FORT SILL, Oklahoma — Artillery troops here are testing updates to two fire support packages while telling the Army the systems’ shortcomings and successes of the fire support systems.
Advanced Field Artillery Tactical Data System (AFATDS) and Precision Fires-Dismounted (PF–D) system provide fully automated support for planning, coordinating, controlling and executing fires and effects such as mortars, field artillery cannons, rockets and missiles, close air support, attack aviation and naval surface fire-support systems.
“While the enemy continues to evolve and improve engagement techniques, the Army must strive to remain ready, by making key advances to our critical fires systems,” said Staff Sgt. Wilbur Montgomery, Military Test and Evaluation NCOs Fire Support Test Directorate, U.S. Army Operational Test Command.
“The updated software is intended to incorporate updated functionality, in response to dynamic challenges posed by the current battlefield,” he added.
Testing the new AFATDS and PF–D software allows the product manager to determine a realistic operational threshold for each system while also evaluating overall effectiveness of the systems’ software.
Stressing the limits of the software under test conditions provides the product manager and the Soldiers using the software confidence that the system’s capabilities will withstand the significant workload experienced during tactical operations.
Maj. Erick B. Taylor, Mission Branch Chief and Cpt. Jason R. Johnson, AFATDS Test Officer, developed the test concept and oversaw execution of the combined test operations.
They ensured the safety of all parties involved, placed key personnel in the proper positions, and provided leadership at the various test locations; ensuring mission success.
“Our Soldiers deserve the most advanced equipment and our job is to deliver just that,” said Johnson. “Processing missions quickly and providing firing solutions so our Soldiers can accurately engage the enemy is critical to winning the nation’s wars.”
Johnson also explained how other artillery weapon systems such as Paladins, towed cannons, and multiple launch rocket systems are able to communicate with AFATDS. Missions are processed and controlled by AFATDS to determine the best targeting solution for a given threat.
“The updates use situational awareness, intelligence and targeting data in near real-time to make targeting decisions that align with the Army’s Project Manager Mission Command guidance,” he said.
Staff Sgt. Landon Goodwin, PF–D Test Officer, planned and facilitated the PF–D portion of the test involving various vignettes to simulate the most realistic environment possible.
“The vignettes stressed the software and hardware of PF–D in an operational environment to identify any software issues for the product manager,” said Goodwin.
Goodwin explained the PF–D is a software plug-in residing on a Net Warrior end user device that allows a forward observer to initiate digital calls for fire. This enables timely and accurate fires produced at the source of the target location.
During testing, various other systems used by the Army, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Navy will interact with AFATDS/PF–D by providing real world scenarios and numerous mission sets in order to stress the system.
Mr. Jeff Long, Instrumentation Specialist at FSTD, will simulate and stimulate system software in order to provide a fully functional force for testing.
“The coalescing of these diverse fires systems replicate the operational architecture of a fires network and ensures that systems work with artillery pieces at every echelon,” said Long.
The primary driver for this software intensive exercise will be the Extensible Command, Control, Communications, and Computers Integrated (C4I) Instrumentation Suite known as ExCIS.
“ExCIS will run a scenario to provide a realistic workload on the AFATDS and supporting systems, and then collect all digital data between the systems and reduce the data into reports for the Army Evaluation Center to analyze.” Said Long.
About the U.S. Army Operational Test Command:
As the Army’s only independent operational tester, OTC tests Army, joint, multi-service, and multi-domain warfighting systems in realistic operational environments; using skilled Soldiers to provide data on whether the systems are effective, suitable, and survivable. USAOTC is required by public law to test major systems before they are fielded to its ultimate customer — the American Soldier
The Fire Support Test Directorate — the longest standing test directorate of OTC — prides itself in being a part of the Army’s operational testers since 1902. FSTD conducts tests of current and future artillery systems in realistic environments, using exemplary Soldiers and/or Marines, to provide product managers the necessary information to make informed decisions on those programs.