HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — The Army's now annual exercise that examines experimental and prototyping efforts to address complex environments in the future is heading to Europe in 2018.
The Army Warfighting Assessment is a relatively new construct, and has replaced one of the two Network Integration Evaluations held at Fort Bliss, Texas, each year. The NIE is roughly six years old.
The first official AWA was held in October.
But the service, as it expands the AWAs to include joint and international partner elements, has already renamed the event the U.S. Army Joint Warfighting Assessment and plans to take them outside of the continental United States, where the Army is heavily engaged.
The move "better reflects the integration of our joint and international partners into that exercise," Maj. Gen. Terrence McKenrick, the commander of Brigade Modernization Command, told Defense News at the Association of the U.S. Army’s Global Force Symposium.
And as the Army continues to enhance its presence in Europe to deter an aggressive Russia and assure allies and partners there, the service is taking the assessment to the region in April and May 2018.
"It will give us an opportunity to partner with U.S. Army Europe to focus on specific concepts and capabilities and challenges in the European theater based on the Russian threat they have over there," McKenrick said.
The assessment will take place at Grafenwoehr, Germany, where the Army has a Combined Arms Training Center.
One capability that will be tested in the assessment is the ability to shoot out a low flying, small unmanned aircraft system with a five-kilowatt laser, according to McKenrick.
The Army has already tested a counter-UAS capability that uses re-purposed, already fielded equipment — called the Counter-UAS Mobile Integrated Capability (CMIC) — that includes a Q-50 Multi-Mission Radar to detect and identify air tracks and an Instant Eye quadcopter UAS that sends full-motion video to the CMIC to identify whether a drone is friendly, a foe or unknown via a mission command element called the Maneuver Aviation Fires Integrated Application (MAFIA).
An Electronic Warfare Surrogate System (EWSS) also identifies UAS and ground control station locations and conducts electronic attack.
The CMIC was fielded to a Company Fire Support Team on a Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected All-Terrain Vehicle (MATV) in an assessment.
The company can call indirect fire, which is the advantage of having the capability resident in a fire support team, McKenrick explained.
The Army also tried out the capability with a Combined Arms Battalion Scout Platoon using a Stryker armored vehicle at the AWA.
The service has received feedback from the exercises on how well the system worked as a whole, McKenrick said. Generally, the capability worked well within the fires support unit, but the Army discovered it didn’t work as well within the scout platoon.
"While the fire support team was able to effectively balance both the fire support task and counter-UAS," McKenrick said, "the scout platoon was not able to do their reconnaissance tasks and the counter-UAS task as well."
The Army is now trying to figure out whether it’s a training issue or whether additional people are needed with the formations, he added.
The service also determined some of the systems didn’t work "completely well," McKenrick said. The radar, for example, was picking up ground vehicles and wildlife and was unable to differentiate between air and ground targets.
"So we need that system to improve a little bit, the fidelity of it," he said. "But overall the system works very well."
The service is, therefore, moving out 50 systems to the European theater in response to operational needs statements from deployed units there, McKenrick said.
Systems have also been deployed to the U.S. Central Command area of operations as well.
McKenrick noted that after the Joint Warfighting Assessment in Europe, the plan is to move the event to the Asia Pacific region the following year.
Jen Judson is the land warfare reporter for Defense News. She has covered defense in the Washington area for 10 years. She was previously a reporter at Politico and Inside Defense. She won the National Press Club's best analytical reporting award in 2014 and was named the Defense Media Awards' best young defense journalist in 2018.