Army crowdsources project to build mobile command center
- By Kevin McCaney
- Dec 10, 2013
The Army's Rapid Equipping Force is enlisting the help of an online community to find the best, fastest way to turn a standard Army lightweight tactical all-terrain vehicle into a mobile command post.
"For the REF, the hardest thing we have is time,” said Gary Frost, REF’s deputy director for futures. “(W)e have to figure out how in a very short period of time to get the most users and the most material solution providers together, so we can do a rapid prototype."
One way to do that would be crowdsourcing, so REF is staging a proof-of-concept “Make-A-Thon” at Fort Benning, Ga., and on its Army CoCreate webisite. The event, which drew more than 800 participants in advance, began Dec. 9 and continues to Dec. 13. A follow-up event Jan. 13-16 will refine the designs participants come up with and actually build the vehicle.
The Make-A-Thon will take place in both the virtual and real worlds, with participants submitting ideas online while soldiers at Fort Benning implement them on a Kawasaki Teryx 750cc LTATV and provide feedback on how well the ideas are working. The goal is to create a mobile command post — with command, control, communications and computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capability — fit for a platoon or company (30 to 150 soldiers), the Army said in announcing the event.
And do it fast, to see whether, "in a very short period of time, can we generate enough users, and enough people who would be able to provide solutions, get them in a virtual room, and come up with a solution, and then be able to build something quickly," Frost said.
REF solicited ideas for potential challenges from Army CoCreate participants in advance of the event. The mobile command center was among the top vote-getters of about 120 suggestions submitted, and “made the most sense,” Frost said.
The online participants and soldiers at Fort Benning’s Maneuvers Center of Excellence Capabilities Development and Integration Directorate are focusing on aspects such as mobility, weight, payload and transportability in designing the command center. The idea is to add the elements of a mobile command center without affecting the vehicle’s mobility or the driver’s visibility. The vehicle should be able to carry at least one soldier in full gear and operate its equipment silently for four to eight hours.
Although the team will focus on manual operations, modifications could also allow for remote, semi-autonomous or autonomous operation.
Eventually, they hope to produce a “locked-down design” that can be translated into computer-aided design drawings that engineers could work with, he said.
"The intent is, if we can build what we think, and we are successful in it, it is a candidate to deploy to a unit," Frost said, "especially a unit in Afghanistan."
Kevin McCaney is a former editor of Defense Systems and GCN.