Soldier Lethality team reimagines movement, vision and combat capabilities

By Maureena Thompson, Army Futures CommandMarch 15, 2022

An Army National Guard Soldier carries his rifle during a Special Forces training course in Utah.
A U.S. Army National Guard Soldier assigned to the 19th Special Forces Group (Airborne) carries his rifle during a Special Forces Advanced Urban Combat course near Camp Williams, Utah, on Nov. 12, 2020. The Soldier Lethality Cross-Functional Team is partnering with industry experts to develop a next-generation rifle that will meet the evolving needs of future warfighters. (Photo Credit: (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Jack Cox)) VIEW ORIGINAL

AUSTIN, Texas — The Army’s vision for a future force includes the ability to expertly wield modern weaponry, systems and technologies, at command, squad and individual Soldier levels.

To tackle the challenge of how to best prepare American Soldiers for the fast-paced, multi-domain battlefields of the future, U.S. Army Futures Command is developing equipment designed to improve Soldier movement, vision and combat capabilities.

Coordinating modernization priorities in this area is the Soldier Lethality Cross-Functional Team, based at Fort Benning, Georgia. Brig. Gen. Larry Q. Buris serves as the CFT’s director and as Fort Benning’s Infantry School Commandant, ensuring the needs of the Close Combat Force — a group that includes select infantry, scouts, combat medics, forward observers, combat engineers and Special Operations Forces — are at the forefront of Soldier Lethality CFT efforts.

“Close combat is warfare characterized by brutal physical confrontation,” Buris said. “The CCF designation identifies those positions in the brigade combat team that are truly the tip of the spear, those who close with and destroy our adversaries.”

Buris noted that CCF “make up 4% of the military, but since World War II, have sustained 90% of the casualties — and they receive less than 4% of the DoD budget for Science and Technology.”

The Soldier Lethality CFT seeks to not only identify unique and evolving warfighter needs, but also to harness promising technologies in ways that skillfully and efficiently meet these needs, through improved equipment, training and resources. The team works closely with Program Executive Offices and other partners across the Army to apply Soldier-centered design, frequently using Soldier touchpoints to ensure advances align with Soldiers’ tactical requirements. The CFT includes approximately 55 Soldiers, Department of the Army Civilians and contractors working across four divisions: Capabilities Management, Operations & Integration, Acquisition Management and Science & Technology.

One of the CFT’s signature efforts is the Next Generation Squad Weapons (NGSW) program. The NGSW program includes a common fire control, common family of ammunition and two 6.8mm caliber weapons – a rifle (the XM5) and an automatic rifle (the XM250). The XM5 and XM250 will eventually replace the M4/M4A1 Carbine and M249 Squad Automatic Weapon, respectively, in the CCF.

The program, which is scheduled to begin fielding prototypes by late 2022, aims to provide Soldiers with the highest quality, most capable small caliber weapons and ammunition to achieve and retain overmatch against adversaries. Specific advantages offered by the NGSW include increased performance at range, integrated squad fire control, enhanced ergonomics, lightweight case ammunition technologies and signature suppression capabilities. The new weapons will improve Soldier mobility and maneuverability, enhancing ability to execute missions and evade adversaries.

The Soldier Lethality CFT is additionally working to advance the Army’s Integrated Visual Augmentation System program. IVAS allows for augmented reality capabilities, such as the ability to see around corners or project 3D terrain maps onto a Soldier’s field of vision, to increase lethality. IVAS also maps and captures 360-degree images of any environment, day or night, and preserves that information for Soldiers to use during training and rehearsals. The Army continues to work with Microsoft, which manufactures the mixed-reality headsets through a fixed-price production agreement with the Army, to develop their durability for all-weather field use.

Until recently, the CFT also led the development of the Enhanced Night Vision Goggle-Binocular for the Army. The ENVG-B offers improved depth perception and rapid target acquisition by providing dismounted Soldiers with unparalleled vision day or night, including in low or no light, fog, smoke and inclement weather. In 2021, the CFT transitioned the ENVG-B to the Maneuver Capabilities Development and Integration Directorate’s Soldier Readiness Division for further development and fielding, in an effort to continually improve the visual aids available to Soldiers operating in low-visibility environments.

To learn more, visit the Soldier Lethality CFT on Twitter.