Forging the Future from Fort Sill
U.S. Army Futures Command efforts to deliver the U.S. Army of 2030 and design the U.S. Army of 2040 are spread out across the United States.
Located at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, the Fires Capabilities and Integration Directorate, or Fires CDID, plays a critical role in transforming the U.S. Army by developing initial concepts and requirements for future fires — including air and missile defense, field artillery and counter-unmanned aerial systems — and refining those ideas through experimentation and capability management.
The Fires CDID works closely with the Air and Missile Defense and Long Range Precision Fires Cross-Functional Teams — or AMD and LRPF CFTs, respectively — which are also based at Fort Sill, to advance fires-related concepts, requirements and experimentation that complement other Joint, interagency and multinational capabilities.
The Fires CDID’s proximity to the AMD and LRPF CFTs makes for an ideal working relationship, as each focuses on a unique aspect of Fires. This, combined with the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command Fires Center of Excellence — or FCoE — being nearby, means that Col. Matthew Rauscher, director of the Fires CDID, can work hand in hand with key stakeholders on every aspect of his mission set, and across Doctrine, Organization, Training, Materiel, Leadership, Personnel, Facilities and Policy, or DOTMLPF-P.
"All of our working groups consist of all the key players, AMD CFT, LRPF CFT, the air defense artillery commandant, the field artillery commandant, FCoE and Fires CDID, to ensure there are no gaps or seams, which is paramount when working with DOTMLPF-P,” Rauscher said. "If you don't have a holistic approach from all the stakeholders, gaps will be missed, affecting Soldiers on the ground. This is why it is so good we have key players around us, so we have the eyes to ensure no gaps or seams."
While a version of the Fires CDID has been around for many years, the current structure and entity of AFC didn't start until 2020. Before 2008, CDIDs were called Directorates of Combat Developments. In 2008-2009, TRADOC created Centers of Excellence, which the Fires CDID transitioned into. At the same time, with Base Realignment and Closure ongoing, different elements of what would become the current Fires CDID coalesced at Fort Sill. In 2020, one last shift resulted in the Fires CDID structure that exists under AFC today.
Regardless of the name that the Fires CDID has been under or what command, it has remained focused and steadfast on its mission.
"Everything we do is for the Soldier, so if what we're doing on the far end doesn't help the Soldier, then we must relook at it," Rauscher said. "Our goal is to ensure our Soldiers never have a fair fight.”
Experimenting with Maneuver and Fires at MFIX
Multiple U.S. Army experiments a year facilitate getting proven technology into Soldiers' hands faster than ever, and Fires CDID is involved with many of them. Fires CDID participates in Project Convergence, Joint Warfighting Assessment, Defender Europe and the Maneuver and Fires Integrated Experiment, or MFIX.
MFIX, an annual Army hosted and led experiment brought together industry partners of all sizes, the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Coast Guard and other government agencies come together so soldiers can directly handle and experiment with new and improved technologies to provide direct feedback to industry, government, joint and multinational partners to significantly reduce the time it takes to get technology into the field.
"We regularly inform DoD and industry partners on where we need to go for the future of these technologies because MFIX is an iterative process," said Woody Gebhart, deputy director of the Fires Battle Lab at FCoE. “We have had key insights that have come out of this experiment that are regularly informing and helping make decisions at the U.S. Army senior level."
MFIX grew out of a combined research and development agreement in 2013, launching officially in 2014 with a focus on precision fires and in conjunction with the U.S. Army Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning, Georgia. In 2015, MFIX took on a different direction and, for the first time, concentrated on counter-unmanned aerial systems. Over time, MFIX has conducted experiments aimed at aerial resupply, synchronization and deconfliction of the airspace, with the first over-the-horizon laser engagement happening in 2018.
Many MFIX experiments have led to technologies returning for several years and eventually being fielded. The Directed Energy Maneuver-Short Range Air Defense, known as DE M-SHORAD, is one such example.
"The concept started way back in 2007, but in 2015 we started experimenting with it as a live prototype," Gebhart said. "It came back over the years and had several iterations. It has now been purchased by the U.S. Army to do some final vetting and testing before deciding if they fully invest in the technology, but it happened very quickly, and MFIX is a huge part of why that happened."
While the U.S. Army hosts and leads MFIX, the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Coast Guard and other government agencies participate and pay attention to the technology. Even if the U.S. Army doesn't see a need for a particular technology, other agencies might, and in the past have harnessed technology identified at MFIX.
"The U.S. Marines and the U.S. Air Force have both acquired systems as a direct result of their involvement in MFIX," Gebhart said.
U.S. Army senior leaders looked at the threat that UAS has posed worldwide and decided to have MFIX 23 focus on Counter small Unmanned Aerial Systems, or C-sUAS, because it is a combined arms requirement. C-sUAS needs a combination of technology, tactics, techniques and procedures to combat effectively.
Due to the stringent requirements for the C-sUAS technology, 23 technologies were experimented with during MFIX 23, which took place from Nov. 28 to Dec. 15 at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. The technologies had to do four essential things: detect a target, identify a target, engage the target and integrate the system.
During live experimentation at Fort Sill, pilots sent drones in simulated battle drills to give Soldiers a chance to get their hands on the equipment.
"Today, we are looking at some of the [tactics, techniques, and procedures] and counter UAS technology and how we employee that at the echelon level," said Chesley Montague, director of Fires Battle Lab. "Fort Sill provides us a unique area to do that. This is a training base, so we follow training requirements, and that gives us more leeway to be tactically relevant because it allows us to be as close to an operational environment as possible."
The ability to draw insights from Soldiers on the ground at Fort Sill is also a core element of what makes MFIX valuable.
"Soldiers' feedback through the process is the real magic of MFIX," Gebhart said. "We have general officers, senior executive services, foreign delegations and our partners all here to get the unabridged version of what these Soldiers have to say about the touchpoints they have found."