Army Cautiously Confident As New Equipment Moves Through Technical Tests
By Ann Roosevelt
The Army is cautiously optimistic entering the third week of technical tests for equipment the Army wants to field to Infantry Brigade Combat Teams (IBCT) to improve their lethality, effectiveness and survivability, an official said.
"We are very pleased with where we are," Maj. Gen. John Bartley, Program Executive Officer Integration, said in a recent interview at the Pentagon.
"Brigade Combat Team Modernization Increment 1 is an important cornerstone of Army modernization, aimed to give our soldiers an enhanced capability to fight and win on the field," Lt. Gen. William Phillips, military deputy to the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology, said. "It’s our chance to modernize the IBCT and give it the significant capability they did not have in the past."
The tests for the record run through July 1, and involve Increment 1 of the Army’s Brigade Combat Team Modernization (BCT M) strategy. The equipment includes iRobot‘s [IRBT] Small Unmanned Ground Vehicle; Honeywell‘s [HON] Class I Unmanned Air Vehicle (UAV): Textron‘s [TXT] Tactical and Urban Unattended Ground Sensors, and the early version of the network, the Network Integration Kit.
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Data from the equipment tests are to "build confidence in the reliability" of the equipment before it moves on to soldiers who will test it in various scenarios, Bartley said.
Last year, the service was lambasted by reports by agencies such as the Government Accountability Office and by the Director of the Office of Operational Test and Evaluation after technical tests brought up issues of reliability, range and technical immaturity. Since then, progress has been made, specific issues addressed and upgrades and improvements made.
For example, range was a problem last year with Joint Tactical Radio Systems (JTRS). Now, the JTRS radios are more advanced and have more advanced versions of the Soldier Radio Waveform (SRW) and Wideband Networking Waveform (WNW), and the radios are reaching out "at least double or triple the range," Bartley said.
Tests take place day and night and are replicated several times.
The test range itself is many times larger than last year to really wring out equipment capability and the environment the range encompasses–mountain, foothill, desert, and urban enclave–much more complex and stressing.
This is the third year of four years of tests, each becoming increasingly complicated and important.
The technology has come a "very long way" from last year, he said. In late September, soldiers take over for a Limited User Test (LUT), stressing the equipment in scenarios following what the service considers current and viable.
After the LUT, the Army will go to a Defense Acquisition Board review and request more equipment for Initial Operational Test and Evaluation.
IOT&E tests will push the envelope–for example, instead of flying one unmanned aerial vehicle, flying five at once. This will stress the soldier’s ability to fly the systems close to each other, deconflicting air space and dealing with increased sensor downloads.
"The range, number of systems, whether they are static or moving, the work will be to raise the levels of the test according to the most likely contingencies," Bartley said.
"The whole point is prove the technology works or not," he said. And then let soldiers determine if the equipment is something they can use.
At the end of the testing cycles, the Army will then determine if the equipment is ready for soldiers "to take it to war," Bartley said.