FORT MYER, Va. — The U.S. Army is planning a second experiment where the latest networking technologies will be tested for potential outfitting aboard armored vehicles.
The assessment, known formally as the Armored Formation Network On-The-Move Pilot, is scheduled for the fourth quarter of fiscal 2024, and will likely happen at Fort Bliss, Texas, according to John Gillette, the product manager for mission network at the Army’s Program Executive Office for Command, Control and Communications-Tactical, or PEO C3T.
Armored formations now lack the connectivity Army leaders want, and network modernization is among the service’s top priorities as it prepares for potential large-scale conflicts with China in the Indo-Pacific or Russia in Europe.
Armor often can’t afford to stop — or stop for too long, lest be targeted — and runs the risk of digitally disconnecting as it thunders across the landscape. The heavy-duty machinery also presents unique challenges to designers, integrators and crew: Tight quarters make every inch precious, power consumption needs to be balanced, and constant rumbles and vibration require rugged hardware.
The upcoming on-the-move pilot will ultimately help “outfit the armored units” as well as inform the next wave of development, Gillette said at an event this month at Fort Myer, Virginia. Future equipment, he added, will be “a lot simpler and a lot more resilient, and then also lighter on the vehicle.” PEO C3T is moving away from what were known as capability sets, batches of upgraded equipment rolled out every other year, to what is now recognized as the “division as a unit of action network design,” meant to address the Army’s 2030 and 2040 goals.
The initial on-the-move experimentation was done in early 2022, at Fort Stewart, Georgia. Bundles of equipment were distributed for evaluation at the time, with soldier feedback indicating that the new gear significantly improved the ability to move and communicate quickly, C4ISRNET reported.
“We took an armored brigade and we outfitted three companies with three different solution sets. The intent there was to inform us on what types of technologies would work, but not to do a downselect,” Gillette said. “We started out with the legacy vehicles, the M1068. Our objective vehicle is the AMPV, or the Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle, the command post variant.”
BAE Systems-made AMPVs were in March delivered to the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, at Fort Stewart.
The vehicles share common components with the Army fleet, including Bradleys and howitzers. The Army expected to buy 197 AMPVs in 2024, when combining base budget and supplemental funding.
Colin Demarest is a reporter at C4ISRNET, where he covers military networks, cyber and IT. Colin previously covered the Department of Energy and its National Nuclear Security Administration — namely Cold War cleanup and nuclear weapons development — for a daily newspaper in South Carolina. Colin is also an award-winning photographer.