JUST IN: Detailed Prototyping Is Critical to Army Modernization, Official Says
The Army is in the midst of an aggressive push to field 24 new technologies by fiscal year 2023 and efforts are largely on track, said a senior Army official.
Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville declared in 2021 that the service would meet modernization goals by rapidly developing and fielding technologies including manned and unmanned vehicles, squad weapons and missile and air defense systems. Doug Bush, assistant secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology, told reporters July 27 that several of the new systems are in the field.
“From my vantage point, Army modernization efforts right now are in great shape,” he said. “Not everything’s perfect, but right now, things are really in a good place, I believe.”
The Mobile Protected Firepower vehicle — just four years into its development — is moving into low-rate production, he said. The Next Generation Squad Weapon is in rapid fielding. The Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle is in operational testing, and other systems not on the list of 24 technologies — such as the M2A4 Bradley and Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle — are progressing well, he added.
“Acquisition speed is my No. 1 priority, and I think we’re seeing that in action,” said Bush.
And key to moving quickly is having working prototypes as opposed to “hand-built” demonstrator models.
“Physical prototypes have allowed us to get input earlier from soldiers, which has proven critical to many of our recent success stories,” he said. “So, we’re working to continue that approach into almost all of our new programs.”
He pointed to the MPF, squad weapon and the Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft — for which the Army is in the final stages of selecting a manufacturer — as cases where having “high-fidelity” prototypes allowed for faster development.
“You spend more building physical prototypes than you do doing just computer modeling, so there’s a cost there, but we believe the cost is worth it,” he said.
Moving from prototype to production is also a process the service is trying to improve, he added.
“While that will always be a challenge, I am seeing encouraging signs we’re learning how to get that right,” he said.
Another important element of rapid development and fielding is using digital engineering, he added. He noted industry has already adopted the technique.
“It’s not foolproof," he said. "It’s still computer modeling to certain degree, but higher fidelity digital engineering … we’re hoping that is also a key element of our success going forward.”
Moving quickly from requirements to fielding a platform increases risk, which Bush said is part of the equation. However, there are ways to mitigate the risk.
In the case of the MPF, the Army took the prototype and went through a full Milestone C process to reduce risk in fielding the platform, he said. That process ensured there were plans for military construction, training, spare parts flow and that units were prepared to receive the equipment.
“We know the work stack, we know everything that has to be done to get a program over the line and fielded,” he said. “It’s just a question of making sure that’s done even if we’re doing the program quickly or even if we’re doing it through a different pathway like rapid fielding, like we are with Next Generation Squad Weapon.”
Not all processes have gone smoothly. Some recent hypersonic weapons tests did not go as planned, and not all feedback from testing of the Integrated Visual Augmentation System has been positive. The Army is learning lessons from both and making improvements and both systems remain on track, Bush said.
While the Army is focused on modernization, it still has to contend with legacy weapons like Stingers and Javelins, which are in high demand in Ukraine.
The Army is looking to increase Javelin production and is “well-positioned” to do that based on conversations with manufacturers Lockheed and Raytheon, Bush said.
The Army is also working toward a Stinger replacement, but in the meantime, the service is looking at refurbishing old stocks and spinning up production to replenish stocks, he said. “We’ll be producing Stingers for some number of years while also starting a new development program for the missile that follows it.”
Topics: Army News