The Advanced Combat Helmet (ACH) was one of the 14 Rapid Fielding Initiative items developed in 2004, for soldiers on their way to Iraq or Afghanistan. The ACH is made of a new type of Kevlar to provide improved ballistic and impact protection. Tests show it will withstand a hit from a 9mm round at close range, a test the previous helmets would fail. Some have even stopped IED fragments.
The ACH is smaller and 3.5 lbs lighter then the PASGT model (known colloquially as the “Fritz helmet”) and is cushioned on the inside, which sits more comfortably on a soldier’s head…
Out in the field, one of the most important questions is also one of the simplest: where am I? Map-reading and orienteering remain critical soldiering skills, but the explosive growth of the GPS receiver market offers modern-day soldiers – and their opponents – new options. GPS has a military channel as well, of course, offering greater precision. These military-grade GPS receivers are becoming common among American units and their allies, often operating alongside civilian units from firms like Garmin that can include in-country roadmaps for front-line zones. Then again, you probably wouldn’t want to offer nearby airstrike coordinates based on a civilian unit if there was any choice in the matter.
Defense Advanced GPS Receivers (DAGRs) will serve as a smaller, lighter, replacement for the Precision Lightweight GPS Receiver (PLGR). Their electronics can be integrated into tanks, UAV drones, etc., or serve as standalone handheld systems for both advanced and basic military GPS users. Authorized Department of Defense (DoD) and foreign military sales (FMS) customers receive a hand-held Precise Positioning System (PPS) with a dual-frequency (L1/L2) receiver that weighs less than a pound, and incorporates the next generation, tamper-resistant GPS “SAASM” (Selective Availability Anti-Spoofing Module) anti-jamming and security module.
British military procurement is to make a big step if Philip Hammond’s statement [PDF] to Parliament last week is followed up by implementation. The Defence Minister wants to turn Defence Equipment & Support (DE&S) into a Government Owned, Contractor Operated (GOCO) entity after having “soft market tested” alternatives earlier this year. This is likely to lead to a competition among interested service companies but it will take a while to happen, and there are many challenges ahead. DE&S currently employs about 18,000 people with a budget of around 14 billion pounds (slightly under 22 billion US dollars).
“ROVER” (Remote Operational Video Enhanced Receiver) is an unimpressive piece of equipment. Mostly, it looks like a ruggedized laptop with antennas. But SpaceWar.com quotes Lt. Col. Gregory E. Harbin, of the 609th Combat Operations Squadron at Shaw Air Force Base, SC, who says “…the ROVER is bringing a phenomenal capability to our people on the ground.” ROVER is the Remotely Operated Video Enhanced Receiver, which receives camera images from nearby aircraft and UAVs (somewhat like Israel’s wrist-mounted V-RAMBO), then integrates them with other US positioning and targeting software.
Staff Sgt. Justin Cry, a Shaw Joint Tactical Air Controller (JTAC), has a job that’s an art form at the best of times. Describing features from the ground to a pilot looking down while flying at high speed is no easy task. According to a Dec 16/05 USAF article, he used the system in Iraq and in New Orleans, and says simply: “I can circle an area on my screen, drawing arrows for emphasis, and what I’m drawing appears on (the pilots’) screens as well.”
ROVER continues to evolve, and is becoming an unheralded but critical piece of equipment in America’s arsenal. This is DID’s FOCUS Article covering the system and its ongoing developments.
In December 2011, Avon Protection Systems, Inc. in Cadillac, MI won a 5-year, $176.4 million firm-fixed-price contract to make M61 filter canisters for the new M50 Joint Service General Purpose Mask. Work will be performed in Cadillac, MI, and is expected to run until Dec 22/16. The bid was solicited through the Internet, with 6 bids received by U.S. Army Contracting Command at Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD (W911SR-12-D-0001).
The new M50 mask is designed to be more compact, lighter, more comfortable and more effective than the older M40. When worn in conjunction with a MOPP suit, the mask allows over 24 hours of protection against chemical or biological agents and radioactive particulates. Improvements include a single cast, optically correct visor with a wider field of view than the previous twin-lens design, and a twin conformal filter for a 50% improvement in breathing resistance. Anyone who has ever tried heavy physical exertion in a gas mask understands how much that improvement means. The convenient integrated 3L Camelbak for drinking, and clip-on sunglasses or corrective lenses, will also be appreciated.
Bren-Tronics Inc. in Commack, NY recently received a sole source 5-year, $23.1 million fixed price with economic price adjustment, indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity, contract from the US Army, for AN/PRQ-7 Combat Survivor Evader Locator radio batteries and adapters. The money will come from FY 2012 Army Working Capital funds, and the contract will run to Nov 1/16. The US Defense Logistics Agency Land at Aberdeen in Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD, manages this contract (SPRBL1-12-D-0001).
Statistics indicate that most downed pilots are captured within the first hour. CSEL’s system is designed to provide search and rescue forces with the immediate ability to locate, authenticate and communicate with downed aircrew worldwide, using precision GPS-based geoposition and navigation data, 2-way over-the-horizon (OTH) secure data communication via satellite to Joint Search and Rescue Centers (JSRC), and an OTH beacon. Once rescuers are in range, it uses line-of-sight voice communication, with swept tone beacon capabilities to vector rescuers in. Those technologies tend to bulk up its size compared to the smart phones we’re all used to, and its screen and texting are small and basic. On the other hand, if you’re a pilot deep in enemy territory, the only Angry Birds you want to see are your buddies in helicopters and close-air support jets. Boeing delivered the 50,000th AN/PRQ-7 CSEL handset to the US military in October 2011.
The Soviet tank threat may be history for now, but missiles that can attack moving trucks, armored vehicles, and bunkers remain in demand. This is especially true in urban situations, where the ability to fire a rocket or missile safely from inside an enclosed space is a very important plus.
In 2000, the UK Ministry of Defence carried out a series of trials to evaluate missiles for their “NLAW” program. In the summer of 2002, the Saab/Thales MBT-LAW team beat the Predator/Kestrel system from Lockheed Martin, MBDA and Insys. The Swedish FMV and British Defence Procurement Agency (DPA) followed by ordering final development of the RB 57 NLAW (Next generation Light Antitank Weapon) for the United Kingdom and Sweden. Assembly will take place at Thales Air Defence in Belfast, but Saab Bofors Dynamics of Sweden and Thales Air Defence in the UK have a marketing agreement that lets customers buy the system from either firm.
Latest updates: With SUGV pending wind-down, early materials order for SUGV sets 2-3.
BCTM B-Kit in Hummer
Concerns about cost overruns, vehicle design, and contract structure prompted the Pentagon to cancel the US Army’s Future Combat System (FCS) program in June 2009.
Instead of a single FCS contract, the Pentagon directed the Army to set up a number of separate programs to undertake parts of the FCS program. One of those programs is the Brigade Combat Team Modernization (BCTM) Increment 1. The BCTM Increment 1 capabilities – which include ground robots, UAVs, ground sensors, and vehicle (B-Kit) network integration kits – were planned to be fielded to up to 9 Infantry Brigade Combat Teams beginning in 2011. Now it’s more like 2015 for the 1st brigade, and it will happen without most of the original components.
At present, many soldiers don’t have communications radios because the hardware is too expensive. Buying 2-way radios from Radio Shack before deployments solved that problem for some soldiers, but insecure communications created others. On the high end, the US military’s JTRS program is expected to create radios that are much better at working together, and much easier to upgrade. As one might expect, however, the hardware appears to be on track to be more expensive, in return for that improved performance.
The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s Wireless Network after Next (WNaN) program aims to shift the approach used to design these military wireless networks. It also intends to use inexpensive, high-volume, commercial off the shelf hardware components. They would be combined with adaptive wireless network software operating over densely-deployed, low-cost wireless nodes, with the aim of putting a reliable communications radio into the hands of every soldier. How could that work?
In early June 2011, Vohne Liche Kennels, Inc. in Denver, IN received an $11.3 million indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract for “multi purpose canine and handler training in support of U.S. Army Special Operations Command.” The contract includes a base year and 4 option years, which would extend it to 2016. U.S. Army Special Operations Command manages the contract (H92239-11-D-0002).
Many military dogs are German Shepherds, Dutch Shepherds, or Belgian Malmois, though other breeds may be used. SOCOM’s dogs became a topic of deep interest, after it was revealed that Osama Bin Laden was done in by 79 Navy SEALs… and one dog. As the humorous poster out there put it: “Man’s Best Friend… because you can’t strap a cat across your waist and parachute into Afghanistan.” The British SAS have reportedly bought American dogs for similar operations, and Austrian special forces jumped with dogs in a recent NATO exercise; they report that the dogs are actually quite calm about it. I guess it’s kind of like the world’s largest, best-ever car window. Vendors like K-9 Storm provide the associated parachute harnesses, camera vests, assault vests, and other gear. The accompanying picture is US special forces dog trainer Mike Forsythe and his working dog Cara, breaking a record by jumping from 31,000 feet, wearing K-9 Storm’s vest.