The Army has officially awarded Microsoft [MSFT] a task order to develop the upgraded “1.2” version of the Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS) headset, which it says will include a new form factor and software improvements.

The service also confirmed on Thursday that it will begin incremental fielding with an initial version of IVAS this September, adding its “fully committed” to the program.

U..S. Army soldiers assigned to 5th Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, experiment with the Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS) on Oct. 14 as part of Project Convergence 22 (U.S. Army Photo)

“The Army will continue to work with its IVAS industry partner, Microsoft, to execute the IVAS program in a rapid and innovative manner. The iterative and soldier feedback oriented developmental process for IVAS will result in fielding substantial capability several years ahead of traditional acquisition program timelines. The Army is fully committed to IVAS and the leap-ahead capability it will provide for soldiers to prevail on the battlefield,” the Army said in a statement.

The task order to Microsoft, officially awarded on Dec. 20, will focus on development of IVAS 1.2, with the Army noting that delivery order for production systems will be placed following qualification and operational testing with the upgraded system.

The Army first rolled out its updated plan for IVAS in October, detailing a focus on rolling out a small number of headsets in 2023 while developing a “1.2” version of the capability that incorporates additional design improvements (Defense Daily, Oct. 10).

“In addition to the IVAS 1.1 improvements, IVAS 1.2 will include a new form factor to address Human Systems Integration, including physiological impacts identified during testing, and a lower profile head-up display with distributed counterweight for improved user interface and comfort. IVAS 1.2 will also include software improvements for increased reliability and reduced power demand,” the Army said on Thursday.

The Army on Thursday described IVAS 1.0 as the “baseline warfighter capability,” while it said IVAS 1.1 features an improved low-light sensor to aid maneuver and positive target identification.

Doug Bush, the Army’s top acquisition official, has previously said the IVAS program’s initial operational test and evaluation (IOT&E) last summer highlighted further work required on the capability related to software stability, low-light performance and form factor of the headset.

The updated IVAS rollout plan follows the Army’s decision last year to push back the program’s timeline, to include delaying IOT&E from its original late FY ‘21 start date to allow time for further enhancements to the capability.

In March 2021, the Army awarded Microsoft a deal worth up to $21.9 billion over the next 10 years to move the IVAS augmented reality headset program from rapid prototyping into production (Defense Daily, March 31 2021).

“Under that agreement, the Army envisioned improving the system through an iterative process, and this task order will provide improvements based on completed test events,” the Army said on Thursday.

The final fiscal year 2023 defense appropriations bill included a $360 million cut to the Army’s planned buy for IVAS headsets, while also moving $40 million from the night vision devices procurement request to the service’s research and development account for continued work on IVAS 1.2 (Defense Daily, Dec. 21).