that can be used by NORAD’s command and control system,” said Raytheon’s Dave Gulla, vice president of Integrated Defense Systems’ Global Integrated Sensors business area. “With JLENS providing data to NORAD, our military will have a more accurate picture of what is flying in the National Capital Region’s airspace, and be able to identify slow-and-low flying threats such as cruise missiles and drones.”

One JLENS system is scheduled to be strategically emplaced at Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Md., later this year to help defend the National Capital Region from airborne threats. It will be under the control of NORAD-U.S. Northern Command, and operated by soldiers of the U.S. Army’s A Battery, 3rd Air Defense Artillery.

A second JLENS system is in strategic reserve, ready to be deployed anywhere in the world at the request of combatant commanders, should they require comprehensive cruise missile defense.

A JLENS system, known as an orbit, consists of ground equipment and an integrated radar system on two tethered, 80-yard aerostats, which fly at altitudes of 10,000 feet above sea level and remain aloft and operational for 30 days. This capability better enables commanders to defend against threats including cruise missiles, drones, and aircraft. JLENS also provides ascent phase detection of tactical ballistic missiles and large-caliber rockets.

  • JLENS completed developmental testing in December, 2013
  • JLENS has demonstrated its ability to integrate with defensive systems and help Patriot, AMRAAM, NASAMS and Standard Missile 6 intercept cruise missile targets.
  • JLENS proved it can detect and track short-range ballistic missiles in their boost phase during a series of tests in 2013.

Raytheon Company, with 2013 sales of $24 billion and 63,000 employees worldwide, is a technology and innovation leader specializing in defense, security and civil markets throughout the world. Raytheon is headquartered in Waltham, Mass.

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‘Live synthetic’ US Army’s next generation of simulation

Soldiers from a brigade combat team are at a combat training site doing a routine live-fire exercise. Well, maybe not so routine.

Suddenly enemy jets pop out of the clouds streaking toward them. The Soldiers scramble for cover as missiles rain down.

They hear the explosions from the missiles impacting all around them, see the flames and debris and smell the smoke.

But this is where it gets a little bit eerie.

Those enemy jets are being piloted a thousand miles away by fellow brigade combat team, or BCT, Soldiers, some in aircraft simulators and others on computer gaming stations.

The Soldiers see the visual recreations of those jets in real-time through special glasses that allow them to see the real world around them, while simultaneously viewing the simulations.

Data from the simulations stream in to the Soldiers’ glasses from satellites and ground relay stations.

In turn, the pilots in simulators and those using gaming stations see what Soldiers are doing in the live environment by satellite and unmanned aircraft video feeds and sensors on the Soldiers that transmit precise locations and activities.

Sounds of the battle are generated through special earpieces that harmonize with the visuals and the smells are pumped in through special odor machines.

Pipe dream?

Not really, said Col. John Janiszewski, director of the National Simulation Center, U.S. Army Combined Arms Center, Fort Leavenworth, Kan.

“We’re now looking at a concept called the Future Holistic Training Environment Live Synthetic” that will eventually do this and much more, he said.

“We’re now documenting the requirements,” he said.

By next year, Janiszewski plans to define the specific requirements for live synthetic and hopes to begin fielding systems by fiscal year 2022 and have them in place Army-wide by fiscal year 2025.

In the meantime, the National Simulation Center, or NSC, is having discussions with industry and experts in the science and technology community to “close some of those gaps” in capability.

Although simulators have been around for decades, the problem is that most were designed to be used in isolation. Live synthetic fuses them all seamlessly.

There are four basic types of simulations that will need to be fused to make the vision a reality. They go by the acronym LVC-G.

First is live simulation, or LS. This is “real people operating real systems in the field,” Janiszewski said. Soldiers have been doing this since the dawn of warfare.

Janiszewski said live simulations have improved significantly since he joined the Army 26 years ago.

Sounds and smells, mentioned in the setup scenario, have already been added to LS in mock towns at the National Training Center, Fort Irwin, Calif.

Marines at nearby Camp Pendleton are using animatronics in their LS. Animatronics are computer-generated images of people or even animals that appear to be physically present — some are friendly, some not.

Another improvement is that Soldiers’ movements today can be tracked through radio frequency identifiers attached to their bodies, a quantum leap from The Multiple Integrated Laser Engagement System introduced in the 1980s, which didn’t track movement, only hits from weaponry.

Although LS has seen significant improvements, “we’re not there yet,” he said, meaning the Army doesn’t have the glasses that would permit the use of “augmented reality.” Cloud computing capability will also likely play a role in this.

As troops draw down from Afghanistan, more and more Soldiers are doing LS at combat training centers and at installations.

Commanders didn’t have a lot of responsibility planning and executing training over the last 12 years of war, since it was done for them, he pointed out. Now, it’s their responsibility.

Mobile training teams from the CAC are helping them out with this, he said. “When we’re at peace, we’re an Army of preparation.”

Second is virtual simulation, or VS.

“This is real people operating simulation systems,” he said. “Like your child driving the racing car at the video arcade. The child believes he’s in a real vehicle with steering, gas, brakes and a display.”

VS is what most people think of when they think of simulation. The Army has had them around for decades now: tanks, trucks, helicopters, Bradley Fighting Vehicles, and more. Tank crews and aircraft crews operate in separate simulators, but can share a common picture of the training exercise.

These systems are already sophisticated with verisimilitude displays, motion, tactile and auditory feedback, he continued, adding that he’s not seen any significant leap forward in virtual simulation since it’s pretty realistic already.

Third is constructive simulation, or CS. This is simulated people and equipment operating in a simulated environment, he said.

In a typical constructive simulation, operators are looking at a computer screen watching contours on a map and icons representing friendlies and enemy, along with their weapons, vehicles, aircraft and materiel. Operators can move objects around using their mouse.

Over the last decades, Janiszewski said CS has gotten more realistic, meaning the representations on the screen are more sophisticated and movements are more precise and closer to real time. Also, terrain mapping has gotten more detailed.

Entire, large-scale organizations can be represented this way, and while not as exciting as being in a virtual simulation, it is just as effective, he pointed out.

In fact, Janiszewski said his unit in Germany in 2002 and 2003, rehearsed the Iraq invasion and the roll up to Baghdad using CS.

The U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command uses CS for analytical and experimentation purposes as well as gaming future scenarios.

Fourth is gaming simulation, or GS. This is similar to CS but instead of icons and contour lines on a map, the view on the computer screen looks real. Think of the popular “Call to Duty” or “Halo” video games.

Janiszewski said gaming is the simulation that by far has had the most advances, especially in the last few years.

GS is so new, in fact, that his office has yet to add gaming to its current acronym LVC-IA, or Live, Virtual, Constructive-Integrative Architecture, which describes the Army’s current efforts to integrate training systems across the simulations realm. Gaming is not yet officially part of the Army’s simulation syllabus — but he expects it to be soon.

“Gaming is probably the most prevalent and popular capability we now have,” he said.

That’s because one, it’s realistic and engaging, two, you don’t need a bulky, expensive piece of equipment like a virtual simulator, and three, there is a plentiful supply of computers.

Besides adding gaming to the mix and fusing the four simulations together, there are a few other challenges to get to live synthetic.

For one, NSC doesn’t have the accreditation that would allow it to operate simulations over the SIPRNet, or Secure Internet Protocol Router Network. Obtaining the certification and accreditation “is critical if we want to train the way we fight,” he said.

A successful SIPRNet workaround for now is the NSC’s use of something call the Global Simulation Capability Network. GSC Net “is a training network that allows the NSC to distribute constructive simulations from Fort Leavenworth to home station training locations in support of division and corps training events,” he said.

GSC Net also allows units that are strung out over several states, as is often the case with the National Guard and Reserve, to use the existing Defense Information Systems Agency operational network, he said.

For example, NSC at Fort Leavenworth recently pushed out a training simulation via the GSC Net successfully to Soldiers at Fort Bragg, N.C., he said.

Another issue in getting to live synthetic is funding.

“I worry about the budget every day,” he admitted. “I try to articulate why we need the resources, [and] try to show the positive effects [of simulation on] training and readiness of the Army.”

Janiszewski said he “doesn’t like to use the cost factor of why we want to do this, but in truth, it’s cheaper to train in a simulator” than live. For instance, he pointed to a study that showed it cost about $3,500 to fly a real attack helicopter per hour, while an attack helicopter simulator cost around $500.

The cost curve can also be lowered by simulating instructors and tutors on the simulators, he said. Scripts or even robots could mentor Soldiers doing the tasks. This would cut down on the need to hire more contractors.

Another benefit simulation provides in cost, as well as time savings, is that simulations can be delivered right to the installation.

“We want to provide the (simulation) environment to Soldiers at the point of need instead of them coming to a mission training complex,” he said.

That local delivery service is now being tested — with good results thus far, Janiszewski said.

Fort Hood, Texas, was the first to use LVC-IA in 2012, he said. Soldiers from a 1st Cavalry Division BCT used the three simulation components successfully in a feasibility assessment exercise to determine if LVC-IA could be rolled out Army-wide. It wasn’t true “live fusion” as envisioned for the future, but it nonetheless demonstrated that the three type of simulation could be used successfully in an exercise.

Then, Soldiers at Fort Drum, N.Y., used CS to train on logistics while interacting with Soldiers at the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, La., who were doing LS. Data was transmitted back and forth live via a mission command information system which gave them a common operating picture, he said.

Along with Forts Drum and Hood, LVC-IA systems have been delivered to Fort Riley, Kan., Fort Stewart, Ga.; Fort Bliss, Texas, and Fort Campbell, Ky., and 15 more sites will get deliveries between now and fiscal year 2016. The Guard and Reserve will be included in all simulation training, Janiszewski added.

In addition to that effort, it’s standard practice now at combat training centers for Soldiers to use CS as part of their leader development program prior to going to the live environment. This type of “progressive training strategy increases proficiency during the follow-on live event,” he noted.

Besides simulation efforts within the Army, Janiszewski said sister services and allies are sharing simulation ideas and interconnectivity, since “training together is critical for the U.S. in the future.”

Janiszewski likes to use a lollipop metaphor when describing his dream and plans for live synthetic. He sees the lollipop having two swirls of different colors. Those colors are the live environment and the simulated, merging as one.

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Army’s Military Auxiliary Radio System still relevant in Internet age

Years before Soldiers used cell phones and social media, and when long-distance calling was expensive, service members would often communicate from remote areas to home via “MARSgrams” or MARS telephone patches.

These services were provided free of charge by the volunteer amateur or ham radio operators worldwide who make up the Military Auxiliary Radio System service, known as MARS.

Surprisingly, MARS and MARS operators still exist today in the Army in both the active and reserve components. They exist also in the other military services.

The Army’s Network Enterprise Technology Command at Fort Huachuca, Ariz., is responsible for the Army MARS Program. Its main focus is providing contingency communications support to the Army and Department of Defense. The command also provides support to civil authorities, said Paul English, Army MARS program manager.

The military and the rest of the government, as well as the private sector, rely on satellites for much of their communications. MARS does not, English said. He explained that it instead relies on high-frequency radios which bounce their signals off the Earth’s upper atmosphere, known as the ionosphere, to provide long-distance communications.

The ionosphere is a layer of the earth’s atmosphere that begins at about 53 miles above the ground. Signals bounce off this layer and then back to Earth and then back up again. It may take up to five bounces to get from one continent to the next, English said. The majority of MARS messages are transmitted via various military standard data modes and also voice.

While the main mission of MARS is contingency communications, English said that it still can and does provide phone patches for Soldiers and units.

In fact, Army MARS is working with the National Guard Bureau to expand this phone-patch capability.

“Currently, Soldiers are dependent on using their personal cellphones to call the satellite-control facility to coordinate bringing their satellite terminal up,” English said. Army MARS has run several proof-of-concept tests with the Guard Bureau to use MARS phone patches as an alternative to cellphones.

The Army too is coordinating this work with other agencies.

While most of the 1,300 Army MARS stations are in the United States, there are also many overseas, English said.

The majority of MARS stations are manned by volunteers, usually in their homes. But there are also several hundred government-run MARS stations at both the state and federal level. The latter include the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Transportation Security Administration.

Army MARS operators participate in a number of exercises throughout the year. In August, MARS participated in an international humanitarian assistance disaster relief exercise conducted by U.S. Pacific Command. The exercise simulated a devastating hurricane hitting the country of “Pacifica,” role-played by personnel from Nepal.

MARS members worked with Nepalese amateur radio operators to demonstrate the utility of amateur radio and MARS to pass situational awareness information to DOD units to assist in developing a military response in the Pacific region, English said.

Also participating in that exercise were MARS operators on the West Coast, Hawaii, Japan, and Afghanistan. Simulated disaster information was successfully passed via high-frequency radio from amateur radio operators to MARS operators then sent on to staff officers in U.S. Pacific Command, he continued.

In October, MARS operators from around the continental U.S. participated in an international high-frequency radio exercise sponsored by the Canadian Signal Forces to celebrate their 110th anniversary.

“This exercise further tested MARS members’ ability to communicate with international signal units from Canada, England, Australia and New Zealand,” English said. “Future exercises such as this are now being planned as annual training opportunities.”

In November, MARS planned and executed a national-level exercise with DOD partners, numerous active duty and reserve component units, as well as some 15 state emergency operations centers.

“This exercise simulated a wide-spread communications outage affecting landline telephone, cellphones, and Internet,” English said. The 48-hour exercise was a graded event designed to stress the MARS volunteers’ ability to handle and respond to message traffic.

For the exercise, there were 350 participating Army MARS members who were joined by another 140 MARS members from the Air Force and Navy MARS. The volunteers logged more than 5,500 hours of on air support to handle the exercise message traffic.

MARS operators have participated not only in exercises, but also in real-world disasters, where most forms of communications were down.

During Hurricane Sandy, Mark Emanuele, Army MARS Region 2 emergency officer and fellow HAM operator Tom Logan, relayed important emergency messages from the hard-hit areas along the coast to other parts of the country.

To facilitate operations, the MARS regional map of the U.S. mirrors FEMA’s 10 regions. Region 2 includes New York and New Jersey.

The two were operating from the Army MARS position in the AT&T Disaster Recovery Station on the AT&T Labs Research and Development Campus in Middletown, N.J.

“We were on commercial power until about 8 p.m. Monday, when the campus switched over to the primary campus generator,” Emanuele said. That’s Oct. 29, 2012, the day Hurricane Sandy made landfall in New Jersey.

“At about 10 p.m. the primary generator failed, and we reverted to central office battery power for a minute or so until the backup generator kicked back in with limited power, which remained on for the duration,” he continued.

“During the height of the storm we could feel the five-story steel and reinforced concrete building shake with the high winds,” Emanuele said.

In 2013, Army MARS volunteers logged more than 257,000 hours of participation to the MARS program, English said.

English said one of those volunteers even wrote software that allows MARS members to encrypt message traffic prior to transmission over the radio. “Even though all the information being passed on MARS networks is unclassified, due to operational security concerns, encrypting our traffic eliminates the ability for the messages to be received and read by the general public,” he said.

Former Soldier and Vietnam War veteran Jacques Bannamon said he is glad to see the MARS system is still around. Bannamon said he used MARS to keep in touch with his family from Vietnam and other areas of the world where he was stationed over the years.

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Cyberspace warriors graduate with Army’s newest military occupational specialty

The network is under attack! Cyber attacks are a daily reality and are growing in sophistication and complexity. How does the Army keep pace with this evolving threat and defend its network?

Fifteen Soldiers made history when they were awarded the newest Army military occupational specialty, 25D, cyber network defender, during a graduation ceremony Nov. 27, held in Alexander Hall at Fort Gordon, Ga.

Soldiers completed a 14-week course, considered rigorous for its curriculum, to learn the skills needed to meet the demand for cyber warfare.

“Cyberspace is composed of hundreds of thousands interconnecting computers, servers, routers, switches, fiber optic cables which allow our critical infrastructure to work,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Ronald S. Pflieger, regimental sergeant major for the U.S. Army Signal Center of Excellence and Fort Gordon, guest speaker for the first-ever graduating class for the Cyber Network Defender course. “A functional and healthy cyberspace is essential to our economy and national security.”

“With the need for educated individuals to defend our network, so does the need to engage cyberspace,” Pflieger said.

Through the establishment of the new cyber network defender, 25D military occupational specialty, known as an MOS, there were changes made to the classification and structure among the 25 career management field series for communications and information systems operation with other MOS revisions of information technology specialist, 25B; radio operator-maintainer, 25C; and telecommunications operator chief, 25W.

Significant changes to the 25 career management field identify the positions and personnel to perform duties with cyber network defense, and selected functions for cyber network defender MOS positions transferred from previous MOS positions associated with cyber network defense.

Major duties a cyber network defender will perform include protecting, monitoring, detecting, analyzing, and responding to unauthorized cyberspace domain actions; deployment and administration of computer network defense infrastructures such as firewalls, intrusion detection systems and more. Soldiers are also tasked to take action to modify information systems, computer network configurations in regard to computer network threats and collect data to analyze events and warn of attacks. Cyber network defenders will be trained to perform assessments of threats and vulnerabilities within the network environment, conduct network damage assessments, and develop response actions.

Increases in cyberspace operations training continue in key Army leader education programs.

“A gap was identified within the non-commissioned officers’ career field,” Pflieger said. “The next step was to identify the right Soldiers.”

Staff sergeants interested in becoming a cyber network defender must meet the requirements, such as having a minimum of four years information technology experience, an Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery of 105 in both General Technical and Skilled Technical scores. They must be a U.S. citizen, complete an in-service screening, and have a recommendation from their battalion or higher.

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Army’s Ultra Light Vehicle now in survivability testing

Two of the three vehicles in the Army’s “Ultra Light Vehicle” program have now entered survivability testing in Nevada and Maryland, to evaluate both their blast and ballistic protection capability.

The third vehicle remains at the Army’s Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center, known as TARDEC, for testing there.

The TARDEC began development of three Ultra Light Vehicles, or ULVs, in fall 2011, at the request of the Office of the Secretary of Defense. While the ULV will not be fielded as a combat vehicle, it does serve as a research and development platform that will ultimately yield data that can be used by other TARDEC agencies and program managers, as well as sister services to develop their own vehicles and equipment in the future.

“It’s all about sharing the data,” said Mike Karaki, the ULV’s program manager. “If we have an ability to share the data internally within TARDEC, and externally within the program managers and program executive offices, and beyond that with other government agencies, we will attempt to do that. It’s helping shape and inform future programs.”

Karaki said the ULV program might help development of survivability in future vehicles, and may also help development of other hybrid vehicles as well.

“You want to be able to use anything and everything you can from this program to help reduce the duplication of efforts in the future,” he said.

The ULV is a hybrid vehicle that includes lightweight advanced material armor, lightweight wheels and tires and other automotive systems, blast-mitigating underbody technology and advanced command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance equipment inside.

“We tried to push the envelope in terms of state-of-the-art and out-of-the-box materials throughout the entire development process,” said Karaki.

The vehicle, from design to delivery, took only 16 months, Karaki said.

“We show there are some successes in the rapid design, development, fabrication and integration of the effort,” Karaki said. “It’s doable. It’s high risk and high reward. Can you do it in a rapid time frame? We’ve proven we can do that.”

The ULV is hybrid vehicle powered by a diesel engine that drives an electric generator. That generator in turn powers two electric motors that turn the wheels. Two electric motors provides redundancy should one of the motors fail.

Karaki said choosing a hybrid system came from the need to develop a more survivable vehicle for Soldiers. He said the contractor was concerned about how to make the vehicle perform better in a blast event, and came to the conclusion that a hybrid was the better choice.

Because it is a hybrid vehicle, it has none of the standard equipment underneath the vehicle. It features instead a “clean underbody” that makes it more capable of withstanding something like an explosion from an improvised explosive device.

“If you keep less equipment, accessories, systems underneath the vehicle, and you allow the underbody geometry to do what it needs to do — have a clean underbody — you will be able to improve your chances of being able to direct a blast away from the vehicle,” he said.

The primary customer for the ULV vehicle, which is a test vehicle, is the Office of the Secretary of Defense. The program came with four research objectives, which are a 4,500 pound payload, a vehicle weight of 14,000 pounds, protection that is comparable to the currently fielded mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicle, and a price of $250,000 each for a hypothetical 5,000-unit production run.

Karaki said the program is meeting or is expected to meet those objectives.

“On paper, the stuff upfront, the size, the weight, the cost, the timeframe, we checked those boxes,” he said. “The testing and evaluation of all these advanced survivability systems are in process right now.”

Two of three vehicles are undergoing survivability testing now. The third vehicle is in Warren, Mich., at TARDEC’s Ground Systems Power and Energy Laboratory undergoing automotive testing and to evaluate its hybrid electric setup. Karaki said eventually the two ULVs undergoing survivability testing will be destroyed as part of that testing. The third vehicle, the one at TARDEC, will be kept as a test platform.

The ULV is not a replacement for the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle program or the Humvee. It is an experimental vehicle used for testing purposes. The program will wrap up in fiscal year 2014.

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Boeing Completes Deliveries of Processing Units for Army’s Air, Missile Defense Network

By on Wednesday, September 25th, 2013

Boeing has recently finished delivering more than 40 computer processing units that will support an integrated network of computer and communication equipment critical to U.S. Army air and missile defenses.

Boeing’s Plug and Fight Processing Units are the main computing assets that link together various Army weapons and sensor platforms with the Integrated Air and Missile Defense Battle Command Systems (IBCS), a single network with common command and control. Boeing is a subcontractor to Northrop Grumman on the IBCS program.

“By providing a centralized, secure processing architecture from which to manage data, these processing units will play a significant role in enhancing the effectiveness of the Army’s network of missile defense sensors and weapon systems,” said Allan Brown, vice president and program director with Boeing Strategic Missile and Defense Systems.

Boeing’s units will support the IBCS by efficiently processing a high volume of information exchanged among the various components in the Plug and Fight network.

This technology is significant to IBCS objectives for enhanced situational awareness and command and control on the battlefield, improved response time, and reduced costs.

These processing units, built and assembled in Huntsville, were produced to support the hardware and software development phase of the IBCS program. In a series of virtual demonstrations, Boeing has verified that these processors can efficiently connect multiple missile defense weapons to the IBCS.

Northrop Grumman will use the processors in system demonstrations later this year, in anticipation of transitioning to the test and integration phase of the program.

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Army’s manufacturing improvements yield lighter body armor

Soldiers facing rugged terrain and extreme temperatures are continually searching for ways to reduce the weight of their gear.

In a search for solutions to this persistent issue, U.S. Army scientists and engineers have preliminarily demonstrated body armor that is 10 percent lighter through new manufacturing processes.

The U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, known as RDECOM, along with its industry partners, has leveraged the Army’s Manufacturing Technology Program to spur the Advanced Body Armor Project.

Shawn Walsh, Ph.D., leads the project at RDECOM’s Army Research Laboratory, or ARL, where his team has reduced the weight of a size medium Enhanced Small Arms Protective Insert plate from 5.45 pounds to 4.9 pounds.

While the Army leads the research, the new armor will also benefit the Marine Corps, Air Force, Navy and U.S. Special Operations Command, with similar body-armor requirements. In addition, highly novel technology initially identified by the Army has since been supported by SOCOM, pervasively benefiting lightweight body-armor goals overall.

“The armor the Soldier is wearing right now is the best armor we can possibly give them,” said Walsh, the Agile Manufacturing Technology team leader within the Weapons and Material Research Directorate. “The one concern that we hear about it — can you make it lighter? That’s the number one request. We don’t want to compromise the protection, but want to reduce the weight. It’s a challenging problem, and ARL should take on high-risk programs like that.”

The current weight-reduction technologies in the laboratory were impractical for mass production and fielding, Walsh said. The project focused on developing manufacturing methods that resolve these issues.

To accomplish this weight reduction, researchers pushed advances in composites, ceramics and component integration. All the materials must work in tandem to provide the necessary performance characteristics — stopping the bullet, managing the bullet’s momentum, and preventing trauma to the wearer.

Project Manager Soldier Protection and Individual Equipment, or PM SPIE, had requested lighter body armor several times but did not receive a satisfactory response from industry, Walsh said.

“That’s an indicator that there’s a technology gap,” Walsh said. “We realized there is something that the [project manager] wants for the Soldier, but can’t get from industry. Maybe it’s inherently not achievable, or maybe people haven’t tried an innovative approach. We assumed the latter. In our particular case, we used processing technology as a method for achieving these weight reductions.”

ARL turned to the ManTech program and the Office of the Secretary of Defense’s Defense-Wide Manufacturing Science and Technology, or DMS&T, programs for this challenge that was “beyond the normal risk of industry.” The ManTech program provides funding for the Army’s research and engineering organizations to partner with the defense industrial base to overcome manufacturing obstacles and deliver new capabilities into Soldiers’ hands.

“The ManTech and DMS&T programs give us a unique opportunity,” Walsh said. “We knew there were some untapped potential technologies, and manufacturing would be the integration step. ManTech offers industry a catalyst. This program allowed them to exercise some of their novel technologies they want to try. It’s an incentive to take a little risk.”

Because the Army does not manufacture equipment, it must ensure there are companies capable of meeting production demands, Walsh said. Researchers need a plan to transition novel technologies from the laboratory bench, to a manufacturer’s shop floor, and then to Soldiers in the field.

“I treat industry as part of a team,” he said. “The power of ManTech is that we can prove that the thing we want to buy can be made. As simple as it sounds, that’s very critical. It costs a lot of money to put a new specification out there, only to be disappointed and find out that no one can make it.”

Walsh emphasized that ARL partnered with PM SPIE; RDECOM’s Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center; and the six commercial manufacturers for these breakthroughs.

ARL initially worked with PM SPIE to demonstrate a solution was feasible, then to confirm technology transition paths. Walsh aims to insert the body-armor improvements into PM SPIE’s Soldier Protection System initiative.

The strategy of the Advanced Body Armor Project has been to focus on transitioning the improved processes directly to the industrial base. This will ensure the body-armor companies are able to respond to requests for information and proposals based on manufacturing advances accomplished through ManTech.

“We’ve created an environment for innovation and incubated some of these very promising technologies,” Walsh said. “They can take their own intellectual property and integrate it with ours to get the best solution. We’ve maximized technology transfer for each dollar we invested.

“That was our strategy — to co-develop the technology with industry,Walsh continued. “It’s a direct transfer. They’re directly exercising our ManTech technologies in preparation for body-armor weight reduction goals like those defined in the Soldier Protection System.”

RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command. AMC is the Army’s premier provider of materiel readiness — technology, acquisition support, materiel development, logistics power projection, and sustainment — to the total force, across the spectrum of joint military operations. If a Soldier shoots it, drives it, flies it, wears it, eats it or communicates with it, AMC delivers it.

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