REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. — When it comes to giving the Warfighter a definitive edge on the battlefield in future conflicts, collaboration is key, as evidenced at Dugway Proving Ground in Utah this May.
The U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Aviation & Missile Center’s Air Launched Effects (ALE) and Advanced Teaming science and technology program teams participated in the Experimentation Demonstration Gateway Event 21 (EDGE21), led by Army Futures Command’s Future Vertical Lift Cross-Functional Team. More than 600 expert participants from 20 Department of Defense agencies participated, including members of the AvMC workforce from Fort Eustis, Virginia; Huntsville, Alabama; and Moffett Field, California.
“The collaboration amongst the engineers, scientists and Warfighters was instrumental in the success of EDGE21 and really set the conditions for Project Convergence 21 later this fall,” said FVL CFT Director Maj. Gen. Wally Rugen.
The goal of EDGE21, was “to mature, integrate and test key elements of the ecosystem, as well as an opportunity to get emerging capabilities into the hands of the Soldiers while reducing risk for Project Convergence,” according to Nate Bordick, AvMC Intelligent Teaming branch chief. The aviation-focused demonstration resulted in 56 technological firsts for the Army Futures Command’s modernization efforts.
“As the engineers figuring out hard problems, working alongside our industry partners, it was a huge honor to support our FVL CFT and PEO Aviation teammates in doing things that haven’t been done before as we continue to experiment and inform the requirements of how Air Launched Effects, launched from air and ground assets, can increase our lethality and situational awareness on the battlefield,” said AvMC Director Jeffrey Langhout.
Soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division were able to get hands on experience with the developing Advanced Teaming and ALE technology, which allowed for the exchange of valuable feedback and ideas through those Soldier touchpoints. Soldiers participated in launching experimental ALE and route control was pushed to platoon leaders on the ground so they could use multiple ALE Unmanned Aircraft Systems to investigate areas of interest using Team Awareness Kit tablets.
Other key test objectives, according to Bordick, included:
- Increasing “the ability to get Air Launched Effects-Small into the fight and extend the ecosystem’s reach by demonstrating C-12 and Deployable Advanced Ground Off-Road tactical ground vehicle ALE launches.” A C-12 successfully launched an ALTIUS 600 at 25,000 feet, the highest ALTIUS launch ever performed. EDGE was the first time the ALE-S was integrated onto a tactical vehicle driven by Soldiers.
- Assessing “the Aided Target Recognition capability onboard ALE-S, as well as the ability to share threat / targeting info across the network to ultimately improve survivability and shorten the kill chain.”
- Collecting “sensor data for training Vision Based Navigation software used to operate ALE in GPS denied environments.”
For members of the AvMC workforce, the work continues leading up to PC21 and beyond.
“For the remainder of the fiscal year, we will continue to mature, integrate and test advanced ALE payloads and teaming behaviors to enhance collaborative Reconnaissance, Surveillance and Target Acquisition mission capability and improve operational resilience,” Bordick said. “In Project Convergence 21 we will begin to demonstrate increasing autonomy that improves dynamic battlefield adaptability, significantly reduces man in the loop requirements, and pushes mission command down to the lowest tactical level.
“Beyond FY21, we will incrementally mature and demonstrate increased mission capability using manned-unmanned teams of greater size, spanning multiple domains, and with greater levels of autonomy.”
The DEVCOM Aviation & Missile Center, headquartered at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, is the Army’s research and development focal point for advanced technology in aviation and missile systems. It is part of the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command (DEVCOM), a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Futures Command. AvMC is responsible for delivering collaborative and innovative aviation and missile capabilities for responsive and cost-effective research, development and life cycle engineering solutions, as required by the Army’s strategic priorities and support to its Cross-Functional Teams.