NOVI, MI -- The U.S. Army of tomorrow faces many uncertainties, but its leaders believe that meticulous preparation today will ensure that the United States fields the world's greatest ground vehicle force in 2020, 2025 and beyond.
During the Michigan Chapter of the National Defense Industrial Association's 2014 Ground Vehicle Systems Engineering and Technology Symposium (GVSETS), Aug. 12-14, senior leaders from the U.S. Army addressed how they, in conjunction with ground vehicle industry and academic partners, will face a number of future challenges.
Hon. Heidi Shyu, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology (ASA(ALT)), provided the 2014 GVSETS keynote address, focusing on the challenges facing the research, development and acquisition community in the coming years. "We must focus our scarce resources on developing the next generation of capabilities, by investing in our science and technology (S&T)," she said. "S&T is the seed corn for our future systems. I fought hard to preserve the S&T investments since we must provide the preeminent ground vehicle force."
Continued modernization, as well as development of leap-ahead capabilities, will ensure operability of the Army's fighting vehicles well past the 2040 time frame. "There is a solid track record of substantially improving the capabilities of the platforms we have," Shyu stated. "As we say, never send our Soldiers into a fair fight. Each of you here helps make that a reality."
In order for the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC) to continue its role as a leader in the ground vehicle community, TARDEC Director Dr. Paul Rogers discussed the importance of properly balancing efforts to improve Current Force effectiveness and provide superior capabilities for the Future Force. "We are using these two data points to drive our strategy and ensure that we stay balanced," Rogers remarked, adding that the organization is making key investments for the creation of a leaner force structure, a more expeditionary force and the ability to maintain overmatch capabilities.
TARDEC is working to develop advanced technologies that will enhance future platform development and current platform enhancements by exploring the art of the possible through advancements such as: electrified armor; turret and weapon subsystems; Modular Active Protection Systems (MAPS); blast technologies; lightweight structures; next generation engines; high-capacity track; and advanced battery technology. TARDEC has also placed a great deal of importance on exploring manned-unmanned ground vehicle teaming for mounted and dismounted units, coordinated unmanned air and unmanned ground system operations, improved 360-degree vision and the development of optionally-manned vehicles.
"These are investments we are making today which we believe will make a significant impact on Force 2025 and where the Army is trying to go," stated Rogers. "2040 seems like a lifetime away, and for many of us it will be, but if you start backing that up through the acquisition process and then through the technology development process, we need to be investing today in those underpinning technologies. 2040, for us, is today."
Maj. Gen. William Hix, Deputy Director, Army Capabilities Integration Center (ARCIC), led a U.S. Army TRADOC Leadership Panel: 2025 and Beyond, addressing many of the challenges the Army of tomorrow will face. "Things are going to happen more rapidly and more frequently as we go into the future," he explained. "We will see our adversaries with a wider range of capabilities due to greater access to technology and weapons and, perhaps more importantly, to the knowledge that goes with that, raising their sophistication in deploying these capabilities."
Hix said that it is important to continue to increase the Soldiers' capabilities while not overburdening them. "We have got to reduce the burden on our Soldiers, on our leaders and on our units," he said. "If systems are more complex, if our digital natives who are Soldiers in the U.S. Army are saying 'This is too hard,' then we are heading in the wrong direction."