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MBL evaluates emerging technologies.

The Maneuver Battle Lab (MBL) at the Maneuver Center of Excellence (MCoE), Fort Benning, Ga., conducts live, virtual, and constructive experiments and assessments on emerging technologies in an effort to inform requirements and provide the warfighter with the most advanced capabilities to defeat today's ever-changing threats. The Live Experimentation Branch has teams that focus on Soldier, mounted, battle command, and unmanned systems.


The MBL conducts many experiments and assessments through the course of the year. Two of the recurring robotic events are the Army Expeditionary Warfare Experiment (AEWE) and the Robotics Rodeo. Other technologies are presented to the MBL by various government agencies for experimentation and/or assessment that will ultimately inform the acquisition process. Recent examples include the Supervised Autonomy to Neutralize and Detect IEDs (SANDI), Redshirt, and Expendable Unattended Ground Sensors (E-UGS).


AEWE is the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command's (TRADOC) principal live-prototype experiment that is now in its eighth year (Spiral H) of an experiment campaign designed to enhance development efforts for current and future brigade combat team formations. AEWE is a live, Soldier-focused, network-enabled experiment that provides a venue for aggressive experimentation with emerging technologies and concepts. This event is scheduled every 12-18 months and is conducted at the MCoE. Typically, AEWE focuses on prototype technologies which are suitable for tactical environments and come in at various technology readiness levels (TRLs).

AEWE provides capability developers, the stability and training community, and industry with a repeatable, credible, rigorous, and validated operational experiment venue to support doctrine, organization, training, and leader development (DOTL) concepts and materiel development efforts. By linking AEWE to critical programs, program managers, TRADOC capabilities managers, and program executive officers can leverage this Soldier-focused, network-enabled venue to enhance their program objectives and get equipment into the hands of Soldiers earlier, enabling industry to accelerate prototype development.

Spiral G's overarching objective was to support and inform the "Squad: Foundation of the Decisive Force" initiative. Objectives focused on enabling the squad to maintain overmatch so they could set favorable conditions to outmaneuver the enemy rather than reacting to surprise and uncertainty. AEWE Spiral G sought doctrine, organization, training, materiel, leader development, personnel, and facilities (DOTMLPF) solutions in the areas of training, leader development, and materiel (network, mobility, force protection, power and energy, and lethality).

Spiral G experimented with more than 40 technologies, and more than 100 government and contractor personnel participated in this experiment. Additionally, more than 60 experimental force (EXFOR) Soldiers from Fort Benning and Fort Bliss, Texas, as well as 30 opposing force (OPFOR) Soldiers provided by the TRADOC Intelligence Support Activity (TRISA) participated in the three-case experiment.

The Army Test and Evaluation Command provided insights in the areas of Soldier power, Soldier resupply, robotic systems (ground and air), the robotics section and communications, and an early assessment of promising technologies.

Spiral H is scheduled for execution during January and February 2013 and was preceded by the technology selection in December 2011. Planning, preparation, and execution events was coordinated and refined during the initial planning conference in February 2012, with follow-up mid, interim, and final planning conferences scheduled throughout 2012. Spiral H objectives include:

* Identify and assess solutions that enhance networked capabilities of the Soldier and small unit (mounted and dismounted).

* Identify and assess solutions for Soldier load, power and energy generation, storage or distribution, advanced unmanned systems, and small unit resupply.

* Identify and assess systems that enhance small unit training, mission planning, and rehearsals; identify and assess systems/methods that enhance training and leader development and/or reduce the cognitive load on leaders.


* Identify and assess mounted and dismounted systems that enhance lethality, mobility and force protection for Soldiers and small units.

* Identify and assess doctrinal and materiel solutions to counter advanced enemy threats and capabilities.

* Enable the squad to achieve overmatch by seeking DOTMLPF solutions in the areas of fire support.

As combat operations continue in overseas contingency operations, the MCoE provides support to organizations that develop warfighting capabilities that improve military effectiveness against persistent and capable enemies. Victim-operated IEDs (VOIEDs), which include munitions controlled by passive infrared, pressure plate and trip wire-activated triggers, remain a potent danger and continue to pose a threat to U.S. forces.

Robotics Rodeo

Circa 2007, the value of unmanned systems and robotics in military operations became evident. However, the Army's process and methodology for assessing and selecting technologies from the plethora of emerging platforms and capabilities seemed to lack organization and focus.

In response to systemic challenges and operational needs statements (ONS), the commander of III Corps and Fort Hood, Texas, commissioned the first Robotics Rodeo. The robotics industry was invited to the event held at Fort Hood from 31 August to 4 September 2009. Forty companies took part in the Robotics Technology Observation Demonstration and Discussion (RTOD2) and were required to perform task-based open events observed by Soldiers and government experts.

The rodeo served as a decisive step by the Army to evaluate and focus on emerging solutions that address relevant gaps in warfighting capability by providing leaders and decision makers a snapshot of the state of robotics and information about systems that could fill gaps. The event also served as a foundation for Army decision makers to refocus resources and get unmanned systems fielded to the force more quickly.

Designated the lead for Army ground robotics, the MCoE assumed responsibility for hosting follow-on rodeos. As the experimentation lead for the MCoE, the MBL was given the task of planning and conducting the 2010 Robotics Rodeo in coordination with the Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC). The rodeo was held 4-16 October 2010 at Fort Benning. During this rodeo, more than 25 technologies participated in the RTOD2 and the extravaganza which gave the Army an opportunity to determine the current state of robotic capabilities and assist in determining their military utility.

The 2012 Robotics Rodeo was held 20-29 June at Fort Benning (see page 6).


The MBL recently assisted JIEDDO with an assessment of two technologies designed to defeat the VOIED threats and save lives. The MBL's unmanned system team conducted a limited objective experiment in September 2011 to develop concepts and TTPs for the employment of supervised autonomy to neutralize and detect IEDs (SANDI) and Redshirt technologies. This experiment replicated the mounted tactical movement of a small maneuver unit with SANDI or Redshirt in a tactical environment that included VOIED threats and the uncertainty of noncombatant activities.

SANDI is a drive-by-wire applique mounted on the M1115 up-armored high mobility multi-purpose wheeled vehicle (HMMWV), and the Redshirt applique is mounted on a tracked platform that enables respective platform operators to accelerate, stop, and steer the unmanned systems while they pull/push lane-proofing equipment. During the experiment, the platforms were remotely controlled by the operators following in command and control vehicles at safe distances. The systems encountered the triggers and detonated the VOIEDs while Soldiers, the lead squad of a maneuver unit, were a safe distance from the engagement areas.

Soldiers were exposed to relevant challenges by conducting the experiment in a structured live environment. The platform operators and key leaders worked through the situations. Their experiences were observed, analyzed, and translated into relevant findings about the impact of the systems on maneuver forces and the conduct of operations. The findings underpinned concepts of operations (CONOPs), TTPs, and programmatic recommendations made by the MBL. CONOPs and TTPs were adjusted to incorporate the unique requirements identified by formations conducting operations with the systems. SANDI and Redshirt will be deployed to conduct limited operations in overseas contingency operations this fiscal year.


An expendable unattended ground sensor is a seismic sensor system capable of detecting footstep and vehicle traffic in remote locations. E-UGS consists of a Toughbook user interface with touch screen and user software, RF receiver unit, antennas, cables, and seismic sensors. The MBL has worked with Project Manager Robotics and Unmanned Sensors (PM-RUS) since mid-2010 during experiments to assess system capability, develop CONOPs and TTPs, and assist with training packages. E-UGS is currently in use in Operation Enduring Freedom, and MBL personnel recently conducted an in-theater assessment (ITA). Several recommendations came from warfighters during the ITA, and further development is ongoing.

Additional information on any of the above topics can be obtained through the MBL Unmanned Systems Team. Points of contact for additional information are MAJ James B. Collins, (706) 545-2921,, Keith Singleton, (706) 545-5285,; or Tollie Strode, Jr. (706) 545-5203,


MAJ James B. Collins is currently serving as the chief of Unmanned Systems (Unmanned Aerial and Ground Vehicles and Unattended Sensors/Munitions) for the Maneuver Battle Lab, Live Division at Fort Benning, Ga. The division is responsible for conducting experiments with new equipment and emerging technologies for the purposes of evaluation and implementation into the Army to improve the warfighting capabilities of the Infantry Soldier.

RELATED ARTICLE: 2012 Robotics Rodeo

More than 40 vendors and five universities showcased nearly 75 different technologies during the 2012 Robotics Rodeo that was held 20-29 June on Fort Benning.

Sponsored by TARDEC and JIEDDO, through the Maneuver Battle Lab, the Robotics Rodeo brings together the defense, homeland security, academia and industry communities to energize robots in support of the warfighter.

"It's a great marriage of both industry and academia, which is what we strive for," said Harry Lubin, the Maneuver Battle Lab's Live Experimentation Branch chief. "Fort Benning is the proponent for Army ground robotics, so it was a great fit. A difference this year is we focused on specific tactical events."

Innovators participated in task-based scenarios and open robotics demonstrations aimed at motivating industry, educating developers, and gaining insight into the current and emerging state of ground robotics technology and artificial intelligence, officials said. From an Army standpoint, it was an opportunity for scientists and engineers from government and industry to link up with Soldiers who might someday employ the robots and unmanned systems in combat.

Addressing capability caps in defeating the IED threat was a central theme throughout the rodeo, said Jim Parker, associate director for ground vehicle robotics at TARDEC. This year, it was set up for unmanned platforms to perform in three operational vignettes: they had to provide supplies, dig hasty fighting positions for a squad, and autonomously search and detect the presence of opposing forces.

The event was the first time JIEDDO participated in a challenged-based acquisition process, said Matt Way, a program integrator with the agency, which was created to attack networks, train the force, and defeat the device. The organization set up four events--endurance, detection, disruption, and reconnaissance--based on problem sets where robots could play a role in counter-IED operations.

"We definitely learned some lessons," Way said. "There are some things we can tweak and improve, but overall, we were impressed with how everything ran and the results we saw. We use our intel arm to keep track of the latest (enemy) trends out there and try to look ahead at where we need to be in delivering new technology. Robotics take the man out of the loop, and any time we can find a solution with mobility and suitability to support the Soldiers, it's better to put that robot in harm's way than the individual."

The robots on display at the event ranged in size from handheld devices to 4,500-pound vehicles, said Ed Davis, the Maneuver Battle Lab's deputy director. Outcomes will be used to further support the MCoE's "Squad: Foundation of the Decisive Force" initiative by advancing possible robotic technology solutions.

"Most of the time, those who engage enemy forces are at that squad level, so we're looking at how we can reduce the load on a Soldier," he said. "With robotics, we're looking at whether we can off-load some of that equipment and then get it to him when he needs it. It also increases his situational awareness. If he knows more about what he's up against when he has a mission, he can tailor that load specifically for that. We're looking at a lot of things in trying to help Soldier effectiveness in that small unit."

--Vince Little, The Bayonet, 4 July 2012
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Title Annotation:Professional Forum
Author:Collins, James B.
Publication:Infantry Magazine
Date:Apr 1, 2012
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