WASHINGTON — The U.S. Army is applying the telemaintenance capability it developed in a parking lot in Poland to its most challenging logistical theater — the Indo-Pacific, according to the head of Army Materiel Command.
“It has been a great enabler to the warfight in Ukraine,” Gen. Charles Hamilton told Defense News in an interview just ahead of the Association of the U.S. Army conference. “It’s one of the game changers in a sense.”
After Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, the United States quickly began sending weapons to Ukraine. Ukrainian troops soon needed help maintaining M777 howitzers they had received, so the Army began offering remote maintenance support from Poland.
Hamilton said he has witnessed telemaintenance in action, in one case watching maintainers talk Ukraine soldiers through fixing a piece of equipment “that was already blown up” to get it back into the fight to fire a few more rounds.
Now, AMC, working with U.S. Army Pacific and the 8th Theater Sustainment Command, is readying to use this telemaintenance capability in the challenging environment of the Indo-Pacific. It will first try it in a variety of exercises, including the Defender series and Talisman Sabre in Australia, Hamilton said.
“Not only are we going to take it to INDO-PACOM, we’re going to take it to national training centers as well out at Fort Irwin, California, and Fort Polk, [Lousiana], and that way we make it a part of our doctrine and how we train,” Hamilton said. “That’s how good of an enabler it is.”
The virtual maintenance effort that began last year has since grown dramatically. The Army built a standalone facility as well as a repair parts warehouse. Ukrainian soldiers can now communicate with staff at the Army’s U.S.-based depots, giving maintainers access to expert engineers and original equipment manufacturers.
Experts stateside and in European depots and installations are communicating with Ukrainian maintainers via text message chats, prerecorded video or live stream to work through issues or guide a repair.
Remote capability isn’t new, but the connection between international coalition forces and Ukraine is growing by the day and providing a road map for future battlefield plans, Lt. Gen. Christopher Mohan, the deputy chief of AMC, told Defense News in an interview earlier this year.
The Army is using this experience to inform its thinking about “distributed sustainment operations on a highly lethal battlefield,” said Mohan, who previously led Army theater sustainment in Europe.
Jen Judson is an award-winning journalist covering land warfare for Defense News. She has also worked for Politico and Inside Defense. She holds a Master of Science degree in journalism from Boston University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Kenyon College.