Senior aviation researcher looks into the future
May 14, 2014
- "New capabilities, smartly designed for reduced sustainability costs must be brought into the hands of the Warfighter in the 2030 timeframe."
Army Technology Magazine
- May/June 2014 Focus: Soldier of the Future
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. (May 14, 2014) -- Since January 2013, James B. Lackey has served as director of Engineering Directorate, U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center at Redstone Arsenal, Ala. In January 2014, Lackey became acting technical director of AMRDEC. A native of Maryland, Lackey had a near 25-year career at the Naval Air Systems Command at Patuxent River, Md. He was a strike aircraft flight test project engineer for more than a decade. Between 1999 and 2008 he held a variety of program management assignments. His first senior executive service assignment was at the Pentagon in the Office of the Secretary of Defense supporting the under secretary of Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics as the director of Air Warfare programs. He earned a master of science in engineering management from Florida Tech and a bachelor of science in aerospace engineering from Virginia Tech. Army Technology Magazine offered Lackey the opportunity to discuss the future.
Question: With limited resources, how is the AMRDEC approaching the future? Is there an impact on the Future Vertical Lift program?
James Lackey: Wherever and whenever there's an opportunity to combine requirements into a joint service solution, that's a great example of better buying power in action. Going forward, the Department of Defense acquisition community must be more open to these opportunities. It doesn't necessarily have to be at the system level. Through open systems architectures, leveraging commonality of procurement at the component level is still beneficial. Anyplace we can collectively push the state of the art, drive down risk and realize win-wins is a good place to be. We must think positively and proactively on partnering and teaming. Even outside of DoD, we're bridging academia and NASA for project collaboration and research. For example, we're standing up an Additive Manufacturing Integrated Product Team with NASA Marshall Space Flight Center. This is where working-level engineers will collaborate on technology development and how we can leverage what NASA is already accomplishing in terms of facility investments. We clearly recognize the game changing aspects of 3D printing. It's the next Industrial Revolution wave. In such a rapid evolving dynamic area of technology development, partnering with NASA makes great business sense and also helps us to locally foster what is notionally called "Team Redstone," where cross-organizational partnerships are producing incredible results each and every single day.
Regarding FVL as a future program of record, from what I can infer based on both my discussions and what I've heard from the requirements community this effort appears to me to be on a solid footing in regard to budget planning. I say this with the caveat that I do not control the budget; any great plan is subject to change. However, many future operational concepts focus on increased distribution of forces and growing anti-access / area denial threats, known as A2AD. Ensuring dominance over A2AD equates to increased emphasis on mobility, speed and range ideally enhanced with a reduced, logistical footprint. Beyond A2AD, the world will continue to see very dynamic unforeseen threats that must be responded to quickly and with overwhelming force. Future rotorcraft platforms in a wide variety of mission applications against common core designs will help realize the expeditionary Army vision. The requirements of FVL are reflective of this quick response mission role. Today's aging rotorcraft platforms just do not have the performance capabilities to meet these operational demands. Beyond performance, abilities to sustain aging systems will inevitably lead to higher operational and sustainment costs. New capabilities, smartly designed for reduced sustainability costs must be brought into the hands of the Warfighter in the 2030 timeframe. This is what FVL is all about. I would consider it one of the key enablers of the future force.
To get to FVL we must reduce risk and mature technologies. At AMRDEC, we are leading the Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstration program, known as JMR-TD. This program is designed to show that new aircraft configurations populated with new technologies can help inform a future materiel program-of-record FVL solution. I say the word "inform" deliberately since JMR-TD should not be looked upon as some sort of prototype fly-off effort. The acquisition strategy is clear. JMR-TD is to inform a future program effort. We are approaching this in a very holistic sense. It's not just about an airframe. It's the total rotorcraft system. This includes joint common architecture mission systems, multispectral sensors, energy efficient power and propulsion, as well as sustainment through prognostic and diagnostic novel technologies. We are also conducting cost analysis for future capabilities to help inform trades. AMRDEC's value is our engineering excellence. Working side by side with contractor teams on the JMR-TD, we will help drive down risks, push technology developments and work toward systematically and affordably informing FVL program requirements to ensure future execution success.
Q: Recently Army leaders praised the manned/unmanned teaming of the Shadow/OH-58, and said the Army of 2025 will feature more such teaming. How are AMRDEC engineers and researchers involved with this initiative?
A: AMRDEC engineers are directly matrixed in support of the program offices associated with these platforms and bridging capabilities through enabling manned/unmanned teaming effects. Manned/unmanned teaming is about the power of leveraging sensors and systems to increase intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance presence and reach. Information is king. With limited assets we must pull for combined effects. In a dynamic and complex battlefield environment susceptible to countermeasures, robust information distribution is essential to ensure complete engagement of the kill-chain. Beyond Shadow/OH-58, AMRDEC has also done work to produce a manned/unmanned common architecture to demonstrate advanced, embedded mission avionics implementation for the Apache program office. AMRDEC is now working on defining the concepts of operation and human-machine interface for more effective manned/unmanned teaming and optionally piloted vehicle operations. Key to this effort is development of mature, integrated and validated decision aiding technologies hopefully built upon joint common architecture standards to help modularize future software and hardware builds so that obsolescence and technology can be easily and most importantly, affordably inserted.
Q: The Army wants to identify technologies that will allow the force to become leaner but have equal to or greater than capability when compared today. How is AMRDEC approaching this?
A: AMRDEC is partnering very closely with the TRADOC Centers of Excellence and the program office communities to define executable, affordably focused missile science and technology development roadmaps associated with the following potential 2025 transitions:
Ground Tactical to improve direct fire weapons supported by indirect fire, air-delivered fires and nonlethal engagement means. This includes development of a Lethal Miniature Aerial Munition System supported by a Precision Fires Manager to give small unit situational awareness, lethality and survivability against a wide variety of threat targets including operations in dense urban terrains.
Fires operating at greater distances and increased precision. Specific near-term efforts include GMLRS [Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System] tail control modifications to increase range in the same form factor at equivalent hardware costs.
Increased ground troop protections against a variety of incoming, advanced threats. Efforts include development of an Extended Protection and Survivability System to provide counter rocket, artillery and mortar intercept and unmanned aerial system capabilities.
For aviation weapons, AMRDEC is leading the way to develop concepts for modular missile technologies that will ultimately enable common component insertions (i.e., guidance and navigation control units) to support multiple missile configurations via open systems architectures. We expect to do flight tests starting in the 2020 timeframe.
For Aviation, it's all about JMR-TD feeding into the FVL program of record. In the 2025 timeframe, development will be still ongoing, however, we're still overall on track to support a 2030 capability.
These times are notional. Keeping to dates is contingent on multiple factors most importantly including the budget. The main takeway is that AMRDEC works lock-step with our TRADOC points of contact to understand the future requirement and we partner with our program office contacts to ensure an S&T transition plan into a ultimate program of record.
Q: How important are partnerships in industry, academia and across the military to AMRDEC's research and engineering initiatives vis--à--vis building the Army of 2025 and beyond?
A: I endeavor to write weekly Director's Corner articles to the AMRDEC workforce. One recent topic centered on what I call "Enterprise Collaboration." The key message in the article focused on the essential need to partner across the board: industry, academia and military. It isn't a "nice to have" -- it's instead an essential part of our business model. This is driven by two key dynamic factors: the reduced budget and technology change. In a reduced budget environment we must be creative in partnering to leverage effects and outcomes. When you investigate these potential opportunities, it's amazing what you can find in terms of common interests. In regard to technology, rapid change necessitates the need for AMRDEC to keep abreast of latest efforts. With a restricted staff size contingent on a balanced risk approach using both customer funds and overall Army manpower considerations requires us to continually reach out and partner to gain additional insights we could not normally have achieved alone. AMRDEC is all about collaboration. I view this as central to our strategic framework and how we operate as an aligned organization.
We recently celebrated our 50th Anniversary this past month. Given what I've seen and been part of leading this organization, I have no doubt we will continue to prevail in delivering game changing technologies to ever promote dominance in ever increasing complex and evolving battlespaces. As acting director, I am continually humbled and proud to be a team member of our workforce. We have a cadre of acquisition professionals demonstrating excellence and depth and breadth of our activities across the lifecycle from early S&T to fielded systems sustainment. AMRDEC adds value across the board, affordably with adherence to Army core values and with an ever enduring eye to supporting our number one customer -- the Soldier.
ABOUT AVIATION AND MISSILE RESEARCH, DEVELOPMENT AND ENGINEERING CENTER
AMRDEC is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to develop technology and engineering solutions for America's Soldiers.
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 provides it.