DARPA awards 9 contracts for Squad X program

An artist’s depiction of the Squad X concept.

Pentagon researchers looking to extend a full, real-time operational picture down to the squad level have awarded contracts to nine companies to begin work on Phase 1 of the program—Squad X Core Technologies, or SXCT.

The goal is to bring the kind of situational awareness available to command posts or vehicles to smaller deployed units, which to date haven’t been able to get a look at the big picture because the tools involved are too large or heavy to carry and the cognitive work involved with using them could be too distracting on a battlefield. The Squad X program aims to incorporate mobile devices such as smartphones with sensors and other wireless tools to give soldiers an easy-to-use picture of their surroundings.

“Our goal is to develop technologies that support a three-dimensional common operating picture leveraging input from integrated mobile sensors, as well as the ability to organically locate and identify friendly forces and threat locations in near real time,” Maj. Christopher Orlowski, DARPA program manager, said in a DARPA announcement. “The Phase 1 performers for SXCT have proposed a variety of technologies that, in the future, could provide unprecedented awareness, adaptability and flexibility to dismounted soldiers and Marines and enable squad members to more intuitively understand and control their complex mission environments.”

The companies awarded Phase 1 contract for Squad X are:

  • Helios Remote Sensing Systems
  • Kitware
  • Leidos
  • Lockheed Martin
  • Raytheon
  • Scientific Systems Company
  • Six3 Systems
  • SoarTech
  • SRI International

The Squad X program kicked off in July 2014, with a call for white papers outlining how to integrate access to mobile sensors, create a 3D common operating picture and identify both friendly forces and threats.

In February, DARPA announced plans to explore four additional areas as part of the program’s core technologies. Those are the areas Phase 1 will address:

Precision engagement of threats out to 0.6 mile, while maintaining compatibility with weapon systems and without imposing weight or operational burdens.

Non-kinetic engagement, disrupting enemy command and control, communications and use of unmanned assets at a squad-relevant operational pace.

Squad sensing, detecting potential threats out to 0.6 mile at a squad-relevant operational pace.

Squad autonomy, increasing squad members’ real-time knowledge of their own and teammates’ locations within less than 20 feet in GPS-denied environments through collaboration with embedded unmanned air and ground systems.

About the Author

Kevin McCaney is a former editor of Defense Systems and GCN.

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