U.S. Army aviation continues to play an important role transporting Soldiers and supplies to war zones, conducting reconnaissance missions, evacuating injured Soldiers for treatment, and striking targets. To ensure Soldiers have the best technology available, the Army leverages the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Foreign Comparative Testing program as a method to partner with allied and friendly nations through industry.
The FCT Program assisted the Future Vertical Lift Cross Functional Team and the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Aviation and Missile Center to acquire, test and evaluate a promising foreign Israeli technology, the SPIKE Non-Line of Sight missile. The effort involved acquiring, incorporating the system on the airframe and firing the SPIKE NLOS missile from a U.S. Army AH-64E Apache helicopter at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona, in August 2019. The FVL CFT and CCDC AvMC are both part of the U.S. Army Futures Command.
The OUSD (R&E) FCT Program, with its unique acquisition authorities, provides DOD engineers, scientists and program managers an avenue to access mature foreign technology that may advance or compliment current modernization efforts. These unique authorities were instrumental when the FVL CFT and CCDC AvMC began assessing the Israeli SPIKE NLOS missile for possible procurement. Utilizing the FCT Program not only enabled the Army to conduct the test more quickly, but also provided valuable and timely information to help the Army make an informed decision about the capability.
"We were able to go faster than normal because we operated under the FCT authorities, and it's important to underscore that time savings. From the time we started the conversation about FCT funds till the time we were approved and received funding was approximately six months. Six months after we received the funds, we were firing the missile off of a U.S. Apache on a U.S. range. To be able to go from an idea, to a discussion, to a tangible result in that amount of time in any environment is quite impressive," said Lt. Col. Matthew Kukla, FVL CFT operations deputy.
The SPIKE NLOS missile was incorporated onto a U.S. Apache helicopter and launched during a live-fire demonstration at YPG. The experiment was designed and executed by the FVL CFT and CCDC AvMC Technology Development Directorate-Aviation/Systems Integration & Demonstration teams. The SPIKE NLOS missile supports the Army’s third modernization priority, Future Vertical Lift’s signature effort the Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft.
The FARA ecosystem includes the Long Range Precision Munition and Air Launched Effects. During the experiment the AH-64E was the surrogate FARA, SPIKE NLOS was the surrogate LRPM, and Area-I’s ALTIUS 600 UAS was the surrogate ALE. Showcasing the ecosystem allowed Army aviation to demonstrate the reach, range, and lethality of both the Apache with SPIKE and the future FARA will LRPM. Today, the SPIKE NLOS missile could provide an interim solution that exceeds the range of currently fielded systems, if the Army decides to purchase the missile.
The demonstration included other steps – purchasing the missiles, incorporating the SPIKE system onto the Apache helicopter, obtaining import and export licenses, conducting electrical and mechanical airworthiness validations, flying the aircraft from Fort Eustis, Virginia, to Yuma, Arizona, and conducting a hazard analysis and risk assessment.
“One of the biggest challenges of this project was the bureaucratic hurdles of importing ordinance from a foreign country within a compressed schedule. The FCT Program assisted with its program authorities to expedite the approval process. We also had to get approval to use the SPIKE system frequencies on the Yuma range,” said Steve Paris, AvMC experimental test pilot and project lead.
Prior to the demonstration at Yuma, the SPIKE NLOS missile was launched in Israel using Israeli Apache helicopters. The Israeli live-fire event was crucial to inform LRPM capabilities; it also was the first time U.S. military aviators fired the ordnance from an Israeli helicopter. The demonstration was conducted by aviators from the 82nd and 25th Combat Aviation Brigades.
The SPIKE NLOS missile is an off-the-shelf product with an optionally explosive warhead that can be manually guided or automatically programmed to hit a target. During the Yuma experiment, the pilot knowingly lost connectivity during the longest engagement attempted, but the missile still hit the target – a successful hit was confirmed by an unmanned system that was watching the target throughout the event.
“The SPIKE NLOS missile is employed differently than the Hellfire, which is one of the missiles the Army currently uses. I attended three training sessions at varying intervals leading up to the demonstration to learn these techniques and keep current on the methods. The time and effort paid off in the end as all five missiles hit their respective targets,” said Chief Warrant Officer Five Sean Merrill, the lead military experimental test pilot and primary shooter at the demonstration.
The congressionally authorized OUSD (R&E) FCT Program provides an opportunity for DOD engineers, scientists and program managers to receive funding through a competitive process, which can be used to acquire, test and evaluate mature items and technologies from the industry of allies and other friendly nations that may fill a capability gap and or satisfy an urgent need. The program, which is executed for the Army by CCDCs Global Technology Office, encourages international cooperation and helps reduce the DOD's overall acquisition costs.
The U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command, formerly known as the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, has the mission to lead 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. The command collaborates across the Future Force Modernization Enterprise and its own global network of domestic and international partners in academia, industry and other government agencies to accomplish this mission. CCDC is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Futures Command.