WASHINGTON — Under Secretary of the Army Gabe Camarillo said that the Army has taken the next steps in the development of its signature modernization programs. While he didn't say whether the service could fulfill its pledge to deliver 24 of its priority systems in the hands of Soldiers by the end of fiscal year 2023, he added that the service has achieved significant momentum in reaching its goals.
“Ultimately, we’ll get to a point where we can see everything fully fielded,” said Camarillo, speaking during a conference in Arlington, Virginia on the afternoon of September 6. “We have an incredible track record of success … I really think we’re seeing a bit of a renaissance in terms of our ability to stick the landing on these programs.”
Camarillo said the service currently has entered the initial, low-rate production phase of the M10 Booker Combat Vehicle; formerly known as the Mobile Protected Fire Vehicle. The M10 Booker will help light combat forces identify enemy weapons systems from farther distances and provide greater survivability for Soldiers in combat brigades.
The Army awarded the $13 million contract for the M10 Booker to Indianapolis manufacturer Allison Transmission. The branch also announced Wednesday that it will move forward with the M1E3 Abrams Main Battle Tank modernization program which will be more agile and lethal than the previous Abrams tank model. Soldier feedback and years of testing contributed to the development of the M1E3.
In August, the Army announced that it awarded two contracts for the XM30 Mechanized Infantry Combat Vehicle, formerly known as the Optionally-Manned Fighting Vehicle. The agreement with Michigan-based companies American Rheinmetall Vehicles and General Dynamics Land Systems includes the design and prototype phases of the five-phase program. The XM30, which will eventually replace the M2 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle, provides greater maneuverability and survivability than the Bradleys.
In June, the Army successfully fired a Tomahawk missile from its mid-range capability system, showcasing the full operational capability of the MRC.
As leaders build toward the Army of 2030, AFC commander Gen. Jim Rainey has also worked towards setting the foundation for the Army of 2040. Army leaders said in March that the service must foster a greater understanding of future threats and technological change to prepare for that initiative. Among those efforts will be exploring how artificial intelligence and robotics can be incorporated into the service’s infantry and armored brigade combat teams on the future battlefield.
During last year’s Project Convergence, the Army’s series of joint multi-domain experiments, participants used air and ground robotic vehicles during experiments at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, California, and Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona. In one of the tests, engineers flew a pilotless UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter.
“We’re looking at our operating concept,” Camarillo said. “How does that guide and frame our thinking about how our units are designed and the capabilities they’ll employ in the future battle space? One example that [Rainey] talked a lot about is human and machine integration. How do we incorporate them more organically in ways that we haven’t quite thought of or experimented with?”
Camarillo added that AFC has explored how long-range precision fires, the Army’s top modernization priority, impacts requirements for Soldier protection in the future. He said that AFC will continue to search for ways to incorporate autonomous systems, including the Autonomous Vehicle Transport System. This system will allow U.S. forces to maintain a higher operational tempo while providing greater force protection and sustainment.
Army engineers at the Aviation and Missile Center at Redstone, Alabama built the Autonomous Multi-Domain Launcher to navigate on rough terrain. The 36,000-pound vehicle can be operated remotely and will provide Soldiers added firepower and longer sustainment on the battlefield.
The Army plans on expanding the scope and scale in the 2024 iteration of Project Convergence. During the last series in October 2022, the Army included participation from allies Australia and the United Kingdom and employed multi-domain operations over greater distances than the previous iteration.
Earlier this year, Army Futures Command announced that it would schedule more experiments throughout the year instead of hosting a series of demonstrations once annually. The Army will host Project Convergence 4 in spring 2024.
Camarillo praised the efforts of Rainey, who has led the Army’s modernization efforts since succeeding acting AFC commander Lt. Gen. James Richardson in October 2022, as well as the progress of AFC.
“We’ve begun to develop momentum on the modernization side,” Camarillo said. “Whether it's programs that have gone from prototyping to production, or it's systems that are very quickly developing prototypes that we can put them in the hands of Soldiers.
“I give AFC a lot of credit for finding ways to work very effectively with the program executive offices … changing the requirements process … and enabling us to begin that rapid prototyping.”