The Army Modernization Strategy (AMS) strengthens Soldiers and units to ensure they are more lethal to deploy, fight, and win our Nation’s wars. To be successful, the AMS incorporates a holistic approach to modernization that integrates a continuous process and requires collaboration across the entire Army.
Soldier touchpoints are an important piece to the AMS. The Army Futures Command’s (AFC’s) Cross-Functional Teams (CFTs) enable the modernization process through early prototyping, testing and touchpoints with Soldiers from the operational force to help ensure that the solutions generated are the right ones. Soldier touchpoints are critical to the requirement development process for the CFTs and AFC, ensuring optimal technology design, form and functionality for modernized Soldier systems.
The Assured Positioning, Navigation and Timing (APNT) CFT, in support of the U.S. Air Force, has been working closely with military service members from the Air Force, Army and Marines to develop a Joint Common Hand-Held (JCHH) device, part of the Military Global Positioning System (GPS) User Equipment Program, which aims to provide enhanced and alternative GPS capabilities to military systems and platforms for the Army, Air Force and Marines. The JCHH is a secure dismounted device that will support warfighter combat operations in GPS challenged environments. The developing JCHH will be an easily accessible tool that service members can trust for dismounted navigation operations.
“This demonstration brought together a diverse group of Soldiers and combat veterans to get in-person, hands-on experience with developing military GPS capabilities that will enhance dismounted combat operations for the U.S Army, Air Force and Marines,” said Col. Randall Barton, APNT CFT GPS Modernization Task Force Lead. “That’s critical feedback that will make a difference for tomorrow’s Soldier.”
A process that began in August 2019, military service members and combat veterans participated in three separate demonstration engagements with industry, where they received hardware and software overviews, assessed technology capabilities and provided real-time feedback on developing prototypes. The feedback received influenced future development as prototypes progressed overtime.
“This has been an iterative process, which has been impactful to prototype development,” said Col. Barton. “The feedback we have received has been extremely informative. For example, during the first demonstration, we realized touch-screens were not the best for combat situations because the warfighter is wearing gloves. So we adjusted the key functions to better serve their requirements.”
The third demonstration took place in February at the Muscatatuck Urban Training Center (MUTC) in Indiana. MUTC has been recognized as the Department of Defense’s largest urban training facility, which offers a globally unique, urban and rural, multi-domain operating environment.
Over the course of five days, Soldiers trained on five different JCHH prototype software and hardware capabilities and had the opportunity to take them on range, using them in mock urban and subterranean exercises.
“The Muscatatuck Training Center is as real as it gets,” said Col. Barton. “Everything on the property is ‘in play’, allowing us to participate in exercise scenarios that are customized to ours and the Soldier’s needs.” This is important as AFC and the CFTs build requirements for the future battlefield.
“Operations in dense urban terrain and subterranean spaces represent an ever increasing PNT challenge for our forces. So it’s important that we assess these prototypes in a realistic operational environment,” said Col. Barton.
The training center offers a physical metropolitan infrastructure, 1,000 acres of urban and rural landscape and 1.8 miles of subterranean tunnels, which are ideal for real-world Soldier demonstrations and exercises. It’s important that demonstrations represent the future battlefield so that the Army, Soldiers and developers are confident in technology ability to continue mission in a real combat zone, which was important to Soldiers participating in the demonstrations.
“This device has much more potential to address MDO (multi-domain operations) and the potential to go further. I believe you can develop this piece of equipment to be used in a joint (coalition) environment,” said Sgt. 1st Class Curtis Phillips. “I hope that my input and my feedback goes into the final product.”
Those participating in the demonstration wanted to make sure their input influences the development of the best equipment possible.
“The most important thing is that the Soldier trust the equipment and that they have the proper gear when they go to combat,” said Chief Warrant Officer Dwaine Gow, an Electronic Warfare Technician for the Joint Modernization Command. “The Soldier of the future will have trust in their equipment. They won’t question the ability of the equipment.”
What Comes Next
Following Demo #3, vendors will submit their final proposals illustrating their conclusive JCHH design, which will include hardware configurations, software components, security features, and a capability overview.
“We’re excited to see what the vendors come up with next,” said Col Barton. “They have put serious consideration into the feedback they have received from the users. So I expect that the final product will be best aligned to Soldier operational needs.”
Selections will be announced in April 2020.
The AMS Framework illustrates a modernized Army capable of conducting Multi-Domain Operations (MDO) as part of an integrated Joint Force in a single theater by 2028, ready to conduct MDO across an array of scenarios in multiple theaters by 2035. To achieve this end state, the Army must dramatically reduce the time span from identification of a capability need to prototype testing and operational experimentation. Soldier operational feedback is a critical component to the AMS Framework and the Army’s commitment to build a future ready force.
The APNT CFT continues to work with Soldiers early and throughout the capability development process. Incorporating user input and feedback to inform requirements and to ensure the best technologies and solutions are fielded to future Soldiers and units.