US correspondent Marty Kauchak files the following exclusive report on significant news and developments gained from delegates, exhibitors and others in the expeditionary warfare community.
Service Leadership Insights
It’s time for industry readers of this report to sharpen their pencils and clean their conference room white boards. Senior service leaders provided several specific examples of business opportunities to help the US Marine Corps improve its mission readiness.
In one instance Lieutenant General Ronald L. Bailey the deputy commandant for Plans, Polices, and Operations, said the service is experimenting with the size of its basic infantry squad – using the lessons learned from the last 15 years of ground war to determine whether 10, 12 or 14 Marines is the best organization. And beyond that, the three-star general again told industry he is looking to lighten the load for his ground forces. Bailey offered an intriguing example of how to lighten the load. Recalling the technology for directed energy is quickly evolving, he added, “we need to make the weapons smaller, more affordable and easier to deploy.”
Brigadier General Roger Turner, the commanding general of the Marine Corps Combat Development and Integration Command, simply said in the event of a great power war, “we’re not prepared, in particular in information warfare.” The service one-star qualified information warfare to include electronic warfare, sensors, cyber warfare and other mission sets.
Michael Holloran, the director of Science and Technology in the Program Executive Office of Land Systems, reported his help wanted list for innovation includes power and energy; modeling and simulation and open plug-and-play communication architectures. Specific examples of additional technology support needed are in fuel efficiencies and intelligent power and thermal management.
Streamlight (Booth 1519)
Streamlight’s portfolio of flashlights with disposable and rechargeable batteries are familiar to service men and women in the US, Germany, Australia and Sweden. For instance, since 2008, the Sidewinder and Sidewinder Composite II have been distributed to US Marines at service individual issue facilities. More recently, the Eagleville, Pennsylvania-based company’s SW Rescue omnidirectional strobe has found favor with special forces and other communities. The product’s programmable rate varies between 120 pulses per minute for water-borne application and at 50 pulses per minute for missions in the ground domain.
Matt Baker, the director of military and federal sales, commented on his company’s robust research and development effort, noting: “We expect to have an approximate 80% expansion of all weapon lights’ capabilities at the 2017 Shot Show.”
BAE (Booth 2222) exhibited its first Amphibious Combat Vehicle (ACV) completed under an engineering & manufacturing development (EMD) contract with the Marine Corps. In November 2015 the service awarded BAE Systems a $(US) 104 million contract and SAIC a $122 million contract to each build 13 vehicles now, with an additional three per company later, to support the ACV 1.1 programme. Under this programme, USMC seeks a wheeled-vehicle as a partial replacement for the legacy-era Amphibious Assault Vehicle (AAV) fleet. ACV 1.1 vehicles have the major requirement to cross rivers and small bodies of water.
US Government testing of the ACV 1.1 vehicles is expected to begin in April 2017. After an approximate 14-month testing phase, the USMC will select one of the two vendors to build 204 ACV 1.1 variants. The ACV 1.1 programme baseline technology will be used to advance to the Marine Corps’ future amphibious vehicle requirement to ACV 1.2 – with that programme’s requirements expected to include fully amphibious tracked vehicles “swimming” from ship-to-shore.
BAE’s ACV 1.1 design comes from Iveco’s SUPERAV 8x8 platform.
John Swift, BAE’s ACV programme manager, and Nazario Bianchini, ACV 1.1 programme manager for Interational Projects at Iveco, told a media briefing this afternoon attended by this correspondent, “we’re ready for this programme’s low rate initial production.”
The ACV model viewed at this expo is able to perform the same mission as the legacy era USMC AAV in that it will be able to traverse waters in sea state 3 at 6 knots, and survive in sea state 4. But that is where the similarities end. Swift said his industry team’s ACV was “twice as survivable as an AAV” and the vehicle will "have a maximum speed on paved roads of about 70 mph.”
The BAE ACV 1.1’s powerpack has been increased during the last two years from 500 hp to 690 hp to provide more onboard subsystem growth capability. Conceptually, this increased power would permit the Marine Corps to add an unmanned 30mm weapon, overhead protection (roof armor), or other enhancements.
As the BAE ACV 1.1 hulls are being built in York, Pennsylvania, Iveco will be conducting some forward-looking ship-to-shore movement operations from an Italian Navy amphibious ship. This strategy will better prepare the BAE team for the more rigorous operational requirements expected in ACV 1.2.
Swift pointed out as the vehicle has no conventional axles, it supports a V-shaped full –enhancing passenger and crew protection.
As all 16 BAE ACV 1.1 models are now in manufacturing, the industry team plans to incrementally deliver four vehicles a month to its USMC customer.
This author plans to attend a September 28 media briefing that will provide an update on the SAIC-led industry team’s ACV 1.1 contender. That model is based on ST Kinetic’s Terrex 2, also an 8x8. Briefing highlights will be included in the September 28 conference report.
“We have an unmanned aerial system (UAS) that will combine the vertical lift capability of a helicopter with the speed of a conventional fixed-wing aircraft, and it will be runway independent,” Vince Tobin, the vice president for Advanced Tiltrotor Systems at Bell Helicopter (Booth 2109), told this author about the new Bell V-247 “Vigilant”.
The V-247 is being offered to meet the USMC’s capabilities outlined in the 2016 Marine Corps Action Plan. This “could be available for production as early as 2023,” Tobin emphasised.
The new UAS design is a spiral development effort, combining best-of-breed capabilities from Bell’s heritage tiltrotor aircraft portfolio – including the Bell-Boeing V-22 Osprey and V-280 Valor.
The V-247 design will boast a diverse set of capabilities and features: it will be a sea-based platform capable of operating from and being stored on a US Navy DDG-51 hangar space; it will be a single engine tiltrotor unmanned aerial system; and will have a 250-knot cruise speed and 450 nm mission radius.
An open architecture-based modular payload system will provide flexibility and customisation by mission type – permitting the V-247 to carry high definition sensors, fuel sonar buoys, light detection and ranging modules, 360-degree surface radar models and other equipment.
Tobin also emphasized: “As it sits on deck it can hold a combination of fuel, armament and sensors up to 13,000 lbs.”
Marathon Targets (Booth 1016) is quickly expanding its presence in support of Marine Corps’ weapons training programmes. Currently, the Marines have the company’s robots based at the Weapons Training Battalion (WTB) at Quantico, and another fleet of robots on loan to the US Army’s Asymmetric Warfare Group. Ralph Petroff, the president – US of Marathon Targets reported MARCORSYSCOM’s PM-TRASYS (Program Manager – Training Systems) in Orlando conducted two separate year-long tests and evaluations with very positive results.
The Marines will also soon be further evaluating the use of Marathon’s target system to fulfill their upcoming moving marksmanship requirements – and with good reason. According to Petroff it has become obvious that all militaries have a fundamental capability gap: the only time their shooters do live fire training on realistic moving targets – is in actual firefights. “This violates the time-honored principle that you never want to do something for the first time on the battlefield that you haven’t trained for. This is especially true of a life-or-death skill like shooting a realistic moving target. Shooting the enemy - before the enemy shoots you - is fundamentally mission critical.” The industry veteran further noted this problem is a subset of a larger problem. “Although modeling and simulation improves significantly every five years, live fire training is little-changed in decades. The absence of any realistic moving targets is now recognized as an Achilles Heel of current live fire training.”
Enter Marathon Target’s moving robots, with realistic human-like behaviors, which take marksmanship beyond traditional fixed, pop-up, or rail mounted target systems.
For its part the USMC has a long relationship with Autonomous Robotic Human Type Targets (A-RHTT’s) and was the first service branch to obtain them. “In 2013 and 2014, the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory (MCWL) used robots as part of their comprehensive Moving Target Engagement Test (MTET). While trying to determine the optimum method of engaging a moving target, MCWL discovered that robots increased marksmanship by over 100 percent in just a few days. Shots per kill dropped dramatically – from 4.7 shots to only 2.3 shots. The WTB’s JSniPIM (Joint Sniper Improvement Methodology) underscored the difficult of moving target marksmanship, even among elite shooters,” he recalled.
Petroff also pointed to the maturation of autonomous robots to support marksmanship training. “When the Marines began their work in A-RHTT’s earlier this decade, such autonomous systems were considered somewhat ‘exotic’. But autonomous targets have become increasingly mainstream – militaries on four continents already use them. Autonomous robots are becoming more commonplace in society as a whole – with self-driving cars being a prime example.”
Marathon’s robotic products for live fire training have gained the attention of other US DoD components. Indeed, in addition to the MTET and JSniPIM studies for the USMC, the robots are frequent visitors to Quantico for a variety of shoots and competitions. Indeed, in the first two weeks of September, Marathon was at Quantico again to participate in the USMC’s marksmanship Tech Demo. Further, the robots were recently showcased at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California at the July 2016 Super Squad Competition. “Robots are always crowd pleasers at competitions,” Petroff pointed out. “In the last year they have been showcased at the FORSCOM [US Army Forces Command] Marksmanship Competition, International Sniper Competition, Best Soldier, Best Ranger, USASOC [United States Army Special Operations Command] Sniper Competition, and others. We expect to participate again this year at these and other competitions. Robots enhance competitions by greatly increasing the realism and the challenge of the shoot. Everyone agrees that the robots add a ‘real-world’ live fire experience that is unmatched outside an actual firefight.”
Marathon has recently introduced a new ‘training as service’ service programme in the US. At Modern Day Marine, Marathon Targets will have robots from its US rental fleet. “We currently have three trailers of rental robots in the US and they are constantly on the road to meet the demand from all corners of the country,” the industry expert said and added, “Renting robots is also a great way to gain experience with the robots prior to considering an outright purchase. Each trailer comes with an experienced robot engineer who can turn almost any range into a robot range in a day or less.”
Full motion video (FMV) has taken the military services’ tactical information portfolio to a higher plateau of effectiveness. FMV allows battle field units and staffs to track high value targets in real time while reducing collateral damage – providing as one military subject matter boldly said, was a “pattern of life” imagery of the battlefield.
One company in this sector is Delta Digital Video (Booth 1000) which has been working with the government and military in remote monitoring applications for well over 20 years.
“Delta's video compression technology supports [Textron Systems] Shadow and [Insitu] Scan Eagle missions for transmission of FMV,” George Nelson, the company’s vice president and general manager, explained. Elsewhere in its portfolio Digital Video is keeping pace with the demand for more FMV and other ISR products provided by UAS and other sensor platforms, by developing encoder configurations supporting multi-channel HD (high definition) and SD (standard definition) applications. Nelson added, “These products can be configured to provide real-time transmission and/or recording of up to eight high resolution video inputs, including the associated metadata.”
Of special note, the Horsham, Pennsylvania-based company continues to improve video processing performance with the latest high performance multimedia processors that not only improve and increase the resolution and frames per second capability, but provide this performance in smaller, lower power devices. This effort should resonate quite well with those in the Pentagon who monitor and track efforts to “lighten the load” on the department’s platforms. Indeed, Nelson pointed out Delta’s “MIL-qualified single-channel HD/SD encoder is now just 13 cubic inches, operating under 7 watts and weighing just 12 oz. (.3kg.). This compares to our first unit launched in 2006 which is 79 cubic inches, 20 watts and 3 lbs. [1.4 kg.].”
At 2016 MDM, the company is pleased to discuss its new H.265 development. H.265, also known as high efficiency video coding, is a video compression standard. “Delta will demonstrate this game-changing technology that will provide increased channel count and/or reduce the required bandwidth for air-to-ground and satellite FMV transmission while also reducing storage requirements on the archive side, all resulting in significant cost savings for the government,” Nelson emphasised.
EnerSys (Booth 3403) and its predecessor companies have been manufacturing industrial batteries for over 100 years. Matt Maeder, the director of Customer Operations – Aerospace & Defense at the company, noted “we maintain our industry leadership position by providing our customers with world-class products and services that meet their end-use requirements. We achieve success through thorough research and development, test and evaluation, prototyping, quality control, and by maintaining solid supplier partnerships.” The Reading, Pennsylvania-based company’s battery experience includes lead-acid, nickel-zinc, as well as a large suite of lithium chemistries (thermal, liquid reserve, active primary, and secondary batteries). “This allows us to keep pace with the smaller-footprint, higher-density energy requirements required of today’s and tomorrow’s battlefields,” Maeder emphasised.
EnerSys helps its Marine Corps customer maintain combat readiness with products including the Hawker®ARMASAFE Plus 6TAGM battery, which delivers the power, performance, and reliability necessary to meet that standard. “From rotary and fixed-wing aviation to tactical/ tracked vehicles to engineering and support equipment and electronic munition fuzes, EnerSys provides proven technology to meet our military’s power needs. Whether moving into position, actively engaged, or simply maintaining ‘silent watch’, EnerSys sealed valve-regulated lead-acid absorbed glass mat batteries play a critical role in providing Marines with much needed power in austere, expeditionary environments,” the subject matter expert said, and added, “Furthermore, our lithium-chemistry suite of batteries for munitions fuzes tolerate decades of shelf life, are optimized for use in high-acceleration environments, and function across the full military temperature spectrum to ensure both dependability and lethality.”
The company is exhibiting at this MDM with a product portfolio familiar throughout the service. Indeed, supported US Marine Corps platforms include: aviation (F/A-18 Hornet, AV-8B Harrier, EA-6B Prowler, CH-53 Super Stallion, MV-22 Osprey, KC-130J Super Hercules, AH-1Z Super Cobra/Viper, UH-1Y Super Huey/Venom); tactical wheeled vehicles (HMMWV, MRAP, MATV, ITV, LAV, HIMARS, MTVR, LVS, LVSR, etc.); tracked vehicles (M1A1 Abrams Tank, M88, AAV-7, etc.); and engineering vehicles (RTCH, ABV, ABLV, LCRTF, etc.). EnerSys also enables support equipment (generators, radar sets, etc.) as well as electronic munition fuzes (artillery projectiles, tank projectiles, missiles).
Ultra Electronics TCS (Booth 3317) has a strong heritage in supplying USMC systems. In 2007 Ultra TCS supplied its AN/GRC-245 (HCLOS) radio to the USMC. The radio is at the core of the MRC-142 tactical architecture and is still in service today supporting Marine Expeditionary Forces. Furthermore, Ultra Electronics ATS’ Air Defense Systems Integrator (ADSI) can be found in both the legacy Marine Air Command and Control System (MACCS) and the new Common Aviation Command and Control System (CAC2S). On CAC2S, Ultra supports the prime (General Dynamics Mission Systems) in the development, integration and fielding of the Marine’s latest Command and Control System.
Sebastien Leblanc, vice president and general manager for Communications Systems at Ultra Electronics TCS, noted his company is responding the Marine Corps’ need for increased situational awareness, higher capacity, secure and reliable communications solutions. “In light of the recent spectrum sell-off, the USMC also requires higher frequency ranges. The USMC needs to do this while remaining interoperable with the Navy’s amphibious readiness groups which currently use Ultra TCS SRC-57 DWTS [Digital Wideband Transmission System] radio systems. Looking beyond short term requirements, the Ultra TCS platform also includes a separate smart phone access channel and other original features that will facilitate the future deployment of 4G LTE networks in tactical environments, the industry expert pointed out. Leblanc added, “On CAC2S, the USMC will be updating the ADSI to the latest MIL-STD message standards to include Variable Message Format and ensuring interoperability with updates to the MIDS LVT-11 Block Update II (BU2) for enhanced throughput.”
Expo attendees will be able to speak with the Ultra team about other defence and security products.
In one instance, Ultra TCS’ ORION radios are multichannel, multiband, point-to-point, point-to multipoint and mesh capable. The X500-G (ground) provides broadband C4ISR connectivity across expeditionary forces while maintaining connectivity with ships or landing crafts. “The X500-S (shipboard) provides robust MIMO [multiple-input and multiple-output]-capable overwater communications to medium and large ships. The ORION software-defined radio system offers up to 1 Gbps throughput and provides operational flexibility within a small form factor,” Leblanc explained.
The X500-G was already adopted by echelons of the WIN-T [Warfighter Information Network-Tactical] expeditionary architecture while the X500-S can be used for multiple maritime applications such as coastal surveillance, maritime interdiction and force protection operations. Leblanc added, “ORION is the ideal solution for amphibious operations, maintaining secure high-capacity connectivity between floating operations centers, landing crafts and land based command posts. It offers long range communications of over 30 nm [56km] in ship-to-shore applications. This flexible system also has the unique ability to interoperate over-the-air with all land based MRC-142 assets and WIN-T AN/GRC-245 based systems and offers a separate smart device access channel. This greatly facilitates joint operations and legacy networks migration to new technology.”
Further, at 2016 Modern Day Marine, Ultra Electronics ATS (Advanced Tactical Systems) will be demonstrating their virtual ADSI that provides the user the flexibility to maintain their own hardware base and provide instant failover/switchover between VMs [peak/max. voltage] in the event of a failure without losing critical tactical information.
Picture 1 shows a Marine at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California advances on robotic OPFOR provided by Marathon Targets Source: Marathon Targets
Picture 2: “We have an unmanned aerial system (UAS) that will combine the vertical lift capability of a helicopter with the speed of a conventional fixed-wing aircraft, and it will be runway independent,” Vince Tobin, the vice president for Advanced Tiltrotor Systems at Bell Helicopter (Booth 2109), told this author about the new Bell V-247 “Vigilant”. Source: Bell Helicopter