Latest updates[?]: A bipartisan group of US senators has asked Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to explain the reasons behind not sending the MQ-1C Gray Eagle drones to Ukraine. The 16 lawmakers demanded the explanation in a letter following the Pentagon’s reported refusal to send the General Atomics platform for fear of technology theft.
Its initial battles were fought within the Pentagon, but the US Army’s high-end UAV has made its transition to the battlefield.
The ER/MP program was part of the US Army’s reinvestment of dollars from the canceled RAH-66 Comanche helicopter program, and directly supports the Army’s Aviation Modernization Plan. The US Air Force saw this Predator derivative as a threat and tried to destroy it, but the program survived the first big “Key West” battle of the 21st century. Now, the MQ-1C “Gray Eagle” is in production as the US Army’s high-end UAV. As CENTCOM’s wars end, however, the Gray Eagle may find that staying in the fleet is as hard as getting there.
This FOCUS article offers a program history, key statistics and budget figures, and ongoing coverage of the program’s contracts and milestones.
Latest updates[?]: The US Army is contracting Oshkosh Defense for technical support. The $13.9 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract provides for a number of support activities on the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected All-Terrain Vehicle family of vehicles. The Oshkosh M-ATV has an empty “curb weight” of 25,000 pounds, and a Gross Vehicle Weight of 32,500 pounds, including the M-ATV objective maximum of 4,000 pounds of payload. The core of the vehicle is the US Marines’ MTVR medium truck chassis, and its TAK-4 suspension, giving it a 70% off-road mobility profile. M-ATV’s Super Multi-Hit Armor Technology (SMART) armor is used in theater by NATO and has since been augmented by “Underbody Improvement Kits” to improve mine protection. Work locations and funding will be determined with each order, with an estimated completion date of July, 2021.
“The Government plans to acquire an MRAP All-Terrain Vehicle (M-ATV). The M-ATV is a lighter, off-road, and more maneuverable vehicle that incorporates current MRAP level [bullet and mine blast] protection. The M-ATV will require effectiveness in an off-road mission profile. The vehicle will include EFP (Explosively Formed Projectile land mine) and RPG (Rocket Propelled Grenade panzerfaust) protection (integral or removable kit). The M-ATV will maximize both protection levels and off-road mobility & maneuverability attributes, and must balance the effects of size and weight while attempting to achieve the stated requirements.”
— US government FedBizOpps, November 2008
Oshkosh Defense’s M-ATV candidate secured a long-denied MRAP win, and the firm continues to remain ahead of production targets. The initial plan expected to spend up to $3.3 billion to order 5,244 M-ATVs for the US Army (2,598), Marine Corps (1,565), Special Operations Command (643), US Air Force (280) and the Navy (65), plus 93 test vehicles. FY 2010 budgets and subsequent purchases have pushed this total even higher, and orders now stand at over 8,800 for the USA, plus another 800 for the UAE.
Special Forces has had an abiding interest in silenced motorcycles as stealthy and quick insertion/extraction vehicles – and, not just from having viewed Chuck Norris’s 1986 cheesy Delta Force movie, where his trusty motorcycle was portrayed as a Batmobile-like source of plot moving tricks. Air force combat controller teams (CCTs) have been shoving dirt bikes out of airplanes at least since 2010. A 2012 Marine Corp report cited motorcycle use by MARSOC operators, and the Marines have been conducting dirt bike training by third party vendors contracted as early as February 2012. But the airdrop and landing can cause temporary fuel system issues at precisely the wrong moment.
Special Forces toyed with the electric Zero MMX concept a couple years ago, but ditched it due to battery concerns. That vehicle found a home at the LAPD a year later. The electric bike’s charge lasted for only a couple hours.
DARPA gave a grant to Logos Technologies around that time to develop a hybrid bike that could run on several fuels and also support an electric motor with about 50 miles of range. That grant was only $150,000. Things appear to have advanced adequately to have earned a second grant. A Logos representative contacted this morning indicated the new grant was for $1 million.
The bike, called now the Silent Hawk (not to be confused with the silenced SOF helicopters revealed in the aftermath of the 2011 Bin Laden operation), is based on an electric racing bike frame made by Alta Motors. The hybrid engine is Logos Technologies’ development, reportedly from one they developed for a secret drone project.
An example of the sound profile of current electric racing cycles can be seen in the video below. The bike used in the video is a Redshift model, the one employed by Logos for the first Darpa grant’s testing (although with a different engine than the one featured below):
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.
One complaint heard about the 8×8 wheeled Stryker armored vehicles in Afghanistan was that they had difficulties with the rough, mountainous off-road terrain. The Canadian forces in particular found that their Strykers’ mobility limitations created unacceptable difficulties.
Another complaint about Stryker vehicles is that upgrades designed to address combat needs have been done in a piecemeal fashion. This has resulted in significant inefficiencies, including having to turn off some systems to operate others.
To address Stryker vehicle limitations and overcome the piecemeal approach to vehicle improvements, the US Army TACOM Lifecycle Management Command has undertaken a Stryker modernization program…
The US Army is planning to spend $589 million on new construction to accommodate the conversion of existing brigade combat teams (BCTs) to modern BCTs at Forts Wainwright, Carson, Bragg, and Lewis.
US Army Corps of Engineers Seattle District is already moving ahead with construction at Fort Lewis in Pierce and Thurston Counties, Washington, awarding a $26.9 milion firm-fixed-price contract to M.A. Mortenson Co. in Minneapolis, MN. The contract was issued under a maximum $450 million multiple award task order contract (MATOC) for company operations facilities in the US Northwest and Southwest (W912HN-08-D-0021).
This is a design/build project for company operations facilities supporting the BCT complex increments 3 and 4 at Fort Lewis…
Base infrastructure contracts are a quietly substantial portion of defense spending in any country, including the USA. Which is why DID covers them on a semi-regular basis, and notes trends in key areas, even though this coverage are only a fraction of the contracts issued. A December 2007 announcement by the US Army has significant implications for base infrastructure projects at a number of locations, however, as the push to grow the US Army by 74,200 troops and 6 brigade combat teams (BCTs)/ 8 support brigades continues, and so does partial relocation of US troops deployed abroad. A June 2009 announcement cut the number of new BCTs in half to 3, and will affect construction and stationing on 3 important Army bases.
The following lists offer updated breakdowns of the associated relocations and new unit stand-ups, first by timeline, and second by location:
The US Army’s $120+ billion Future Combat Systems program has been subject to a great deal of criticism over its history. It was always planned as a development process with staged spinoffs, but a combination of pressure on the program and the field needs of the troops on the front lines is pushing that schedule. As FCS hits the 2 1/2 year mark in its System Design and Development (SDD) phase, there are plans to start delivering some of its elements beginning in 2006, for fielding and then upgrading as the program continues.
According to eDefense Online, the spinouts will occur progressively but can be broadly grouped into four main waves for timing purposes:
On Sept. 22, 2006, a ceremony marked the launch of U.S. Army Sustainment Command at Rock Island Arsenal, IL, under US Army Materiel Command. It will be commanded by Maj. Gen. Jerome Johnson, who said at the ceremony that “Our mission is clear-cut and crucial: improve Soldier support at the tactical level… rapid research solutions, quicker acquisition and faster delivery to the battlefield… sustaining, maintaining and accounting for materiel, freeing Soldiers to fight with better equipment to protect them and be more lethal to our enemies.”
Technical innovation is present in all militaries, but America’s combination of do-it-yourself types, large defense budgets, and a gadget-happy national character makes it particularly fertile ground. Now add a global war and its challenges, plus a defense sector with a strong small business component made up of ex-military types. The overall innovation transmission belt may not be as tight or as effective as Israel’s or Singapore’s, but the scale of the US defense establishment more than compensates in terms of the sheer number produced.
Adoption, of course, is another matter. One way to improve it is to raise the profile of sucessful innovations through awards. Along those lines, the US Army recently recognized some special innovators by naming its “Top 10 inventions of 2005,” a list that should be of interest to many militaries around the world.