Modernizing and equipping the force (Part 1)
December 30, 2010
By U.S. Army
Soldiers comprise the centerpiece of our formations. The Army modernizes for its Soldiers so that they have the right equipment and capabilities for the mission.
The objective of Army modernization is to develop and field a versatile and affordable mix of the best equipment available to allow Soldiers and units to succeed in both today and tomorrow's full-spectrum operations.
As Soldiers in the field request new capabilities, the Army will ensure that the systems provided are versatile, tailorable and networked, so that they will remain dominant and relevant on future battlefields.
The following articles highlight a cross-section of the Army's ongoing efforts in achieving its modernization goals.
PUSHING LIMITS OF SMALL-ARMS PERFORMANCE
Today's battlefields feature an ever-adapting breed of enemy combatants. Soldiers are faced with many challenges deploying small arms in our current theaters of operation, including increased ranges, difficult terrain, and intermediate barriers. The M855A1 Enhanced Performance Round helps Soldiers meet those challenges by providing more consistent soft-target performance, increased hard-target penetration, better accuracy, reduced muzzle flash and higher muzzle velocity.
To understand soft target consistency, one must understand how a bullet behaves as it travels along its trajectory. All bullets wobble while in flight. This is called yaw (which can be high or low), and pitch (left or right), causing bullets to strike targets differently, sometimes producing different effects. The new EPR, however, provides excellent performance every time, regardless of yaw angle. The Army Research Laboratory has verified that the M855A1 is superior to the M80 7.62 mm against soft targets.
The enemy uses cover in an engagement. Defeating that threat requires a bullet that can penetrate hard barriers. The EPR's exposed penetrator is larger and sharper than the M855's, and is capable of penetrating 3/8-inch-thick steel at ranges approaching 400 meters. This is far better than the M80 7.62 mm. EPR can penetrate cinder blocks at up to 80 meters. The current 5.56 mm cartridge can't penetrate this type of barrier at any range.
Further, it is more effective at extended ranges and more accurate than the current M855. Accuracy testing showed that on average, 95 percent of bullets hit within an 8-by-8-inch target at 600 yards.
-Program Manager for Maneuver Ammunition Systems
INSENSITIVE MUNITIONS SAVE LIVES
Picatinney Arsenal, N.J., hosted a Soldier home on mid-tour leave from Afghanistan in October 2009. The Soldier, the son of a Picatinny employee, was a mortarman with the 10th Mountain Division. While at Picatinny, he spoke with Project Manager-Combat Ammunition Systems, and Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center employees about his experiences with Picatinny-developed munitions.
In September 2009, a powerful improvised explosive device destroyed a Mine-Resistant, Ambush-Protected vehicle he was travelling in. It ruptured the vehicle's hull and fuel tank and engulfed the vehicle interior in flames, including 16, M768 60 mm mortar cartridges that were inside the cabin with the seven-man crew.
After the MRAP had stopped burning, Soldiers found all of the M768 shell bodies intact. They also found the remains of the fuses, which had separated from the cartridges, allowing the explosive fill to burn rather than explode. Although several Soldiers were seriously injured in the ambush, all survived. Thanks to the insensitive munitions feature of the M768 cartridges, a much greater disaster was averted.
Insensitive munitions are designed to resist unplanned detonation by fast or slow cook-off, bullet impact, fragment impact, shaped charge jet impact or sympathetic detonation. The M768 incorporates several IM features, including new explosive materials and a plastic fuse adaptor that melts in a fire, allowing the fuse to separate from the cartridge. This relieves internal pressure and prevents detonation of the explosive fill.
The M768 cartridge is one of the early success stories in a plan that the Program Executive Office for Ammunition is implementing to develop and produce safer ammunition.
There are also plans for improving the IM characteristics for packaging, explosive fills, propellants and fuses for calibers up to 155 mm. Two 155 mm high-explosive projectiles, the M795A1 and the M1122 (a new IM training projectile), developed with sponsorship by Office of the Secretary of Defense's Technology Transition Initiative program, are both expected to reach the field in 2011.
-Project Manager Combat Ammunition Systems
LAW IS BACK
Warfighters now have an improved shoulder-launched weapon system that lightens the Soldier's load and improves his mobility on the battlefield. An upgraded M72 Light Assault Weapon is back and actively supporting Soldiers and Marines in the fight.
The new LAW is ideal for the combat environment in Afghanistan, characterized by difficult terrain, high elevations, long foot patrols and fast-paced operations against insurgents, who are often protected by structures and fighting at close range.
According to 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division's lessons learned feedback from their time in Afghanistan, "The M72s provided the best balance of weight and bulk (for) combat effectiveness. It was an excellent munition to use against insurgents firing from close and medium range. It was both a good suppressive weapon and at the same time quite accurate and lethal."
Derived from its 66 mm, man-portable, direct-fire predecessor, the improved LAW is a more effective, easier-to-use weapon. The M72A7 weighs 8 pounds with a normal carry length of 30.5 inches, extending to 38.5 inches for firing.
The improved rocket motor is capable of carrying the warhead to the target at higher velocity and can accurately engage targets in excess of 200 meters. The use of an insensitive explosive in the shaped charge warhead makes the system safer, as it is less vulnerable to fragments from exploding munitions or small-arms fire. The M72A7 integrates the Picatinny Rail, a bracket that provides a standardized mounting platform for laser pointers or other alternative sights for night operations, making it more versatile than previous versions.
To reduce the training expense of firing the new M72s, a 21mm, sub-caliber trainer and rocket is available. The trainer is effective in replicating the sight picture, operator controls and backblast. The sub-caliber rocket includes a tracer, allowing Soldiers to train effectively under realistic conditions with immediate feedback. The M72 training system is easy to use and enables Soldiers to maintain safety discipline required by the tactical round.
The payoff of the weapon and training is in combat. According to Soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division, "The M72s were fast and easy to bring into operation. Not only were they easy to carry, once fired, the empty launch tube could be collapsed and re-stowed more easily than other launchers."
-Program Manager Close Combat Systems
GCV DESIGNED FOR PROTECTION, FLEXIBILITY TO ADAPT
The Army is on a mission to provide a new infantry fighting vehicle to the warfighter. In 2010, the Army matured the requirements for a new Ground Combat Vehicle to replace the Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle. Lessons learned from more than nine years of combat and experiences from warfighters helped the Army identify critical capability gaps that exist across the service.
While the Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle has served the Army well over the last three decades, it was conceived for a different operational environment and enemy than Soldiers now face. Although still highly effective, the Bradley fleet is limited in space, weight, power and cooling capacity and cannot simply integrate many emerging technologies or capabilities.
The capability gaps highlighted the need for increased force protection, survivability, network, mobility and lethality. To address these gaps, the Army developed key minimum attributes that a new Ground Combat Vehicle should possess.
Ideally, the GCV would have Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicle-like underbelly protection, Bradley-like cross-country mobility, and Stryker-like urban and operational mobility. It will be the first IFV designed from the ground up to operate across the full spectrum of conflict in an IED environment, and will have the capacity to transport a full nine-man squad. It will also be designed with space for future technologies as they mature.
The Army worked closely with industry experts, think tanks, combat veterans and subject matter experts across a broad range of expertise to determine what the Army should be seeking in the GCV, and what capabilities are possible with current and near-future technologies.
The Army also conducted a detailed analysis to better understand how the vehicle's design features-such as space, weight and power-would influence its capabilities. The service is also evaluating the effectiveness, risk and costs in meeting the proposed requirements for a GCV.
-PEO Ground Combat Systems