ORLANDO, Fla. — The U.S. Army’s Instrumentable-Multiple Integrated Laser Engagement System (I-MILES) has been used for years for tactical engagement training, and while the service wants to ultimately replace the system, it is having to find ways to keep it alive and relevant as other priorities take precedence, according to Scott Pulford, the Army’s acting project manager for training devices.
There are more than 200,000 sets of individual vehicular MILES in the Army inventory right now, Pulford said Wednesday at the Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation and Education Conference.
“Now we are coming to grips of the reality of the next-generation program of record that would replace our current MILES inventory being rephased,” Pulford said, “based on other competing priorities and resource needs.”
The Army, he added, has had to take a new look at its existing fleet, and the service is embarking on a “MILES relevancy contract” as a mechanism to keep the systems functional and effective in today’s training environment.
Through the contract, the Army is planning to replace components that are obsolete, at the end of their life cycles or no longer supportable, Pulford said.
“Now we are going to keep them around for maybe 10, 15, even 20 years,” he said, “In that time frame, the weapon systems will undoubtedly change and evolve, there will be an A4 version of the tank. We anticipate that that fleet of vehicles and weapon systems that we support with the MILES fleet will continue to evolve, so we need to make changes to accommodate that.”
Additionally the Army’s Synthetic Training Environment is being developed and is on the horizon, and MILES will need to interact in that environment to stay relevant, Pulford noted.
And upgrades to vehicles like adding active protection systems influence what needs to be done to evolve MILES, he added.
MILES will also needs to operate using government-owned software, which will allow for interoperability with the multinational community, Pulford said. “There may be a way to use this contract to start to get after, to continue to get after, some of the interoperability challenges that are out there.”
In an effort to keep MILES relevant, Lockheed Martin and Saab have moved out on a $288 million contract awarded in July to modernize MILES, The move combines the many proprietary vehicle crew-training systems procured over the years into a single product line to include training kits of laser detectors and transmitters for military trucks, training weapons and armored vehicles.
The new I-MILES Vehicle Tactical Engagement Simulation System, or VTESS — which Lockheed and Saab developed — when compared to the current MILES Tactical Vehicle System is smaller, lighter and features simplified components.
Previous technology like the controller used by operators was a hand-built box designed to military specifications, Lockheed’s Bob Kilmer, vice president of training and logistics solutions, told a group of reporters at I/ITSEC on Tuesday. Now that controller is a cellphone in a rubber case, he said.
The receivers for the system and its power supply are now commercial technology integrated into a 3-D printing case, he added.
Lockheed and Saab are not only developing kit for MILES but also standards, “so that later on [the Army] can go buy just a new master controller from somebody else and put it in and make it work just like you buy a Bluetooth mouse from anybody;” Steve Kimball, a Lockheed systems engineer, told Defense News at I/ITSEC.
The system is designed to fit into the live-training engagement composition architecture built by the Army.
Saab and Lockheed are currently in qualification testing and will move into government-observed testing within a few months.
The plan is to produce 9,000 kits by the end of 2019, said Ralph Briggs, Lockheed’s senior business development manager for its mission systems and training division.
The new design allows the Army to turn any component within MILES into a commodity, Briggs said, where over time one can grow capabilities either by individually enhancing any component or addressing obsolescence by buying different components at different times rather than replacing entire kits.
And any component can be competed separately, he said.
“One of the most important things we see going forward in the future because of this modular architecture: It could be a solution to multinational interoperability where if you are training with NATO or other forces around the world, you can simply — instead of buying a completely different system — you can pull out certain components here and plug in components that have dual-use capability between different types of MILES or laser standards that are used by the military worldwide,” Briggs said.
There are roughly “no fewer” than five different companies around the world that build these types of training systems, and each company has a different solution, which aren’t necessarily interoperable, according to Briggs.
The Army is developing an international version of the software architecture used for MILES VTESS that will allow easier integration of VTESS components should countries desire to purchase kits or components when they become available via Foreign Military Sale or direct commercial sale, he added.