NATICK, Mass. -- Researchers at the Combat Capabilities Development Command's Soldier Center, part of the Army Futures Command, are developing an integrated mobility, lethality, and survivability Soldier performance testing platform.

The platform consists of a series of obstacles and mission-relevant tasks/activities that resemble challenges that warfighters face in current combat situations.

Researchers will use the platform to investigate the impact of Soldier clothing and individual equipment on mobility, marksmanship performance, survivability, and overall lethality. The new platform is called the Load Effects Assessment Program -- Mobility, Lethality and Survivability, or LEAP-MLS.

The CCDC Soldier Center is collaborating with the Program Executive Office Soldier, or PEO Soldier. PEO Soldier sought out researchers from the CCDC Soldier Center to modify the existing Load Effects Assessment Program-Army, or LEAP-A, an important tool in acquisition product assessment, in order to develop the LEAP-MLS.

Blake Mitchell, an engineering psychologist and team leader for the Human Factors Team in the CCDC Soldier Center's Soldier Performance Optimization Directorate, explained that PEO Soldier was seeking an integrated or holistic objective tool to measure Soldier performance with increased emphasis on lethality. The resultant LEAP-MLS is aligned with the goals of Army Modernization Priorities and the Soldier Lethality Cross Functional Team.

This novel test platform integrates multiple Soldier Lethality CFT components, including Lethality, Mobility and Survivability. Furthermore, it touches upon the Situational Awareness and Training/Human Performance lines of effort, with the potential to be leveraged by other CFTs (e.g., Synthetic Training Environment).

The CCDC Soldier Center's Human Factors Team is leading the LEAP-MLS program, including Stephanie Brown who developed the integrated marksmanship tasks and led the data collection and analysis for the initial study of the LEAP-MLS in 2018. Brown had support from the center's Cognitive Science Team and Biomechanics Team, including Clifford Hancock, who is developing a novel video processing method for measuring Soldier survivability during target engagement. Aberdeen Test Center assisted with the data collection.

This initial study using the LEAP-MLS was executed as a proof of concept. Researchers leveraged the existing LEAP-A obstacle course, which consists of numerous physical tasks/challenges and provides a reliable method to measure the impact of clothing and individual equipment, or CIE, on Soldier mobility performance.

The LEAP-MLS includes the obstacles that are part of the LEAP-A course, as well as additional marksmanship, decision-making tasks and survivability assessments. LEAP-A's primary metric of performance was speed, however the new LEAP-MLS methodology also incorporates measures of tactical and lethality performance.

The measures of tactical and lethality performance include shooting accuracy, marksmanship, acquisition/engagement times and weapon stability -- in addition to mobility/effectiveness of movement and quantification of body exposure and exposure to threat time. There is an increased emphasis on tactical performance, but participants are still expected to complete the course as quickly as possible.

Mitchell explained that LEAP-MLS is the first step in developing a methodology that includes objective measures of lethality performance that are sensitive to changes in Soldier-system equipment.

The CCDC Soldier Center-led effort has focused on garnering an improved understanding of how to execute the course, as well as adding additional test metrics and obtaining a better understanding of the results and outcomes from using the course.

Mitchell explained that in the future, after further methodology development and validation, LEAP-MLS may be used as a reliable tool in measuring the effects of novel equipment on human performance. Examples of novel equipment include exoskeletons, weapons systems, and night-vision and heads-up displays.

Lessons learned from the 2018 study will allow for improvements to the test platform as it is developed. Moreover, expanding the capabilities of the current LEAP-A tool will not only benefit the U.S. military but also its international partners.