The Precision Strike Missile Increment 1 missile, launched from the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, demonstrated successful target engagements during the Production Qualification Test 1 flight conducted at White Sands Missile Range on Nov. 13, 2023.
The Precision Strike Missile Increment 1 missile, launched from the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, demonstrated successful target engagements during the Production Qualification Test 1 flight conducted at White Sands Missile Range on Nov. 13, 2023. (Photo Credit: Darrell Ames) VIEW ORIGINAL

REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. (Jan. 2, 2024) – It was a year of change for the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Aviation & Missile Center.

The Center said goodbye to senior leaders and welcomed new ones. And while transformation is inevitable as the scope of modern warfare evolves, how the AvMC workforce met those changes and challenges is a testament to its people and their commitment to providing the very best in equipment and technology to the nation’s military.

In 2023, Dr. James Kirsch, formerly the director of its Software, Simulation, Systems Engineering and Integration Directorate, was appointed Center director. For Kirsch, a longtime member of the team, one of his key initiatives in 2024 is building the pipeline to the future workforce. The Center strengthened that pipeline with its continued partnership with the Alabama School of Cyber Technology and Engineering, establishing a mentorship program between Center team members and its students. It also opened its doors to more than 300 area STEM-minded students as part of the Adventures in Engineering initiative.

Kirsch said that he and his staff is also committed to ensuring that the current workforce have the tools that they need in an everchanging landscape.

“Digital engineering, modular open systems approach, model-based system engineering, artificial intelligence, machine learning, additive manufacturing -- we certainly have experts in all those fields, but I think those types of things are going to become ubiquitous across all our workforce,” Kirsch said. “Everybody will need to have some understanding of those different technologies and how it impacts their day-to-day job. We are taking necessary steps to ensure that we're providing the training and the opportunities for that.”

2023 also saw the arrival of a new military deputy, with Lt. Col. Shannon Thompson joining the formation. Thompson said that in his appointment, he hoped to use his experience to serve as a bridge for AvMC’s strong relationship with the acquisition community.

That relationship was at the forefront as the Center looked to 2023 as pivotal in its work with the Precision Strike Missile, supporting the Army’s Long Range Precision Fires modernization priority. They delivered on that promise, successfully flight testing Land-Based Anti-Ship Missile multi-mode seeker technology for integration into PrSM.

“One of our biggest accomplishments this year has been the successful conclusion of our LBASM science and technology program, which will serve as the seeker for PrSM Increment Two,” Kirsch said. “We are in the process of transferring that data to the project office and setting up future arrangements to continue providing the expertise they need, but it is a clear example of the successful transition from our S&T programs to a program of record.”

The AvMC-managed Army ManTech project also oversaw improved manufacturing processes for the LRPF modernization priority, including PrSM and the Army Tactical Missile System programs. The processes included the investment casting processes for missile fins and missile components, as well as other Department of Defense components.

The Software, Simulation, Systems Engineering and Integration Directorate supported the Strategic and Operational Rockets and Missiles Project Office, providing them new updates to their Multiple Launch Rocket System and High Mobility Artillery Rocket System launchers, both for the United States and international partners. They have also provided aircraft upgrades for other military services and government agencies.

The Technology Development Directorate showcased Advanced Teaming and Launched Effects emerging capabilities through participation in the Future Vertical Lift Cross-Functional Team’s high-visibility EDGE experiment, in support of LE’s initial fielding in delivering the Army of 2030, as well as team-of-teams ecosystem autonomous operations supporting designing the Army 2040.

The Systems Readiness Directorate developed a comprehensive initial set of airworthiness requirements for static supervised learning – addressing the artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies that have developed rapidly in recent years and are now considered necessary for advanced autonomy in weapon systems. Those requirements will be incorporated into the Army’s Military Airworthiness Certification Criteria and are being utilized as source material across the DoD.

SRD also published the initial version of a general airworthiness release allowing Army units to operate multiple different small, unmanned aircraft systems.

“Providing approval for something very small is not the same as providing approval for something the size of a Black Hawk,” Kirsch said. “It has enabled small units to have access to technologies that will give them reconnaissance capabilities without having to go through a laborious or time-consuming process designed for crewed, or larger uncrewed, systems where the risk is much greater.”

For Kirsch, no matter where a team member sits in the formation, they share a part in those successes.

“I am incredibly proud of the workforce that we have, and the passion and the dedication they bring to their job every day,” Kirsch said. “Most of them don't see it as just a job, but as a mission and that mission is to provide the best capabilities that our Soldiers need to do their jobs.

“We can’t do what we do without every person here.”

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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.