By Monica K. GuthrieJanuary 24, 2020
FORT BLISS, Texas., -- The west-Texas mountains disappeared behind a veil of rain, and the sandy terrain turned to mud as a battalion of paladins roared their way onto the desolate landscape. Watching nearby was a group consisting of representatives from six technology companies, all there to see field artillery Soldiers training, Jan. 21, at the Dona Ana Range Complex.
It was the start of the second week of the Field Artillery Autonomous Resupply Cohort program, a program which brought the six companies together with the purpose of helping the Army find a solution to resupply its field artillery units more efficiently.
Prompting the 12-week program, is the Extended Range Cannon Artillery, coming into the field in fiscal year 2023. This new weapon system will have a rate of fire up to 10 rounds per minute, an increase from the paladin's current rate of fire: four rounds per minute.
"That then creates a resupply problem because as we shoot it faster […] now we've got to be able to resupply faster," said Maj. Chris Isch, assistant operations officer for Long Range Precision Fires. "The current methodology the United States Army uses is a lot of manual labor. For every projectile that goes down range, that projectile is picked up no less than five different times by a Soldier and moved manually - and each one of those projectiles is 100 lbs. In order to make that whole process faster and more efficient we are looking for ways to automate that as much as possible."
The six companies watched Soldiers from 4th Battalion, 1st Field Artillery, as they were training, giving the industry partners an opportunity to have access to the current system.
"I think a better understanding of the current process that we have is what they will take away from it," said Lt. Col. Eric Pribyla, deputy army Army Applications Lab. "Having people from the outside who are not in the system are able to get a fresh perspective - and with that fresh perspective, hopefully they are able to bring us innovative ideas and solutions."
Companies participating in the cohort focus on areas including robotics, unmanned tracked vehicles, computer visual imagery and others. Following their time in the field, the 13 company participants met for a debrief, discussing the things they learned and asking questions growing from the day's events.
"Today was great to get out and see the legacy equipment and see how the job is done now," said Brian Beyer, chief product officer at Carnegie Robotics. "It was great to talk to the guys that do the job and just take a look at some of the constraints because we have a lot of challenges. It was great to get access to the Soldiers in particular because most of them had been downrange, and not just in Paladin units, but in towed artillery units so it was good to get that breadth of experience."
The six companies participating in the program are Actuate, Apptronik, Carnegie Robotics, Hivemapper, Neya Systems, and Pratt&Miller.