Standardized tech reaps rewards on battlefield
Army weapons programs employ approach to produce same view of the battlefield
- By Glynn Raymer
- May 10, 2011
Our warfighters continue to focus on delivering and maintaining a common view of the battlefield, especially as small-unit operations require broader deployment of this critical capability in tactical sensors and systems. The ability of units to see the same view in a joint and coalition environment provides mission-essential efficiencies and helps save lives.
Historically, a common view is recognized as a key requirement for reducing fratricide, maximizing situational awareness, improving firepower effectiveness and command and control, and positively influencing battlefield management activities. A common view is accomplished, in large part, through the adoption of standards for sensor magnification, sensor and display formats, and man/machine interfaces, such as menus, controls and symbols.
The essential need for a common view creates a rare opportunity for serendipity. It drives harmonization of requirements, solution commonality and modularity, which, in turn, offers the benefits of common technology and sensors, such as affordability and life cycle cost advantages — critical considerations during this period of escalating budget pressures. The approach supports the need to do more with less by reducing overall costs, implementing incremental and affordable modernization as threats evolve, and taking advantage of the opportunity to reap the benefits of commonality across combat fleets.
The Ground Combat Vehicle is the Army’s next major new platform slated to begin fielding this decade, and it likely will serve well beyond the midcentury mark. As we develop this vehicle, we should begin with the end in mind: a fleet of combat platforms that offer a common view of the battlefield and common architectures, operating environments, systems and sensors that can all work with existing platforms, which are expected to remain in service for decades to come. To achieve this, actions to harmonize requirements between future platforms, such as the GCV, and existing platforms need to be championed by Army leadership and embraced by industry.
This common technology strategy has been successfully employed by the Army’s Second Generation Forward Looking Infrared program, designed to field an effective sensing capability that provides a common view of the battlefield across multiple platforms. The result is an affordable and supportable forcewide capability. The program’s success has been recognized with the prestigious 2010 Ferguson Award for Systems Engineering Excellence. The program was cited for, among other achievements, its successful proliferation across combat platforms and $750 million in savings beyond expected efficiencies.
The emergence of third-generation, electro-optical/infrared (EOIR) technology offers similar commonality opportunities. The technology can reduce size and weight of devices while inexpensively providing increased performance and sorely needed new capabilities, such as networked sensors and weapons, fusion of information from a variety of sources, and advanced processing for improved soldier effectiveness. These improvements are especially important to small units that use the systems to establish connectivity for situational awareness, improve targeting accuracy and timeliness, and see beyond the range of tactical weapons.
This model is already being applied for the Army’s Long Range Advanced Scout Surveillance System program, in which the newly developed enhanced LRAS3 (eLRAS3) is serving as a pathfinder for network-enabled, third-generation EOIR. Prototype units, due to arrive in theater later this year, will outperform second-generation LRAS3s while reducing their weight by 60 percent and size by one half. Additionally, the major eLRAS3 components are designed to fit with already-fielded units for significant increases in performance and capabilities.
A similar model can be applied to other systems and technologies in combat platforms to achieve a commonality in architectures, components and man/machine interfaces. Most importantly, that model can provide a common view of the battlefield to identify all the capabilities necessary to ensure our warfighters are guaranteed mission dominance in the decades ahead.