In this era of new acquisition for ground vehicles, the Army continues to challenge industry to anticipate emerging requirements, develop required technologies, and field combat capabilities more quickly through rapid prototyping. The key to actually putting those technologies and capabilities in the hands of warfighters is successfully integrating them on existing or developmental platforms.
This capability directly supports the Army Futures Command’s new rapid prototyping acquisition strategy. As the Army moves away from long and cumbersome programs, companies are challenged to anticipate future requirements, develop and test mature technologies, and integrate them on platforms to mitigate high-risk gaps in mission capabilities necessary to meet current threats.
“Mature technologies that meet user-requirements remain essential, but it takes an experienced platform integrator to combine these technologies into true combat capabilities for our warfighters,” said Ed House, retired army colonel and business development manager at Leonardo DRS Land Systems (LS).
House noted that the company has been providing useful warfighting capabilities by integrating new and mature technologies in platforms since 1979, when it delivered a fully-integrated M901 Improved TOW Vehicle using the M113 chassis to the DoD. In the 1980s, DRS LS collaborated with the Project Manager Stryker office to develop, integrate, and field more than 450 fully integrated M1200 Armored Knight fire support platforms.
“That program was a classic example of successful platform integration where the government provided technologies and the platform and then worked with DRS LS to complete the platform integration before government testing and ultimately unit fielding,” said House. “This relationship allows the government to easily improve the capability over time through approved engineer change proposals as improvements are made to required technologies.”
DRS LS’ Recent Platform Integration Wins
In more recent years, Leonardo DRS LS has been awarded a variety of significant platform integration contracts for some of the Army’s most important ground vehicles. The following section examines several of them.
- Leonardo DRS LS was selected in mid-2018 to provide a fully integrated Mission Equipment Package (MEP) for the Army’s Initial Maneuver Short-Range Air Defense (IM-SHORAD) program. Under an aggressive schedule, this program required Leonardo DRS LS to integrate several critical technologies to provide a complete detect, identify, track, and defeat capability effective against unmanned aircraft, helicopters, and fixed-wing threats. The MEP includes Moog’s Reconfigurable Integrated-weapons Platform (RIwP), an on-board radar, an Identification Friend or Foe transponder, and mission command systems with the government-provided command and control network. Additionally, Leonardo DRS worked with its industry partner to complete the platform integration on a purpose-built Stryker. In less than 12 months, Leonardo DRS LS and its industry partners modified newly developed counter-unmanned aircraft systems (C-UAS) technologies to create an IM-SHORAD capability with the mobility, survivability, and enhanced lethality to maneuver with tactical units to defeat threats.
- Leonardo DRS LS was the platform integrator for another C-UAS project that began in 2017, working with PM Counter Rocket, Artillery, and Mortar to deliver a fully integrated, mobile capability to defend against drones. In support of an urgent operational need, the company worked with several government agencies and industry partners to integrate numerous developmental technologies that defeat small UAS. Working with Mine Resistant Ambush Protected All-Terrain Vehicles, Leonardo DRS LS integrated a masted radar, a turret with multiple kinetic defeat effectors, electronic warfare technologies, and government-provided command and control. “During this program, Leonardo DRS LS has demonstrated the flexibility and agility required of a lead vehicle integrator in a rapidly changing program,” said House. “This activity demonstrated how quickly capabilities can be fielded when the government works with industry partners to rapidly develop, integrate, and test different technologies to meet urgent needs.”
- Leonardo DRS LS has worked with PM Bridging since 2016 to deliver a new fully integrated tactical bridging capability under the Joint Assault Bridge (JAB) program. This program requires Leonardo DRS LS to use a government-provided combat platform and integrate industry developed tactical bridging technologies for maneuver units. The JAB program also includes an effective public-private partnership between Leonardo DRS LS and Anniston Army Depot in Alabama. Said House: “As with all platform integration programs, Leonardo DRS LS and the government work closely together throughout the required soldier training and initial operator testing, setting the conditions for a rapid response to any challenges discovered in test.”
In addition to those current programs, Leonardo DRS LS is actively pursuing new platform integration efforts. Earlier this year, the company was one of six industry vendors awarded design integration study contracts for the Army’s Stryker Medium Caliber Weapon System (MCWS) effort to deliver enhanced lethality to Stryker Brigade Combat Teams. The competition came after the Army rapidly fielded an initial capability to one unit in Europe and observed the need for changes to the system, particularly in the area of soldier situational awareness.
This Phase 1 contract requires Leonardo DRS LS to complete the study while simultaneously developing, testing, and delivering a fully-integrated “bid sample” in the summer of 2020. The bid sample is a fully-integrated MCWS capability using a government-provided double V-hull Stryker and XM813 30mm Bushmaster gun. The effort requires Leonardo DRS LS to modify the platform without the vehicle Technical Data Package and integrate Moog’s MCWS RIwP turret for enhanced lethality, smoke grenade launchers, and enhanced situational awareness technologies without detrimentally affecting mobility and survivability of the vehicle.
“Once again, this platform integration effort requires Leonardo DRS LS to work with several industry partners and the government to deliver the capability within an aggressive schedule,” said House. “We look forward to the competitive shoot off starting next summer.
Platform Integration With International Partners
Leonardo DRS LS also works with its international partners to provide “Americanized” versions of non-U.S.-developed technologies to be integrated and tested on U.S. combat platforms. For example, in conjunction with Program Manager Vehicle Protection System (VPS), Leonardo DRS LS recently worked with Israel’s Rafael to successfully test its Trophy Active Protection System (APS) on the M1 Abrams Main Battle Tank. After nearly two years of testing, Leonardo DRS LS was awarded a contract to integrate this much-needed technology on tanks for several Armored Brigade Combat Teams.
“We continue to look at opportunities to improve the technology to better meet future requirements for all combat platforms,” said House. “Additionally, we consider this work a great step forward as we pursue a fully integrated VPS that addresses the DoD’s goal of integrating an Active Protection System technology with other emerging technologies as part of initial vehicle design.”