By Dan Lafontaine, CCDC C5ISR Center Public AffairsAugust 9, 2019
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. -- Army Futures Command is helping get essential mission-command capabilities to the field faster by using rapid prototyping to design kits that are streamlining and simplifying the installation of these systems into tactical vehicles.
The Joint Battle Command-Platform is a critical mission-command capability that provides enhanced situational awareness, secure communications and advanced logistics on the battlefield to tens of thousands of vehicle platforms across the joint services.
Fielding the 14 types of kits required for the Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles, or FMTV, presented Army Product Manager JBC-P with several manufacturing and installation challenges. AFC's Combat Capabilities Development Command, or CCDC, used its rapid prototyping capabilities to design and engineer universal installation kits for JBC-P that will work regardless of FMTV variant.
"The process has been iterative with designing, testing and validating. We've been prototyping as we go," said Tim Knabel, a project lead in the Prototyping Integration Facility of CCDC's center for Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Cyber, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance -- or C5ISR.
The team focused on selecting designs, materials and manufacturing processes tailored to a transition to industry for manufacturing thousands of installation kits. The engineers and technicians also ensured the prototypes meet all technical specifications by testing for mechanical, electrical, temperature, humidity, shock and vibration requirements.
"We're focused on understanding the needs of Soldiers; this incorporates their input throughout the project, which leads to a better solution and improved Soldier functionality," said Knabel, who noted that the team traveled to Fort Bragg and Fort Bliss to gather feedback and ideas from Soldiers and fielding personnel.
Projections on which of the 14 variants would be needed at each fielding site has been a significant logistical burden. Now, the universal kit works across all FMTV types and will be the correct solution every time, thus minimizing fielding disruptions and errors.
The new design will greatly assist the personnel across the Army who manage, ship, track and install the kits on vehicles around the world, said Tom Aitken, PdM JBC-P integration project officer.
"Each kit is installed in a similar fashion using the same brackets," Aitken said. "It's so simple that everything just mounts to the dashboard, which decreases installation time versus legacy designs that required drilling and templating multiple vehicle locations and mounts."
The system improvements illustrate how the PIF is an applied engineering capability that is helping the S&T community support Army readiness, said Tom Brutofsky, PIF division chief.
"The PIF's corporate knowledge is based on integrating C5ISR systems and the ability to apply our core competencies of engineering design, development, fabrication and testing," Brutofsky said. "This allows us to rapidly provide a project manager with a complete technical data package to take to industry to mass produce. The JBC-P effort is a prime example where the PIF reduced 14 installation kits down to one, which saves the government significant cost and reduces the number of spare parts for the product office."
Human systems integration was also at the forefront of the process, said Mark Krivansky, a PdM JBC-P industrial engineer.
"The design has taken into consideration human factors and ergonomics with the goal of reducing human error, increasing the Soldier's productivity, and enhancing safety and comfort," Krivansky said. "Soldiers have been incorporated as one of the elements of the design, with a focus on how they interact successfully with the JBC-P system. Now, the entire system will be mounted directly in front of Soldiers, for full access and usage, while not interfering with visual assessment of their environment, both inside outside the vehicle."
The project focuses on another Army S&T focus area, prototyping for technology maturation, by delivering a technical data package that can be taken to commercial vendors for full-rate production.
"Designing for manufacturing allows the government to continue to see cost savings every time a kit is procured by ensuring designs are not overly complex so that industry is capable of mass producing them quickly and correctly. Also, designing for manufacturing allows for corrections of identified problems to be made during the design phase," Aitken said. "Their ability to quickly create new prototypes for test-fitting on local vehicles have all greatly reduced the time from initial designs to manufacturing."
As the Army's primary integrator of C5ISR technologies and systems, the CCDC C5ISR Center researches, develops and matures capabilities that support all six Army modernization priorities, enabling information dominance and tactical overmatch for the joint Warfighter.
The C5ISR Center is an element of the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command. Through collaboration across the command's core technical competencies, CCDC leads in the discovery, development and delivery of the technology-based capabilities required to make Soldiers more lethal to win our nation's wars and come home safely. CCDC is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Futures Command.