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FORCE 2025: Informing the Army’s future structure

GR66

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The U.S. Army says mock enemy troops, also known as the Opposing Force, or OPFOR, have employed unmanned ground vehicles in an exercise for the first time. The OPFOR used them to help deny access to possible helicopter landing zones and set up blocking positions along roads, among other tasks.

The exercise in question took place at the Army's Joint Readiness Training Center (JRTC) at Fort Polk in Louisiana in September. The JRTC's resident OPFOR unit is 1st Battalion (Airborne), 509th Infantry, which is also known by the nickname Geronimo. This battalion received two General Dynamics Land Systems (GLDS) unmanned Multi-Utility Tactical Transports (MUTT) to help it square off against soldiers from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division.

“With these units, the human survivability rate increases significantly,” Sergeant First Class Eugene Lackey, a soldier from Geronimo's Pathfinder Company, said about the exercise. “This system allowed us to close with and destroy the enemy safely from a distance. It [also enabled] us to the find the enemy before he could find us. It is a great tool and I wish we could have it for little bit longer to really see how we can change the way wars are fought.”

The MUTTs that Geronimo used in the exercise are 8x8 wheeled unmanned ground vehicles (UGV) in the one-and-a-half-ton class. GDLS also offers smaller 4x4 and 6x6 versions, as well as tracked variants in all three size classes. All of the members of the MUTT family have hybrid-electric propulsion systems that offer improved fuel efficiency compared to similarly-sized vehicles powered by more conventional internal combustion engines. In addition, this allows them to operate very quietly at low speeds and while in static positions, and reduces their thermal signature.

Geronimo's MUTTs were each configured with a Common Remotely Operated Weapon Station (CROWS) equipped with a 7.62mm M240 machine gun and a Javelin anti-tank guided missile (ATGM) launcher, as well as a tethered quadcopter unmanned aerial system. The drone has an array of video cameras that allow it to provide additional surveillance and reconnaissance capacity, as well as act as a signal relay, extending how far the UGVs can operate from their human operators.

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US ARMY
One of the Army's MUTTs during a different exercise in 2020.

The operators control the UGVs through a software suite that can be installed on various types of computer systems, including ruggedized laptops. The MUTTs are capable of some degree of semi-autonomous operation, including moving to designated coordinates, but, at least at present, humans are in the loop at all times and are in direct control of the onboard weapons and sensor systems.

The MUTTs are part of an experimental fleet the Army has been using as part of Project Origin, an effort to explore future concepts of operations involving UGVs. The service is in the process of acquiring various tiers of unmanned ground platforms to support a variety of missions. In 2019, the Army had actually selected GLDS' MUTT as the winning design for its Squad Multipurpose Equipment Transport (SMET) program, but a formal protest from another entrant, Howe and Howe, led to the scrapping of that deal and the rebooting of the competition

"The Geronimo force used the Project Origin platform to block a key intersection for 36 hours, an effort that benefitted from Origin’s low heat signature while conducting long hours of battery-powered 'silent watch,'" according to the Army. "In addition, Geronimo used the Project Origin vehicles to deny helicopter landing zones and conduct route reconnaissance."
I find these various UGVs (as well as small, tube launched UAVs/Loitering Munitions) very interesting and they possibly have some great potential uses in our future force. They are light and small compared to manned vehicles so well suited to an expeditionary Army like ours. They have good speed (40mph/65km) and range (750km?). They also have low detection signatures. For an Army that spends a large percentage of its budget on personnel, trading boots for bolts might make good sense.

On the other hand, how well will they work in an EW environment? Will their small size limit their ammo carrying capability too much so that their supporters are constantly having to re-arm them taking away their advantage of stealth and reduced risk to the troops?

How would you envision integrating machines like this into the Army in a significant way? Is this something we should really consider for Force 2025/2030 as a way to leapfrog the CA into the future rather than just trying to catch ourselves up to yesterday?
 

Kirkhill

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I find these various UGVs (as well as small, tube launched UAVs/Loitering Munitions) very interesting and they possibly have some great potential uses in our future force. They are light and small compared to manned vehicles so well suited to an expeditionary Army like ours. They have good speed (40mph/65km) and range (750km?). They also have low detection signatures. For an Army that spends a large percentage of its budget on personnel, trading boots for bolts might make good sense.

On the other hand, how well will they work in an EW environment? Will their small size limit their ammo carrying capability too much so that their supporters are constantly having to re-arm them taking away their advantage of stealth and reduced risk to the troops?

How would you envision integrating machines like this into the Army in a significant way? Is this something we should really consider for Force 2025/2030 as a way to leapfrog the CA into the future rather than just trying to catch ourselves up to yesterday?
WRT the EW environment I note that most of them seem to have three modes of operation - autonomous, follow-me and tethered. Tethered means that the operator is attached to the vehicle by a cable and directly controls it in some ways. So unless we are look at an EMP environment, when everything goes dark, I am inclined to think that there is always some degree of manual over-ride.

As to where to use them? Light infantry? Platoon, Company Support? Moreso than battalion?

The light UGVs are probably not compatible with the LAV fleet. But the UGV technology might be compatible with the LAVs permitting support vehicles to operate autonomously, or remotely. Separating the crew from the vehicle? The Coyote started making some moves in that direction with its remote sensor suite. I believe the Swingfire also had the ability to separate the crew from the vehicle and launch its ATGMs remotely.
 

LoboCanada

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Lots of growth in UGVs judging by the concepts seen at defence conferences and news sites on AUSA.

Rheinmetall has a large presence in Canada, same with GDLS.

Figure out how to best use this technology and get in on the ground floor with funding. Look at Loyal Wingman and Australia, we can replicate it but cheaply and for the army.
 

MilEME09

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There are more reserve pers in the three musician MOSIDs than in either MSE Op, Veh Tech or May Mgr Tech.
part of this comes down to recruiting centers, an MSE op is more then just a truck driver, sure at the Cpl level that is a lot of it but when you get into fleet management and such it is a whole different ball game. From what people tell me as they come in, MSE is simply explained as driving trucks.....by recruiters who are infantry.......

we really need to get better at this is we are to attract in demand trades, and retain them.
 

Kirkhill

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Lots of growth in UGVs judging by the concepts seen at defence conferences and news sites on AUSA.

Rheinmetall has a large presence in Canada, same with GDLS.

Figure out how to best use this technology and get in on the ground floor with funding. Look at Loyal Wingman and Australia, we can replicate it but cheaply and for the army.


That would require innovative thinking. Deciding to do things differently with the tools available.
 

Kirkhill

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Lots of growth in UGVs judging by the concepts seen at defence conferences and news sites on AUSA.

Rheinmetall has a large presence in Canada, same with GDLS.

Figure out how to best use this technology and get in on the ground floor with funding. Look at Loyal Wingman and Australia, we can replicate it but cheaply and for the army.

Funny you should mention the Aussies. In my civvy career I have had great pleasure laughing at Aussie associates. I blame the fact they hang upside down in the Southern Hemisphere. In fact I am jealous of them. They go out of their way to do things differently. And sometimes they get it right.

Here's the Sten

StenTommy.jpg


Here's the Owen

0903c2f6d4b7754d4efc8287ed6a318a.jpg


Different. Magazine on top, gravity assist.

A lot of that thinking comes out of their version of NRC, CSIRO. Even there they seem to do things differently. More applied science and less theory.

 

KevinB

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Funny you should mention the Aussies. In my civvy career I have had great pleasure laughing at Aussie associates. I blame the fact they hang upside down in the Southern Hemisphere. In fact I am jealous of them. They go out of their way to do things differently. And sometimes they get it right.

Here's the Sten

StenTommy.jpg


Here's the Owen

0903c2f6d4b7754d4efc8287ed6a318a.jpg


Different. Magazine on top, gravity assist.

A lot of that thinking comes out of their version of NRC, CSIRO. Even there they seem to do things differently. More applied science and less theory.

Except the Owen was terrible.
The Stench gun was what it was - a cheap no frills gun - and while not awesome it worked vastly better than the Owen.
 

Kirkhill

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Except the Owen was terrible.
The Stench gun was what it was - a cheap no frills gun - and while not awesome it worked vastly better than the Owen.

Interesting. That does bring to mind another aspect of the Aussie psyche. Regardless of the merits the Aussie's support an Aussie.
 

KevinB

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Interesting. That does bring to mind another aspect of the Aussie psyche. Regardless of the merits the Aussie's support an Aussie.
The Aussies have made a number of unusual choices - the AUG, much like the British adoption of the SA-80 went 180 degrees from the user panels. Both of those Armies conducted testing like the CF did with the "Weapons of the 80's Trial" - the CF at the time listened to the users, and test results - as opposed to higher ups deciding a shorter OAL length of a weapon was more important.
It's interesting to see the Aussie SOF and Brit SOF didn't adhere to that - and went for M16/M4 variants like the CF did, with England eventually replacing their SOF M16's with C8 SFW and C8CQB from Diemaco ( now Colt Canada ) - while the Assies kept the M4A1 and added some Hk416's.
 

Kirkhill

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The Aussies have made a number of unusual choices - the AUG, much like the British adoption of the SA-80 went 180 degrees from the user panels. Both of those Armies conducted testing like the CF did with the "Weapons of the 80's Trial" - the CF at the time listened to the users, and test results - as opposed to higher ups deciding a shorter OAL length of a weapon was more important.
It's interesting to see the Aussie SOF and Brit SOF didn't adhere to that - and went for M16/M4 variants like the CF did, with England eventually replacing their SOF M16's with C8 SFW and C8CQB from Diemaco ( now Colt Canada ) - while the Assies kept the M4A1 and added some Hk416's.

Collins subs, non-nuclear nuclear subs from France, Thales Hawkei.
 

GR66

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WRT the EW environment I note that most of them seem to have three modes of operation - autonomous, follow-me and tethered. Tethered means that the operator is attached to the vehicle by a cable and directly controls it in some ways. So unless we are look at an EMP environment, when everything goes dark, I am inclined to think that there is always some degree of manual over-ride.

As to where to use them? Light infantry? Platoon, Company Support? Moreso than battalion?

The light UGVs are probably not compatible with the LAV fleet. But the UGV technology might be compatible with the LAVs permitting support vehicles to operate autonomously, or remotely. Separating the crew from the vehicle? The Coyote started making some moves in that direction with its remote sensor suite. I believe the Swingfire also had the ability to separate the crew from the vehicle and launch its ATGMs remotely.
You could envision an entirely different type of Light Infantry construct that what we are currently envisioning.

Instead of simply transporting the traditional 9-10 person Section in something like a JLTV, ISV or Polaris Dagor and making use of the various guided handheld and/or RWS-mounted weapons you could perhaps envision a Section being 4 personnel in a MRZR-D4 paired with two Mission Master UGVs in different configurations based on the unit's role (Recce, Infantry, CCS, Medical, IF, etc.).

With a 4-person Section, 16-person Platoons and 64-person Companies you're now dealing with troop numbers that should be quite within the capability of the Reserves to augment Reg Force units with a Section on fairly short notice, a fully formed Platoon for larger scheduled deployments and full Companies for mobilization.

UGVs could be concentrated in regional training areas with unarmed versions provided to units to practice mobility and possibly simulators for weapon training.

The big question to me is whether the technology is mature and reliable enough for combat use in a contested environment. Another concern is the risk that by losing the single command node you take out the entire unit...unless the autonomous operation system is effective enough to continue the planned mission without guidance, or if control of the units can be assumed by other command nodes in the case of a loss.

I'm still quite hesitant to see UGVs as a true alternative to having significant numbers of boots on the ground, but maybe it's just due to my lack of imagination and trust in technology. But maybe I'm wrong and the Force 2025 debate is coming at just the right time to give the CA the opportunity to leap ahead of our peers by adopting a new style of warfare instead of just trying to catch up to them.
 

KevinB

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Thales Hawkei.
Thales is deeply ingrained in their Military -- their conventional army wanted to replace the F88 AusSteyr (AUG) a short while back and was basically told that any small arms work needed to view from a Thales based F88 upgrade as opposed to a C8 derivative.

But they managed an upgrade with rails and a Grenade Launcher that doesn't hang down a retarded amount "for safety"
So given the constraints of their Budget - their LCMM ran an upgrade that was head and shoulders above the CF's...
 

Kirkhill

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You could envision an entirely different type of Light Infantry construct that what we are currently envisioning.

Instead of simply transporting the traditional 9-10 person Section in something like a JLTV, ISV or Polaris Dagor and making use of the various guided handheld and/or RWS-mounted weapons you could perhaps envision a Section being 4 personnel in a MRZR-D4 paired with two Mission Master UGVs in different configurations based on the unit's role (Recce, Infantry, CCS, Medical, IF, etc.).

With a 4-person Section, 16-person Platoons and 64-person Companies you're now dealing with troop numbers that should be quite within the capability of the Reserves to augment Reg Force units with a Section on fairly short notice, a fully formed Platoon for larger scheduled deployments and full Companies for mobilization.

UGVs could be concentrated in regional training areas with unarmed versions provided to units to practice mobility and possibly simulators for weapon training.

The big question to me is whether the technology is mature and reliable enough for combat use in a contested environment. Another concern is the risk that by losing the single command node you take out the entire unit...unless the autonomous operation system is effective enough to continue the planned mission without guidance, or if control of the units can be assumed by other command nodes in the case of a loss.

I'm still quite hesitant to see UGVs as a true alternative to having significant numbers of boots on the ground, but maybe it's just due to my lack of imagination and trust in technology. But maybe I'm wrong and the Force 2025 debate is coming at just the right time to give the CA the opportunity to leap ahead of our peers by adopting a new style of warfare instead of just trying to catch up to them.

Nothing wrong with your imagination, or level of distrust.

I would reference the development of the tank though. Some people berated Haig for putting the Tank into the field at all. Others berated him for putting it in too early. Still others were of the opinion, notably with the benefit of hindsight, that had he built up a humungous field force of tanks in secret he could have walked to Berlin in their wake.

A more recent example is the Azerbaijanis doing the different thing against the Armenians. It worked. Will it work twice? That remains to be seen. But then again the second use of the tank worked adequately.

Another example, from ancient history, is a chap name of William Wallace deciding to take on English cavalry with a field that had been covered in hidden horse traps by his engineers and a bunch of folks armed with pikes and formed into hedgehogs. It worked at Stirling. By Falkirk Edward stood back and let his archers wear down the schiltrons (hedgehogs).

And that is why the generals are supposed to get the big bucks. And why Napoleon preferred that his generals were lucky.
 

Kirkhill

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By the way, wrt putting the team into a MRZR and having the UGVs play follow the leader.

That seems to me to be a recipe for putting unarmoured players on the 40 mph armoured battlefield.

I see the best use of the light UGV as support on the 4 mph battlefield. Where the foot cavalry excels. We have a lot of that terrain in Canada. My aim would be to try to divert the 40 mph behemoths into terrain where they are reduced to walking speed and they can't see past the next tree. Then the soldier on foot, with a CG84 and a UGV full of extra rounds, moves up the pecking order.

One of the, in my opinion, sillier requirements for the Light Force Enhancement Project's Tactical Mobility Platform was that it be able to keep up with the LAVs and the Leos on road moves. (It wasn't clear if the Leos were on tracks or on transporters). In my opinion the whole purpose of the light force is to operate where the LAVs and Leos aren't - and aren't likely to be anytime soon.

The Light Force, and its support gear, should be compatible with the available air support - all the way down to the helicopters. Nothing heavier than what a Griffon can lift at the section and platoon level. A Chinook at company. And what a Herc can airdrop at battalion.

408, 427, 430, 450. 1 CMBG Griffon, CANSOFCOM mixed, 5 GBMC Griffon, 2 CMBG Chinook.

I understand keeping the squadrons homogeneous for administration and training. Same argument for centralizing Leos.

But

Taking 427 out of the picture, as it is a special case, what happens if

408 and 430 remain Griffon Squadrons and 450 a Chinook Squadron, administratively, but they regularly practice for operational deployments creating the helicopter equivalents of Combat Teams and remove a flight of Griffons from each of 408 and 430 an attach them to 450 while 450 donates a flight of Chinooks to each of 408 and 430. The intent is to create three deployable squadrons of 12 Griffons and 4 Chinooks as a planning basis for supporting a Light Battalion. Along with a Flight of Hercs perhaps?

I want the light troops in the forests and bogs and mountains and ice and, maybe, towns.
 

Infanteer

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Taking 427 out of the picture, as it is a special case, what happens if

408 and 430 remain Griffon Squadrons and 450 a Chinook Squadron, administratively, but they regularly practice for operational deployments....The intent is to create three deployable squadrons of 12 Griffons and 4 Chinooks as a planning basis for supporting a Light Battalion.
1 Wing does this. I worked with the "Aviation Battalion" during its work-ups one year.
 

Good2Golf

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No, D&B gets to look all suave and debonair gathering up his silk and walking home (in slow-motion)…
 
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