Rapid prototyping to help US Army deter Russian aggression in Europe
By Ms. Nancy Jones-Bonbrest
WASHINGTON (October 3, 2017) -- If the unthinkable were to unfold in Europe, the Army's 2nd Cavalry Regiment would be among the first in line to respond.
Recognizing the potential consequences of Russian aggression, tactics and capabilities, the Army has targeted the 2nd Cavalry Regiment to receive several advanced technologies designed to bridge gaps against the near-peer threat. This quick response is not Army acquisition business as usual, but instead uses rapid prototyping to accelerate interim solutions to Soldiers until the long-term programs of record arrive.
And it's working. These critical capabilities, including integrated electronic warfare systems and upgunned Stryker vehicles, will soon be in the hands of 2nd Cavalry Regiment Soldiers in Europe, approximately a year after they were first envisioned.
The efforts behind the deployment of these prototypes, and future prototyping priorities to address strategic threats, will be the focus of the "Rapid Acquisition for Land Power Dominance" Warrior's Corner on Monday, Oct. 9 from 12:50-1:30 p.m., as part of the United States Army (AUSA) Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C.
"As we continue our commitment to our allies around the world, there are events unfolding right now that are demonstrating how critical it is for the Army to modernize and modernize rapidly," said Doug Wiltsie, director of the Army's Rapid Capabilities Office, known as RCO. "We are using prototypes to answer operational needs by repurposing existing equipment and combining them with emerging technologies to provide something new, then incrementally improving them based on user feedback."
The presenters at the Warrior's Corner -- the RCO, the Program Executive Office Ground Combat Systems, known as PEO GCS, and the 2nd Cavalry Regiment -- are on the front lines of creating new avenues to move faster than traditional acquisition methods have allowed in the past.
"This is a great example of where we tailored the acquisition process to meet a timeline being driven by an immediate operational need," said Maj. Gen. David Bassett, the program executive officer for GCS. "We are delivering significant capabilities to Soldiers at an accelerated pace, because of our ability to seek out mature technologies and accept and manage concurrency of detailed design, manufacturing, and testing in order to increase delivery speed."
In August, Soldiers from the 2nd Cavalry Regiment traveled to Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, to take part in a six-week test and training event for the new variants of the Stryker Infantry Carrier Vehicle-Dragoon, known as ICV-D. One variant incorporates a new, powerful 30 mm cannon, while the other is fitted with the CROWS-J system, enabling troops to fire Javelin anti-tank guided missiles remotely from inside their Stryker.
"This capability that is coming to the 2nd Cavalry Regiment is directly attributable to Russian aggression," said Lt. Col. Troy Meissel, the regiment's deputy commander. "Back in the Cold War there were 300,000 Soldiers in Europe, and today there are 30,000. So how do we, as an Army, make 30,000 Soldiers feel like 300,000? This new [capability] is one of the ways that can help us do that."
The Army expects to send both Stryker variants to Europe by January, then field the combat vehicle to a forward location next summer when the regiment's 1st Squadron is expected to go to Poland. PEO GCS will continue to work directly with 2nd Cavalry Regiment Soldiers to refine the prototype based on their feedback.
Just as the ICV-D Stryker came about as a direct request from the 2nd Cavalry Regiment for more firepower, the RCO is also answering operational needs in Europe based on the demand for an electronic detection, support and attack capability in contested and congested environments.
Already on the ground with the 2nd Cavalry Regiment in Europe is electronic warfare equipment for use at the tactical level, including a system for dismounted Soldiers. Expected to field in January is an improved, integrated version of the prototype that adds mounted and mission command capabilities. The equipment, recently evaluated at the Network Integration Evaluation (NIE) 17.2 in July, can be used to detect and understand enemy activity in the electromagnetic spectrum, as well as provide electronic attack effects.
"We understand that none of these capabilities are perfect," said Maj. Gen. Wilson Shoffner, director of operations for the RCO. "We are looking for small-scale projects where we can take some technology risks. But it's not about fielding gadgets. It's also figuring out how Soldiers are going to use them, how they are going to fight them, what the doctrine is going to be, what are the tactics, techniques and procedures, what is the training required, and how do we do the manning?"
These initial prototypes are setting a precedent in moving faster to meet immediate demand and close strategic gaps based on combatant commanders' needs. Feedback from the 2nd Cavalry Regiment will continue to help drive system design, performance, functionality and training methods, enabling the Army to move faster while simultaneously adjusting to meet operational needs.
"[Our goal is] an honest assessment of the technologies available -- if we can have hands on them first, it's a great opportunity," said Capt. Sean Lynch, electronic warfare officer for the 2nd Cavalry Regiment, who used the prototypes during exercises held this summer, including Saber Guardian and the NIE.