Maneuver Battle Lab assesses 13 technologies
October 23, 2013
By NICK DUKE
FORT BENNING, Ga., (Oct. 23, 2013) -- In late September, the Maneuver Battle Lab conducted experiments on 13 different technologies to determine ways to give additional capabilities to Soldiers in a dismounted, non-networked environment.
The experimental phase drew to a close Sept. 20, with the team now analyzing the data gathered and preparing a final report to be delivered to Army leaders Nov. 15. The DNNE experiments were intended to support the Squad: Foundation of the Decisive Force effort.
"The Army is going to make a decision on writing requirements documents based on data," said Rob Harbison, MBL project officer. "The Soldiers who experimented with these technologies are going to directly affect whether or not some of these 13 technologies actually get fielded, and what changes will be made if they do."
Soldiers from A Company, 1st Battalion, 29th Infantry Regiment, worked with the experimental technologies during the experiments.
Harbison said having the A Company Soldiers, who serve as the experimental force, was key to many MBL experiments.
"It is indispensable to our mission … to have them to be able to provide analysis," Harbison said. "They're available, they're quick and they're competent. If we had to go to FORSCOM to borrow Soldiers every time we needed to do an experiment, we would not be able to provide the analysis that we are right now."
Among the 13 technologies were several aimed at increasing a squad's lethal capabilities. One such technology is the lightweight small arms technology. The LSAT provides the same capability as the M249 squad automatic weapon used by automatic riflemen in a squad, but at a lighter weight.
The LSAT uses lighter, caseless ammunition and a lighter weapon build to reduce the load on a Soldier by roughly 40 percent.
"With the reduction in the ammo weight and the reduction in the weight of the gun, it saves about 40 percent weight over the weight of the SAW, so the Soldiers are really liking that," MBL experimentation manager Alfonso Ahuja said. "What they've found is it's a lot easier to carry when you're constantly getting up and getting down."
The MBL has also experimented with an improved version of the M4A1 rifle, called the M4A1+. The new version features a heavier barrel for an increased rate of fire, an ambidextrous safety and fire control selector and a match-grade trigger for increased accuracy.
Mounted on the M4A1+ is another experimental technology, a commercially available squad common optic that allows Soldiers to increase magnification from 1 to 6x20 mm. Ahuja said the SCO would provide the capability to standardize optics throughout the squad.
"The Soldiers like the fact that the system gives them the capability to engage near targets in an urban environment and targets at a distance in a more open environment such as a desert or mountainous terrain," Ahuja said.
In addition to the SCO add-on, the M4A1+ has also been assessed with a new suppressor that reduces flash signatures and allows for a greater level of verbal communication during firefights.
Another experimental technology is the individual assault munition, a shoulder-fired weapon that provides the same capability as several other shoulder-fired weapons, but in one round.
"Right now, we have a lot of different shoulder-launched weapons for different functions," Ahuja said. "What the IAM does is combine those different capabilities into one system so you can shoot vehicles, breach buildings or destroy bunkers with one system."
Besides the technologies intended to provide increased lethality, the experiments also assessed a new unmanned aerial system called InstantEye. InstantEye weighs 2 pounds and measures 9 inches across and provides a low audible signature method for reconnaissance.
"You can conduct reconnaissance that minimizes your Soldiers' risk," Ahuja said. "You can launch the system, and receive a live video stream on the handheld control module."
The final DNNE experiment report will be delivered to Army leaders Nov. 15.