WASHINGTON ― Even an ongoing pandemic can’t stop the U.S. Army’s largest annual conference.
The Association of the United States Army held its annual summit virtually this year from Oct. 13-16. Pentagon officials, service leaders and defense industry representatives gathered online to discuss the state of the Army. This included updates for industry, changes for personnel, ideas for future warfare and plans for tech acquisition.
As the service ― really, the military as a whole ― pivots from its counterterror mission to great power competition against advanced adversaries, it’s seeking to take a technological leap that will prepare war fighters for the future battlefield.
Defense News, Army Times and C4ISRNET attended the webinars. Catch up on some of our best stories from this year’s AUSA conference and can find more at defensenews.com/digital-show-dailies/ausa and c4isrnet.com/show-reporter/ausa.
A LETTER FROM AUSA
By Gen. Carter Ham (ret.), president and CEO of the Association of the U.S. Army
AUSA Now, the first virtual annual meeting of the Association of the U.S. Army, wasn’t the same as our usual in-person event, but it still offered multiple opportunities to hear directly from senior Army leaders and explore the innovative capabilities offered by more than 500 businesses, large and small.
We heard strong and consistent messages from Army leaders — the secretary, chief of staff, sergeant major of the Army and many four-star generals — that America’s Army is on the right track and continuing to build momentum toward a stronger force with vastly improved capabilities.
Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy acknowledged the path won’t get easier as the Army faces tough choices on funding its modernization priorities, but he also expressed optimism for the work that’s underway.
“The payoff is starting to arrive,” McCarthy said. “The time of transformation and modernization for the future fight is now a reality.”
McCarthy, Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville and Sergeant Major of the Army Michael Grinston also delivered a clear message about changing the Army’s culture, with McCarthy describing “rapid, positive and meaningful steps” on diversity, equity and inclusion.
McConville declared that the time is now to find innovative ways to accomplish training and rotational deployments while reducing stress on soldiers. This would involve revising deployment schedules and lengths, and rethinking training by giving small-unit leaders more time with their soldiers to build better squads, platoons and companies.
Grinston called on noncommissioned officers to help build strong bonds within their units. “When we focus in on fit, disciplined and well-trained teams, we’re going to drive down all the negatives that happen to us on a daily basis,” Grinston said. Having strong teams where soldiers know and care about each other will “drive down sexual harassment and sexual assault. It’s going to drive down suicide. It’s going to drive down issues we have with racial inclusion,” he said.
Drawing over 20,000 registrants, our event turned out better than we expected, considering we were in uncharted territory. The Army, industry and an audience of people interested in land warfare worked together for an information-packed event filled with exhibits, forums and forward-looking addresses that remain available for on-demand viewing by logging in to the AUSA Now virtual venue.
If you didn’t register earlier, you can do so now.
As the Army’s professional association, we certainly would have preferred to have hosted our traditional annual meeting at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C., and we plan to be back there next year. Soldiering is, after all, a team sport, and we cherish the opportunity to celebrate together with the Total Army family.
We look forward to resuming our in-person events once we can do so safely, but even when we do, we’ll apply what we learned during AUSA Now to capitalize on the best of in-person and virtual programming.
Whether it’s in person, virtually or a combination of both, AUSA remains committed to its mission to support America’s Army.
Boeing and General Atomics join forces on new laser weapon
General Atomics and Boeing are teaming up to build a new high-energy laser for air and missile defense, the companies announced Oct. 13.
Under the agreement, the companies will create a 100 kilowatt laser that will be scalable to 250 kilowatts, the companies stated in a news release. The weapon will be able to be employed as a standalone system or integrated onboard ground vehicles, ships and aircraft.
General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems will be responsible for the laser, batteries and thermal management system, while Boeing will create the beam director and software necessary for precision tracking and pointing the laser. Click here to read more.
Lockheed teams with Aerojet on Next Generation Interceptor
Lockheed Martin announced Oct. 16 it will partner with Aerojet Rocketdyne to compete for the right to build America’s next missile defense interceptor.
The pairing officially ends any speculation about which company would produce the propulsion system for Lockheed’s offering of the Next Generation Interceptor (NGI) program, which is being run by the Missile Defense Agency.
Lockheed’s offering will be “designed from the ground up as an all-up-round to address all elements of environmental survivability from day one,” according to a company press release. Aerojet Rocketdyne will provide the primary propulsion for the interceptor. Click here to read more.
US Army wants industry to keep COVID safety rules in place, even after the pandemic ends
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the defense industry began adjusting its facilities to avoid major outbreaks that could shut down production lines for days or weeks at a time. And now that those changes are in place, the U.S. Army’s top acquisition official thinks they should remain so for good.
Speaking to reporters during the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual conference, Bruce Jette, assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology, said he sees long-term benefits from maintaining the kind of social distancing protective measures put in place across industry.
“I don’t know that I would ever say it’s totally back to normal,” Jette said. “I don’t see us backing off of using these same techniques on a contouring basis, even as the vaccine continues to mature.”
“I would say we don’t back off of the COVID-19 standards because it will also reduce the impact of flu and other illnesses,” he added. “We think continuing to apply these same techniques would be further beneficial to the people and to the Army overall.” Click here to read more.
Lockheed, Bell begin forging prototypes to compete for Army’s future armed recon aircraft
Lockheed Martin’s Sikorsky and Bell have each begun to forge the aircraft that will compete to become the U.S. Army’s Future Armed Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) expected to be fielded by 2030.
“It’s become very real to me,” Brig. Gen. Wally Rugen, who leads the Army’s effort to develop future vertical lift aircraft, told Defense News in a recent interview. “We’re seeing forgings, castings, transmissions, gear boxes, blades, cockpits, airframes, real tangible things that are already built, already manufactured and going together,” he said.
Final designs on the aircraft are due from both Bell and Lockheed in November, according to Rugen. And despite complications across the defense industry due to the coronavirus pandemic, both vendors “see no problem” achieving that original schedule. Click here to read more.
US Army Europe and US Army Africa to merge as commander pins on fourth star
U.S. Army Europe Commander Gen. Christopher Cavoli received his fourth star as the service plans to merge the command with U.S. Army Africa, the service’s secretary told Defense News in an Oct. 8 interview.
“Gen. Cavoli was promoted yesterday to his fourth star,” Ryan McCarthy said. “I’m very excited for him and his family, he’s a very talented officer.”
Cavoli was nominated earlier this year for a promotion, and the Senate confirmed the advancement Sept. 30. He has served as U.S. Army Europe commander since January 2018.
The Army believes elevating U.S. Army Europe to a four-star command is “necessary,” McCarthy said. “That’s why we advocated and pushed hard and got that done because, in his capacity, as U.S. Army Europe commander he is the joint force land component commander, and in that capacity if war breaks out on the continent, this is the officer leading all of those NATO elements under that umbrella.” Click here to read more.
West Point creates advisory group, an honor stand-down, cadet-led talks to tackle race issues
Following alumni accusations this summer of racist treatment at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, cadets, staff and the head of a new advisory group highlighted efforts to foster “character growth” among cadets there.Those initiatives have included a focus on racially based incidents, in which cadets shared their experiences, at the fourth annual “Honorable Living Week” in September. That event also included anti-bias training. West Point has also created a Character Integration Advisory Group, aimed at integrating honor, respect and trust programs within the cadet corps.
Cadets are also conducting a pilot program of cadet-led “tree talks” on social issues such as online conduct, sexual harassment and racial issues. Click here to read more.
US Army names new chief data officer
The U.S. Army has tapped David Markowitz to be the service’s new chief data officer, C4ISRNET has learned.
An Army spokesperson told C4ISRNET that Markowitz started this week. He steps into the role previously filled by Greg Garcia, who served as both the chief data officer and deputy chief information officer. Click here to read more.
US Army wants coders at the tactical edge
A recent high-tech exercise at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona demonstrated to U.S. Army leaders how important having coders on the battlefield will be going forward against near-peer adversaries.
“We have to have coders at the edge,” Brig. Gen. Ross Coffman, who led the Project Convergence campaign of learning over a six-week period from August into September, said Oct. 15. Coffman spoke as part of a C4ISRNET webcast at the Association of the U.S. Army’s conference.
“One of the success stories of Project Convergence was whenever we identified a problem with the code, a problem with an algorithm, we had — we called them the Pep Boys — and the Pep Boys were there coding into the night to fix problems every day,” Coffman said. Click here to read more.
Soldiers to evaluate new light tank prototypes
The U.S. Army is preparing a soldier vehicle assessment of two different light tank prototypes for infantry brigade combat teams that will start in January 2021 at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
The assessment will run through June 2021, according to the service.
BAE Systems and General Dynamics Land Systems were chosen in December 2018 to each build 12 prototypes of the Army’s future mobile protected firepower, or MPF, vehicle identified in the service’s ground combat vehicle strategy published in 2015. The service had found the capability one the service lacks.
GDLS is building a vehicle that takes the United Kingdom’s AJAX chassis and combines it with an M1 Abrams tank turret.
BAE Systems’ design is an updated M8 Buford armored gun system with new capabilities and components. Click here to read more.
New force generation model aims to regionally align Army units, give troops predictability
A new Army force generation model is being introduced to better balance demands across the globe with the transformational changes the service needs to prepare for a future fight against a peer adversary, said Lt. Gen. Charles A. Flynn, the deputy chief of staff for Army operations, plans and training.
The new plan, dubbed the “Regionally Aligned Readiness and Modernization Model,” will allocate Army units to different theaters in roughly one year, giving them expertise in the parts of the world to which they would deploy during an actual conflict and allowing them to stockpile the right equipment for those clashes.
The model also aims to provide soldiers more predictability, so formations have time in the near future to be outfitted with new equipment, hone doctrine and reorganize units if necessary. Click here to read more.
Army SFAB advisers will have to share some friends with China
Security force assistance brigades don’t view the race for military partnerships in Asia as a zero-sum game, SFAB leaders said during a telephone call with reporters Tuesday.
The 5th SFAB out of Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, is now dedicated to the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command region, and the unit has already started working with Thai and Indonesian troops from there.
SFAB advisers are training foreign militaries as part of a Pentagon strategy aimed at courting regional partners. But in Asia, they also expect to be sharing some of those partners with Chinese military trainers. Click here to read more.
Afghanistan deployment proves One World Terrain is more than a training tool
The U.S. Army began building an entire virtual world a few years ago for its Synthetic Training Environment (STE) to bring accuracy and a real-life feel to training, but a deployment of One World Terrain in Afghanistan has proved it’s not just a training tool, according to Maj. Gen. Maria Gervais, who is in charge of the service’s STE development.
One World Terrain, or OWT, compiles realistic and, in some cases, extremely accurate virtual maps of territory all over the globe. The idea is to be able to click on any place on a virtual globe and go there. Soldiers can then train virtually in an exact environment in which they can expect to operate in reality.
“We’re seeing now there are better uses for operational capability,” Gervais told Defense News in an Oct. 8 interview ahead of the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual conference. “And it’s helping us inform how do we now expand this to meet training, operational and also targeting requirements.” Click here to read more.
TRAINING AND SIMULATION
US Army demonstrates a first in electronic warfare
The U.S. Army has demonstrated the ability to remotely control electronic warfare sensors through an over-the-air data link and feed the information back to a central battle management tool.
Previously, sensors were connected to the Electronic Warfare Planning and Management Tool. The tool — a command-and-control planning capability that allows forces to visualize the potential effects of electronic warfare in the field and chart courses of action to prevent jammed capabilities — was connected through a wired link.
During Cyber Quest 20 — a prototyping assessment of capability needs involving industry, which took place in September — Army officials tested new capabilities for the tool. Click here to read more.
US-developed hypersonic missile hit within 6 inches of target, says Army secretary
U.S. Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy reported in his speech at the Association of the U.S. Army conference that the Pentagon’s hypersonic missile hit within 6 inches of its target.
“Hypersonic missiles are hitting their targets with a variance of only a mere 6 inches,” he said during his speech at the virtual opening ceremony Oct. 13.
McCarthy was referring to the Army and Navy’s successful hypersonic glide body flight test this year, which launched from the Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, Hawaii, on March 19, an Army spokesperson confirmed. Click here to read more.
Deployment demands, training requirements to be reduced, Army leaders announce
The Army secretary started this year’s Association of the United States Army with a bang, announcing the service will be reducing the demands of rotational deployments and decreasing requirements for brigade- and battalion-level training.
Events over the past year have taxed the force, including a rapid deployment of paratroopers and air defense artillery to the Middle East during tensions with Iran, an unprecedented global pandemic and nationwide racial justice protests that led to the mobilization of thousands of Army National Guardsmen.
That’s on top of the regular rotations of brigade combat teams to Europe, Asia and the Middle East, as well as training exercises within the United States. Click here to read more.
How the US Army integrated a Marine F-35 jet into its tactical network
During a recent U.S. Army exercise, the service was able to link a Marine Corps F-35B into its developmental networks, enabling the jet to both receive targeting data from satellites and send it to ground-based shooters.
Not only did that connection show the flexibility of the Army’s evolving tactical network, but it demonstrated the success the armed services can have as they connect different platforms.
“In some cases — I’m hesitant to use the word but I’ll use it — I think in some cases it was unprecedented,” said Willie Nelson, director of Army Futures Command’s Assured Positioning, Navigation and Timing Cross-Functional Team. Click here to read more.
Satellites played a starring role at Project Convergence
To put it bluntly, the U.S. Army is not exactly known for its space savviness.
However, as the Army gears up for combat with near-peer competitors, it’s doing its best to leverage new space capabilities to improve its targeting and networks, greatly expanding the range it can fire at enemies effectively. And at Project Convergence 20, the service got its first high profile opportunity to show off what it can do with emergent tactical space capabilities.
Project Convergence is the first iteration of the Army’s new “campaign of learning,” an effort to bring together the most cutting edge technologies, connect them together with an advanced battlefield network, and extend their ability to hit beyond-line-of-sight targets with confidence. During six weeks in the blazing Arizona heat at Yuma Proving Ground, the Army ran through dozens of scenarios, linking weapons systems and sensors together, applying artificial intelligence to detect and target threats, and using a developmental network to expand the battlefield.
Perhaps most importantly, Army’s Futures Command was able to show how new tactical space capabilities can transform the battlefield. Click here to read more.
Transforming battlefield geometry: What’s to come in Project Convergence 2021
The U.S. Army’s ambitious first Project Convergence, an exercise that measured the progress of the service’s modernization strategy within its future operational concept, concluded last month, but the service already has a sense of what it wants to accomplish in 2021.
The series of exercises and experiments that made up the Project Convergence “campaign of learning” took place at Yuma Proving Grounds, Arizona. The event, held over a six-week period in the harsh desert at America’s southwest border, was deemed the most important Army event outside of global operations, and future annual iterations are expected to continue shaping the future force.
“We’re going to have even further transformation of the battlefield geometry,” Brig. Gen. Wally Rugen, who is in charge of future vertical lift modernization, told Defense News in an Oct. 6 interview ahead of the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual conference. Click here to read more.
At Project Convergence, the US Army experienced success and failure — and it’s happy about both
During the U.S. Army’s high-profile test of emerging technology in the Arizona desert last month, service leaders packed explosives into a prototype of the Extended Range Cannon as part of a bold experiment.
The cannon had the ability to fire beyond 70 kilometers, and the XM1113 projectile had been customized with a precision guidance kit (not the next long-range precision guidance kit that will be integrated later).
“It didn’t go off every time,” Brig. Gen. John Rafferty, who oversees long-range precision fires modernization, said of the weapon during an Oct. 2 interview with Defense News. “It was kind of disappointing when there was a hole in the ground right next to the target because it didn’t explode.”
The XM1113 incident matched what many service leaders experienced at Project Convergence as new concepts and modernization efforts were put to the test. Sometimes, Army officials were thrilled with the progress of new technologies. Other times, they saw room for improvement.
“This is a major step forward in transforming the United States Army for the next 40 years,” Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville said while attending Project Convergence at Yuma Proving Ground. Click here to read more.
Army training, recruiting marches on despite COVID-19 challenges
As the COVID-19 pandemic swept the globe, locking down much of the United States in its path, the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command still had a job to do — recruit new soldiers and train the ones they had.
Gen. Paul Funk, TRADOC commander, talked with Army Times ahead of the Association of the U.S. Army’s Annual Meeting and Exposition about how the command continued, and learned new ways of doing business, along the way.
“We’ve trained almost 500,000 soldiers this year, converted 600 classes to digital content to keep them moving, adapted our entire ROTC summer cap and used Operation Agile Leader to train in 72 locations to reduce the risks of COVID while training the officers of tomorrow,” Funk said. Click here to read more.
US Army prioritizes open architecture for future combat vehicle amid competition prep
The U.S. Army still plans to release of its request for proposals in December to replace the Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle, and it wants industry to prioritize an open architecture in its designs.
“The network is almost more important in some ways than building the combat vehicles,” Maj. Gen. Brian Cummings, program executive officer of ground combat systems, told Defense News in an interview ahead of the Association of the U.S. Army’s virtual conference.
The future optionally manned fighting vehicle will need the flexibility to be networked with other capabilities across the battlefield, and designed such that capabilities can plug into the vehicle at the forward edge. This realization was highlighted during the Army’s Project Convergence exercise at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona, which wrapped up last month and during which an OMFV surrogate played a part. Click here to read more.
3 questions with Bruce Jette, the US Army’s acquisition chief
Bruce Jette’s time serving as the U.S. Army’s acquisition chief has aligned almost entirely with the service’s ambitious effort to transition between its current fleet and a fully modernized force by 2030. The wheels have been quickly turning to field new capabilities, and it has kept Jette busy working to strike a balance between the service’s present needs and its future requirements.
Defense News spoke with Jette ahead of the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual conference, which will be held virtually. Click here to read more.
US Army solidifies requirements to counter small drones
Pentagon leaders approved in late September a set of requirements to help counter small drones, laying a path for how industry can develop technology to plug into a single command-and-control system, according to the general in charge of the effort.
The defense secretary delegated the Army in November 2019 to lead the effort to take a petting zoo of counter-small unmanned aircraft systems, or C-sUAS, many of which were rooted in urgent needs from Middle East conflicts, and to consolidate capability into a select group of interim systems. Army Maj. Gen. Sean Gainey, who is leading the effort through the Joint C-sUAS Office, spoke to Defense News on Oct. 2 ahead of the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual conference.
That part of his project would be followed by the development and fielding of a long-term system. Click here to read more.
US Army firms up requirements for future long-range assault aircraft ahead of competition
The U.S. Army’s Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft program passed through the Army Requirements Oversight Council’s gauntlet and received preliminary approval of its abbreviated capabilities development document, bringing the aircraft a step closer to a competitive procurement, according to the head of the service’s future vertical lift efforts.
The service is on a tight timeline to field a brand-new, long-range assault aircraft by 2030.
“The AROC went well,” Brig. Gen. Wally Rugen told Defense News in an Oct. 6 interview. “The aviation enterprise continues to impress me, just our ability to drive on these tough administrative and requirements tasks and get them done on time and do what we said we were going to do.” Click here to read more.
US Army pegs 2023 as tipping point for ending old weapons
The Army will see a significant shift in funding from its current fleet to new and modern capability designed to fight in multidomain operations in fiscal 2023, Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy told Defense News in an Oct. 8 interview.
The service has conducted several rounds of “night court” reviews already, a deep dive across the Army’s portfolios to determine whether money is in the right place to ensure modernization priorities are getting what they need to progress.
In FY18 and FY19, the Army focused on the science and technology portfolio, but in FY20 ramped up the process finding north of $25 billion to apply to modernization priorities across the next five years. Click here to read more.
The Army’s SAW and M4 replacement is headed to troops by 2022
The gun that will replace both the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon and the M16/M4 rifle/carbine weapons — and add a new, widely distributed caliber to the U.S. military inventory for the first time in decades — is less than two years away.
The Next Generation Squad Weapon finished its first prototype test event in September. The three previously selected offerings came from Sig Sauer, Textron Systems and General Dynamics Ordnance.
Brig. Gen. David Hodne, Infantry School commandant and Soldier Lethality Cross Functional Team director, along with Brig. Gen. Anthony Potts, head of Program Executive Office Soldier, gave updates to Army Times ahead of the Association of the U.S. Army Annual Meeting and Exposition. Click here to read more.
Army to conduct thorough review of aviation fleet in FY23
As the Army looks to bring on two future helicopters by 2030, the service is planning to review its entire aviation fleet in fiscal 2023, Lt. Gen. James Pasquarette, the Army G-8, told Defense News in an Oct. 8 interview.
Over the past several years, the Army has said it is at “an inflection point” when it comes to prioritizing modernization in order to ensure soldiers can fight in a multidomain environment against near-peer adversaries. Part of that is ensuring the Army is balanced properly when it comes to making sure the current fleet is ready while funding the ambitious development of two new aircraft along with a number of other enablers like a digital backbone, air-launched effects and a new engine, to name a few.
In FY20, the Army took controversial steps to shift funding from the current fleet to the future one when it decided it would not buy Block II CH-47F Chinook cargo helicopters for the active force, opting to procure the variant just for special operations.
Congress has pushed back on that decision in both its FY20 and FY21 defense bills, injecting funding into the program to keep the pump primed to build Block II Chinooks for the active component against the Army’s wishes.
So far the Army isn’t planning on backing down on its decision to scale down and only buy the Block II variant for special operations. Click here to read more.
Before joint all-domain operations, leaders need to solve data problems first
The top data official on the U.S. Army’s tactical network modernization team said Tuesday that the military will need to solve data governance and interoperability issues across the services as leaders work toward linking sensors and shooters across domains and services.
“Data governance across the services is going to be a challenge because we all have common things together but we also have a lot of uniqueness,” said Portia Crowe, the chief data officer of the Army’s Network Cross-Functional Team at Army Futures Command. She was speaking at a webinar hosted by C4ISRNET.
Crowe’s comments came after a busy few months on data issues within the Department of Defense. The DoD released its data strategy last week with a focus on enabling joint warfighting, while the Air Force and Army recently signed an agreement to collaborate on a Joint All Domain Command and Control concept just weeks after both services tested their individual platforms. Click here to read more.
The US Army wants to trade network for compute, but why?
The U.S. Army is working to improve its network at a rapid pace, increasing bandwidth, lowering latency and making it more robust for the future fight. So why does it want to send less data over that network?
At the virtual Association of the U.S. Army conference this week, officials emphasized that in order to get sensor data to weapons systems even faster, they need to push computing to the edge. And to hit deep-lying, protected targets, the Army needs to see farther to sense potential threats, create targeting data and send a solution to the best fires system for rapid response.
The concept is more frequently referred to as the sensor-to-shooter timeline, and the Army is putting vast amounts of effort into shortening that timeline as much as possible so it can respond to threats effectively. Part of that effort will involve shifting the processing step from the command post to the sensor, Army officials said.
This is known as edge processing. Click here to read more.
How ‘Team Ignite’ works to deliver concepts for the 2035 battlefield
Imagine a battlefield in which soldiers and equipment are hidden from satellites by living organisms that provide camouflage by filtering certain kinds of light. Or imagine concealing where soldiers have been by using organisms to build roads, with separate organisms that later eat away that pathway.
These ideas may seem like science fiction, but they are potential future capabilities under consideration by a relatively new program at the U.S. Army’s Combat Capabilities Development Command, called Team Ignite. The team, which has been operational for about a year, operates as a middleman between the the Army’s Futures and Concepts Center and the service’s operational community. Click here to read more.