By Michael D. ClowOctober 2, 2017
WARREN, Mich. (Oct. 2, 2017) -- The U.S. Army on Sept. 29 awarded Endeavor Robotics located in Chelmsford, Mass., a firm fixed price contract for engineering development and production of the Man-Transportable Robotic System, Increment II (MTRS Inc II). The total contract value, including all options is $158.5 million. The MTRS Inc II program will provide Soldiers with a remotely-operated, medium-sized common robotic platform that significantly improves reliability and interoperability over current systems.
"During recent conflicts, the Army purchased more than 7,000 unique robotic systems," said Bryan McVeigh, the Army's project manager for Force Projection. "That gave Soldiers the capabilities they needed, and it was the right thing to do for the mission. But we bought unique systems that weren't very flexible. The robots often had just one capability, used expensive, proprietary software, and required more resources for training and maintenance. What this program gives us is a common, reliable chassis that can adapt quickly and take on the role of multiple existing systems. That means Soldiers can do more while learning and carrying less-and that makes a big difference."
MTRS Inc II is the first of three programs designed to replace those unique robotic systems with enduring programs of record. MTRS Inc II fills the medium-sized space at no more than 164 lbs. and comes equipped with a new Interoperability Profile, or IOP, that sets a standard for how robots, controllers, and payloads communicate. Through the use of an IOP, new payloads may be added similar to apps on a smartphone. The IOP-which was developed with heavy industry collaboration-makes it much easier to build systems that can change and adapt with technology, rather than having to replace an entire system.
"From a funding perspective, having a common platforms and utilizing IOP makes a real difference," said Stuart Hatfield, Robotics Branch chief, Deputy Chief of Staff, G-8. "We have to spend taxpayer dollars as wisely as possible, and we can't afford a completely new system every time technology advances. MTRS Inc II allows the Army to spend our money on payloads as key aspects of technology change. That means Soldiers can access new technology faster, and it means we can buy more of what we really need."
With this award, the Army expects to initiate a short engineering and manufacturing development phase to refine some key aspects of the system before launching into production. Production should begin in fiscal year 2019, and when complete, the Army expects to field 1,210 systems to Engineer, Explosive Ordnance Disposal, and Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear (CBRN) related units.
"MTRS Inc II will provide a stand-off capability to detect, interrogate, confirm, and neutralize select hazards across warfighting functions," said Col. Eric Towns, chief of the Requirements Determination Division at the Maneuver Support Center of Excellence. "Providing the capability to identify, evaluate, and dispose of explosive hazards from a safe distance keeps our Soldiers out of harm's way."
"This is a capability our Soldiers absolutely need," said Col. Ronny Johnson of the Maneuver, Aviation, and Soldier Division, Army Capabilities Integration Center. "When we think about the Army's Robotic and Autonomous Systems Strategy, we know we have to lighten Soldiers' loads-both physically and cognitively. When Soldiers have to train on fewer systems, and when those systems can plug and play different mission payloads, it gives our Soldiers more flexibility and a bigger advantage."
The MTRS Inc II team also succeeded in delivering some significant cost savings, thanks to the use of the IOP and work with the U.S. Navy's Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command to leverage previous investments. "We focused very hard on Better Buying Power in every aspect of this program," said Lou Anulare, product manager for Unmanned Ground Systems, Program Executive Office, Combat Support and Combat Service Support. "From our plans for easy updates of the system's technology, to our emphasis on affordability and competition, this is a real credit to the men and women on this program. It's also a great story about industry collaboration and the value of early, frequent communication to all of our vendors."
The payloads that will be integrated into MTRS Inc II will allow for better remote threat detection, even in low light environments and improved remote interrogation of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), allowing Soldiers to determine the nature of such threats from a safe distance.
MTRS Inc II manufacturing will be performed in Chelmsford, Mass., and Dayton, Ohio, with deliveries and Initial Operating Capability planned for the end of fiscal year 2019.
The other two planned Army enduring ground robotic programs of record include the Common Robotic System (Individual), which will fit the small robot space with a weight of fewer than 25 lbs. That program is currently evaluating industry proposals. Additionally, the Common Robotic System (Heavy) is scheduled for a contract award in fiscal year 2019. Both of these systems will operate on the same IOP, further enhancing commonality across the Army's robotic fleet.
The U.S. Army's Program Executive Office, Combat Support & Combat Service Support, headquartered here, oversees the Project Management Office, Force Projection, including all of the Army's ground robotic programs of record. With more than 150 programs in active management and an annual budget of more than $3 billion, PEO CS&CSS is responsible for managing the design, development, and delivery of the majority of equipment across the Army's transportation, engineer, quartermaster, and sustainment portfolios.