WASHINGTON -- The Army this week took another step in articulating what types of investments it deems necessary to support operational ideas about future ground warfare.
The service earlier this year presented its "Big 8" initiatives, a list of modernization priorities designed to stay ahead of global threats and maintain overmatch against present and future adversaries. However, the service's Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) has refined that list to the "Big 6+1" set of initiatives, with the "+1" referring to soldier and team performance and overmatch which cuts across all other capabilities listed.
According to a set of slides presented at the Army's Capabilities Information Exchange with industry, which took place at Fort Eustis, Virginia, on Thursday, the service has carved out solid modernization objectives and the resources needed to meet capabilities in the near-, mid-, and far-term.
The Army will prioritize modernizing its aviation fleet, combat vehicles, cross domain fires, robotics and autonomous systems, advanced protection, and cyber and electromagnetic capabilities.
From 2018 through 2022, the Army will complete its aviation restructure initiative (ARI) that it began in 2013 when it decided to retire its OH-58 Kiowa Warrior armed reconnaissance helicopters and use AH-64 Apache attack helicopters paired with unmanned aircraft systems to fill the gap.
The service will also continue to modernize the AH-64 Echo-model, the UH-60 Mike- and Victor-model Black Hawk utility helicopters and the CH-47F Chinook cargo helicopter. And it will complete the Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstration as the Army heads toward its Future Vertical Lift program of record that will bring a next-generation family of helicopters online in the 2030s.
The Army will test fly both a Bell Helicopter- and Lockheed Martin-developed tiltrotor helicopter and a Boeing and Sikorsky-made helicopter with coaxial rotor blades in 2017 and 2018.
Further out, in the years 2023 through 2027, the Army will begin fielding its CH-47F Block II. Some of the planned changes in Block II will be upgrades to the electrical system, transmission and rotor system and will align the conventional Army Chinooks more closely with the MH-47s that Army specials operators fly.
The Army plans to field FVL helicopters in medium-lift and lighter-lift variants and field CH-47 Block III over a larger window of time -- between 2028 and 2050.
As for combat vehicles, the Army in the near-term will address shortfalls in mobility and lethality within the Infantry Brigade Combat Teams. This means bringing a Ground Mobility Vehicle online and using the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle as an interim Light Reconnaissance Vehicle until it can afford to buy something else.
The service will also improve Stryker lethality for the 2nd Cavalry Regiment, currently considered outgunned by its Russian counterparts. Outfitting the vehicle with a 30mm cannon on 81 of the infantry carriers is being fast-tracked with plans to start fielding in 2018.
The Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle (AMPV) will enter into low-rate production, beginning to replace the obsolete M113 armored personnel carriers first fielded in 1960. BAE Systems presented its first general-purpose AMPV variant to the Army Thursday in a ceremony at its York, Pennsylvania, facility.
Future Fighting Vehicle (FFV) synthetic and physical prototyping, modeling and simulation will take place in the next few years as well. The Army will also focus on developing next-generation power trains that will provide a 50 percent increase in power and will also work on a durable light weight track with hopes of reducing weight and cost while not losing durability.
In the mid-term, the Army will improve limited Mobile Protected Firepower (MPF) capabilities for both IBCTs and Stryker BCTs through modifications to existing platforms and engineering change proposals. The Stryker will also see lethality upgrades in terms of weapons and optics.
The Army will develop a Future Fighting Vehicle to replace the Bradley Fighting Vehicle.
The service plans to incorporate some level of autonomous and remote-operated reconnaissance systems within the combat vehicle fleet in order to replace soldiers having to do "dull, dirty, dangerous tasks."
In the out-years, the Army will focus on enhancing Armored BCTs capability to deploy, move around easily and bring more lethality to the battlefield. Also planned is bringing a new "direct-fire" system online, to include a main battle tank. The service will divest Bradleys and replace them with the FFV.
"Terrain-shaping" capabilities for cross-domain fires will be fielded at different levels in the near-, mid- and far-term.
More and more, the Army will incorporate robotics and autonomous systems into battlefield maneuvers. From 2018 to 2022, the Army will work on increasing operations at safer standoff distances for the force through robots and autonomous systems. As part of that, the service will develop Automated Ground Resupply through leader-follower robotics technology. Robots will also have the capability to conduct route clearance and counter improvised explosive devices as well as improve situational awareness.
Between 2023 through 2027, the Army will bring in an unmanned air cargo delivery capability and increase the amount of supply both ground and air platforms can carry into the fight. The service will also introduce exoskeleton technology.
The Army will continue to enhance protection by speeding up the fielding of Active Protection Systems on combat vehicles in the near-term. At the same time, a science and technology effort will work on advanced protection for aircraft. The Common Missile Warning System and the Radar Warning Receiver on aircraft will be upgraded. And the Army will field the CMWS replacement, the Common Infrared Countermeasure, and also the Advanced Threat Detection System (ATDS).
By 2027, the Army will be in the thick of developing a vehicle protection suite to include adaptive armor, "hard-kill" and "soft-kill" capabilities to engage the enemy, and active blast techniques.
And farther afield the service will bring online more advanced aircraft survivability equipment for the legacy fleet and FVL.
While cyber and electromagnetic capability development is more vague, the Army wants freedom to act within space, cyberspace and use electronic warfare to its advantage in the near-term.
Later, the Army plans to employ "the full range of physical and virtual capabilities" and "deny, degrade, disrupt and destroy" enemy networks and weapons. The Army also wants position navigation and timing capability in a GPS-degraded or denied environment.
In the far future, the service will use offensive and defensive cyber and EW tools in formations and at all Army echelons.
The Army has laid out these plans in the hopes of better conveying to industry what problems and gaps it has, what it’s looking for and when it wants to buy certain systems. Maj. Gen. Bo Dyess, the Army Capabilities Integration Center's deputy director, told reporters Friday the Army struggles to communicate to industry what it wants and to provide industry with a way to show what it has to address Army needs.
Additionally, the Army wants to find better ways to work with for small, innovative businesses.
The Capabilities Information Exchange (CIE) is an attempt to better interface with industry and to give industry an easier channel to bring capabilities forward for the Army to consider.
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.