Empowering dismounted squads and the effort to get them in the Army’s existing communications network were big themes at the 2011 MCoE Laboratory Day.
About 150 Soldiers, Army civilians and academia representatives from the University of Southern California, Georgia Tech and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology turned out Wednesday at the Benning Conference Center. The event featured a series of presentations and afternoon breakout sessions. TRADOC Capability Manager and Maneuver Battle Lab officials also participated.
Laboratory Day was designed to spark discussions on potential refinement of technologies, materiel and force capabilities, said Jim Stone, director of the Capabilities Development and Integration Directorate’s Concepts Development Division. Organizers urged Army lab researchers to focus on Soldier needs within mission command, lethality, survivability, mobility and sustainability.
“The main point of Lab Day is to engage with the (Research, Development and Engineering Command) labs to ensure we’re in synch with respect to MCoE needs as the user representative and the efforts of the labs,” Stone said.
Presenters provided specific areas of focus and emphasis, he said, and the breakout sessions enabled labs to meet directly with the writers and managers of materiel requirements.
“We’re here to bridge capability gaps between our future requirements and the technologies you’re developing,” Soldier Requirements Division director David Libersat told attendees.
Maj. Gen. Robert Brown, the Maneuver Center of Excellence and Fort Benning commanding general, kicked off the conference by talking about the Squad as a Strategic Formation and what’s being done here to boost the Army’s tactical small unit.
“It makes perfect sense,” he said. “Warfare has changed, as you all know. The enemy is trying to bleed us by a thousand cuts. Where in the whole military spectrum is it the fairest fight with the enemy, where do we not have overmatch? We’ll put our corps against any other corps; we’ll put our divisions, brigades, battalions, even our companies, against anybody.
“But when you get down to the lowest-level squad, it becomes too fair a fight. We’ve got to do better, so we started looking at this about nine months ago. We do not want a fair fight. What we’re going for is overmatch.”
However, that’s complicated by an operational landscape littered with criminals, terrorists and state-sponsored acts of violence, Brown said.
“We’d all love to go back to where we can overwhelm folks and then leave,” the commanding general said. “But the reality is it’s very difficult to figure out who the enemy is. They’re out there, and they blend in extremely well. They’re not just going to be there with a neon sign: ‘Here I am, use all your technology against me.’”
The human dimension and leader development remain critical in 21st-century maneuver training, he said, but simulation is important.
Brown said the MCoE is looking at several “measures of effectiveness” on squad formation. They include incorporating the use of live, virtual, constructive and gaming simulations in an immersive learning environment. Based on that concept, an avatar will be created for every Soldier coming into the Army, reflecting their characteristics and abilities stemming from the physical fitness test, weapons skills and other qualifications.
“We need more individual play in simulation,” he said.
Taking a more proactive stance as opposed to reactive would keep squads “a step ahead of the enemy” and significantly reduce casualties, the general said.
Brown said tactical small units conduct effective “precision raids” on a routine basis in war zones, missions once performed by Special Forces only. But high-tech tracking systems, for instance, aren’t available to dismounted Soldiers, who still wind up in reactive positions against the enemy 80 percent of the time while on a patrol.
“Can’t we do better than that in the 21st century — both in training and with equipment?” he asked.
Stone said networking from brigade combat teams to foot Soldiers is a key challenge.
“We’re behind in network, cyber and electronic warfare (capabilities),” he said. “We got some work to do.” The Army is working to connect Soldiers and squads to the network through its Nett Warrior program, Libersat said. That involves figuring out how to develop an inexpensive, lightweight, durable Rifleman Radio and linking it to the End User Smart Device as a materiel solution.
In major fights, the network disconnect for dismounted squads slows communications, Brown said. It affects situational awareness within the common operating picture.
“That doesn’t mean the network is the be-all, end-all solution,” he said. “That’s why we talk network-enable, not network-dependent.”
But network integration would help establish favorable conditions while retaining the squad’s ability to react, he said. The Army doesn’t quite have the technology yet to accomplish that, but leaders must extend it to every Soldier and take advantage of the younger generation’s knack for iPhones, texting and other gadgets.
“This generation and future generations have digital comfort from being connected, the same way I got comfort from being shoulder to shoulder,” Brown said. “We were comfortable being close. They’ll be comfortable being 300 meters away from each other, and they can text. They don’t need to be shoulder to shoulder. They’ll use it effectively in ways we never even thought of.”
Stone said industry has flooded the market with quality unmanned systems for current air and ground operations, but a sharper focus is needed for future technologies and options.
“We’ll conduct several follow-up sessions with each lab to ensure our priorities remain in synch,” he said. “A successful Lab Day will result in more effective and efficient applied research by the Army labs and more capability to Soldiers and units in the field.”
MCoE Laboratory Day WHO: Hosted by the Capabilities Development and Integration Directorate, the event was planned and executed by the Concepts Development Division’s science and technology section.
WHAT: Army Research, Development and Engineering Command representatives exchanged ideas with the MCoE on desired materiel and training capabilities for the future maneuver force.
PURPOSE: MCoE’s Soldier Requirements Division, Mounted Requirements Division, TCM-Brigade Combat Team Mission Command and Directorate of Training and Doctrine seek to leverage RDECOM resources in developing new technologies to support an Army at war and in the coming years.
Possible tools and materiel solutions
CDID officials said great capabilities are under development. Technology focus areas and programs discussed at MCoE Laboratory Day included:
Accelerated Precision Mortar Initiative
Individual assault munitions for squads
Squad Multipurpose Equipment Transport to reduce warfighter loads
Soldier Protection System
Army Camouflage Uniform Study (50 different patterns)
Increase in family of weapon sights