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Can the army make objective force warrior work? General Dynamics-led contractor team faces huge technological hurdles.

The Army's vision for its future soldiers could begin to materialize this decade, under the Objective Force Warrior program. The technical challenges ahead, however, are formidable.

The Objective Force Warrior, managed by the Soldier Systems Center in Natick, Mass., aims to convert the foot soldier into an independent lethal weapon, by integrating the various components of a soldier's uniform and battlefield equipment.

The U.S. Army already has been developing advanced soldier technologies under the much-criticized Land Warrior program. In recent months, however, the Army has restructured Land Warrior and intends to merge successful technologies into Objective Force Warrior.

The Land Warrior Initial Capability--which was supposed to be fielded for the Army Rangers in 2004--was changed to Land Warrior Stryker Interoperable, to be fielded with the Stryker light armored vehicle brigades.

"I hope we either field this thing, or wish we had killed it," said Col. James Moran, the program executive officer for soldier systems. "Unfortunately, last year we had a consortium of contractors, five contractors, but no one was in charge. They weren't under contract with each other. They were all doing their own thing." The Army re-competed the program and awarded General Dynamics to integrate all the pieces, said Moran.

Now, the Army has selected another General Dynamics team, "Eagle Enterprise," as the lead technology integrator for Objective Force Warrior.

By 2006, the Army hopes it will have an OFW equipment set that weighs no more than 40 pounds and can last for a 24-hour mission.

The plan is for the Soldier Systems Center to transfer the OFW to the PEO Soldier, for the System Development and Demonstration (SDD) phase. The program will then be called Land Warrior Advanced Capability.

The first Land Warrior Advanced Capability unit will be fielded with the first increment of the Future Combat System, in 2010, according to Carol Fitzgerald, the technology program manager for the Objective Force Warrior advanced concept demonstration.

The FCS often is described as the Army's network of manned and unmanned ground and air vehicles. The OFW will be networked into the FCS systems, John Munroe, the OFW chief engineer told National Defense.

The failures of the Land Warrior program will help the team avoid certain problem areas in the OFW design.

"Our office has been involved in Land Warrior and tracked it throughout its life," Munroe said in an interview. "We understand the critical risk areas."

For example, he said that power is one of the critical areas, "trying to make sure that any technology that we bring has to earn its way into the system. We have to see what kind of power demands it has as well as weight."

To make sure that the technology is sturdy enough to be fielded, the Army is setting "maturity gates," as measuring tools, said Fitzgerald. "You can't move the technology if it is not ready."

It is not hard to see why Land Warrior has run into trouble, said John Northrop, a technical consultant who works with the General Dynamics Eagle Enterprise team. "The problems ... have been driven by two things--one, a very hard task and two, trying to do too much within the resources and capabilities that they have," he said in an interview at a recent conference of the National Defense Industrial Association's Armaments Division.

The Eagle team is starting with a clean sheet of paper, he said.

"The goal for us is to effectively merge available technologies ... but we are keeping a vision on what is going to happen on about six to 10 years from now."

Any weight reduction and power management schemes developed during Phase II of the OFW will be applied to Land Warrior.

Program Details

Eagle Enterprise received a $141 million contract for Phase II and III of OFW. The 25-month Phase II--with a price tag of $100 million--will refine the system and subsystem design through four spirals, which will lead to a detailed design package and two prototype systems for Phase III. Phase II also includes a preliminary design review.

During Phase III, which will go on for 15 months and is worth $41 million, the lead integrator will produce equipment needed for a squad-size demonstration with a platoon link, said Munroe.

According to a General Dynamics presentation, the team could be asked to make 50 advanced prototype systems, depending on the funding available.

The Eagle team beat Exponent Inc. after an eight-month Phase I competition. "There were very comprehensive proposals for this program, thousands of pages," said Munroe.

The award criteria were the technical and management approach, he said. Unlike General Dynamics, Exponent "does not have any experience managing programs like these," said Munroe.

"We obviously reviewed the past performance and the cost proposal," he added. The Eagle team was the one who proposed $141 million for Phase II and III. According to Munroe, Phase III will be re-priced. "The Eagle team provided us with a better balance of risk and technology advancement."

The Eagle team is made up of 21 companies, ranging from sensor technology to communications providers, said Northrop.

General Dynamics will also select subcontractors for the OFW task, he said. "Exactly how we introduce our concepts to industry is to be determined."

General Dynamics, at the Army's request, will take some of the outstanding concepts from their OFW competitors.

The Army does not have a clear set of requirements, said Munroe, because requirements are difficult to change. "We try to bring these systems and technologies together in a flexible environment," he said.

"There is a science to connecting cables, and there is an art to determining the balance of what is technologically feasible within the funding straits that we have," Northrop said. "J would not expect the government to give us hard requirements," he said. "I would not want that right now. Industry wants a vision and then we begin the process of negotiation of what is achievable within the time and costs available."

He also noted that the team must incorporate lessons learned from Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.

Contractors recognize that, so far, it has not been possible to successfully dismount soldiers from armored vehicles. "When you get off the truck, you lose the communications," Northrop said.

The system architecture is going to be the biggest headache, said Northrop. General Dynamics will have to develop a system that would allow various systems to interface and inter-operate. "We have to understand that they [soldiers] have to interface not only with FCS forces, but with the current [legacy forces] and coalition forces."

The software architecture that manages information and information fusion is "the really hard part," he said.

The power requirements also are likely to pose problems. "All that soldier equipment takes power," Munroe said.

"We are working on operational concepts so that soldiers can refresh their power when they get inside the [infantry carrier] vehicle. ... In OFW, we are focusing on lightweight and low power."

Among the OFW subsystems are personal display systems, individual computers, laptops, computer notebooks, all "designed to help collaborative situational awareness and information management," said Northrop. "Merging all that together is very hard."

Lethal Weaponry

General Dynamics, in its proposal for OFW, envisioned the "strike team" as the lowest maneuver element. "The strike team is the guts of the deal," Northrop told the NDIA Armaments conference.

The strike team is made up of four men. "The big reason we agreed with a four-man team was the independent command and control," said Northrop.

The strike team will have the command and control of the fire team, the capability for direct and indirect fire suppression. The strike team also could provide beyond line-of-sight support to an adjacent unit.

The strike teams will operate some sort of vehicle. In its proposal, the Eagle team specified the Mule robotic vehicle, one of the staples of the Future Combat System. The 2.5-ton Mule can be suitable for reconnaissance or transport/supply missions. In the OFW, however, this vehicle could be both manned and unmanned, said Northrop. "We think we can put four live fires on that and shove it around the battlefield," he said. "Few folks have to cover large areas, so we have to think about how to do that."

The strike team should be able to self-sustain for 24 hours and could stow an additional 48 hours of supplies on a Mulelike vehicle, said Northrop.

The Eagle squad, which is the OFW's combined arms formation, is made up of three strike teams, a squad leader, a system's squad leader and a situational awareness and effects non-commissioned officer. The squad will have the command and control of multiple strike teams.

"We think you need an advanced computing power that does not allow you to distribute but receive a tremendous amount of information and services from the headquarters," said Northrop.

The squad's organic indirect fires will be in the form of 60 mm and 81 mm mortars. The Mules would also have hand-held mortars, Northrop noted. "You now begin to see a combined-arms organization at the lowest level," he said.

Multi-directional assault is a major reason why the GD team picked three teams for a squad, he added. "You can take casualties, but you will still have organizations that will provide fires to each other."

The strike teams and the squad maneuver should, in fact, be enabled by beyond-line-of-sight (BLOS) mutually supporting fires. OFW will not have a dedicated weapons squad that would support the rest of the units.

"If you believe the concept of BLOS, mutual supporting fires and precision engagement with an M-203 grenade launcher system, [then] the integration of the precision mechanism and the tactical fire control that allows you to shoot where you want to shoot ... is a very important and complex thing," said Northrop.

Forces would need to be dispersed in order to cover a wide area. That is why they have to be organized in small teams. Those teams should have the capability to employ BLOS mutually supporting fires and enhanced organic sensors. Teams also would have to be able to attack in a speedy and timely manner.

While much of General Dynamic's proposal relies on the presence of the Mules, "the key philosophy is that at no time is the dismounted infantry guy dependent on these systems," said Northrop. "We can leverage these systems, but we still have to understand that we have to have pure and totally dismounted guys in the absence of these."

The OFW will have connectivity with the Future Combat system, but it will also work together with other systems, such as the RAH66 Comanche, the Army's future scout helicopter.

"We will be able to inter-operate, share intelligence and common operating pictures within the unit of action[in the FCS]," Munroe said. "We are working on all the interfaces with FCS, like the infantry carrier vehicle." OFW soldiers will be able to recharge their power supplies from those vehicles as well as the Mules.

Another important technology in OFW--being developed for the Joint Tactical Radio System Cluster 5--will network the communications and intelligence assets between soldiers. It is called the SLICE radio, short for Soldier Level Integrated Communications Environment

The SLICE radio, developed by ITT Industries, uses advanced waveforms and a power management system that enables dismounted soldiers to communicate at greater ranges, explained Northrop. "The vision is for the SLICE radio to be fully integrated into the OFW ensemble," such as the back of the soldier's rear armor plate, said Northrop.

Another attribute of the SLICE radio is its ability to operate multiple channels and use common protocols, "but yet be on different nets, so that they do not interfere with each other," said Northrop.

SLICE will be an embedded networking waveform radio, said Northrop, and the development of the waveform is the hard part. From the Army's perspective, networking the SLICE radio will be one of the most critical and difficult pieces of the program, said Munroe.
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Author:Tiron, Roxana
Publication:National Defense
Date:Aug 1, 2003
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