Reports from AUSA's Army Fires Symposium 


 Future Trouble Eyed in Space, Cyberspace               

          Space and cyberspace are two domains that are becoming more available to America’s adversaries and potential adversaries, and the commander of U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command (SMDC) predicts “there is going to be some trouble” in the future. 


             Lt. Gen. Kevin T. Campbell told defense and industry leaders at the Association of the United States Army’s Fires Symposium in Dallas that space looms as a potential theater of conflict because “it will be available to lesser nations” as sophisticated technology becomes more broadly available.

             “Sometimes we don’t realize our dependence on space,”
Campbell said.  “We expect it to be there, and we will have to defend it in the future.”

              There are 800 satellites in orbit, and more than half belong to the
United States, Campbell said.  Space and cyberspace plays a huge role in military operations – such as friendly force tracking, geospatial accuracy, beyond-line-of-sight communications and precision targeting – that U.S. adversaries “are poised to deny us” because they realize that attacking those assets could be “much more effective than attacking combat systems.”    

               The earth’s orbit is so crowded that “it’s as good as an attack” when two satellites collide, Campbell said.  In addition to a satellite being knocked out of service, collisions also create debris fields that interfere with communications and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.  In fact, three of the worst debris clouds in space have been formed over the past three years.

             “When I look at what the Army does on the battlefield, a lot of it hinges around space,” Campbell said.  “It makes it click.”

             The growth of cyberspace means adversaries have more avenues of communication, and that gives them greater means to attack, Campbell said. 

             “The enemy is going to use it against us, and they are trying now,” he said.

             Also, greater demand on energy “is going to create a problem,” Campbell said.  By 2030, there will probably be eight or nine countries that will be using as much energy as the United States, while today there are only one or two other countries that demand as much.  Those countries will be looking to expand their energy resources.

             Campbell cites the technological growth of China, and going by gross domestic product, the Chinese could match the United States in number of military forces in 20 years.

             To continue having an edge, Campbell said SMDC is looking at the latest global positioning systems (GPS) to make them incapable of jamming while being able to deny the enemy GPS capability.  Improvement of friendly force tracking will also “give a clearer picture” to troops on the ground, and increasing bandwidth will help as well.

             In the long term, space-based infrared technology “needs to get into the Army channels,” he said.  He also envisions high-altitude airships loaded with communications packages loitering at 60,000 feet over the battlefield.

Growing NCOs Should Be Goal

             Space and cyberspace plays a huge role in military operations – such as friendly force tracking, geospatial accuracy, beyond-line-of-sight communications and precision targeting – that U.S. adversaries “are poised to deny us” because they realize that attacking those assets could be “much more effective than attacking combat systems.”    

             As the Army has recognized 2009 as the Year of the NCO, senior non-commissioned officers are shaping training and doctrine as the Fires Center of Excellence (CoE) at Fort Sill, Okla., continues the buildup as the home for training air defense artillery and field artillery soldiers.

              “We have to do a lot of analysis in [military occupational specialties] to make the right decisions today because it affects what a soldier will look like three to five years from now,” said Sgt. Maj. Scott R. Wilmot, proponent sergeant major of air defense artillery for the office of the chief of air defense artillery at Fort Bliss, Texas.  “Growing NCOs and senior NCOs should be our goal.”             

With the U.S. Army Air Defense Artillery Center at Fort Bliss moving to Fort Sill and becoming integrated with the Field Artillery Center under the Fires CoE, soldiers will be learning new skill sets as some military occupational specialties change to encompass air defense and field artillery skills.

             “We have to find that balance while transforming the education system,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Dean J. Keveles, commandant of the U.S. Army NCO Academy at Fort Sill.

A big part of training will be the responsibility of the NCOs themselves, Keveles said.   After they leave the NCO academy, they will have to continue training in their unit, and that should have a trickle-down effect as they lead and train their soldiers.

             Keveles also said soldiers will have to take advantage of technology and simulations to fill training gaps.  In this period of limited resources, computer-generated training can be used in case of weather delays or lack of access to training ranges.


Command Sgt. Maj. Gary L. Hall, commandant
of the Fort Bliss NCO Academy, and Command
Sgt. Maj. Dean J. Keveles, Fort Sill NCO Academy commandant, outlined training initiatives that
face NCOs as the new Fires Center of Excellence stands up to encompass both field artillery and air defense artillery training

             Command Sgt. Maj. Gary L. Hall, commandant of the Fort Bliss NCO Academy, said “tasks are migrating downward” to get NCOs ready sooner for added responsibilities.  He gave an example of the first sergeants course opening for more junior NCOs because more were being given that responsibility earlier in their careers.

             Overall, the result will be “an NCO educational system based on lifelong learning objectives,” Hall said.

Establishing Fires Center of Excellence Is on Track     

                The establishment of the U.S. Army Fires Center of Excellence (CoE) has been progressing with minimal bumps on the road, but there will have to be a balance in training soldiers to support current operations while identifying future threats. 

                Speaking March 14 at the Association of the United States Army’s Fires Symposium in Dallas, Texas, Maj. Gen. Peter M. Vangjel, commanding general of the Fires CoE and Fort Sill, Okla., said hybrid threat environments, such as the recent Israeli-Palestine conflict in Gaza, are likely to be the norm in the future.

Lt. Gen. Kevin T. Campbell, commander of Space
and Missile Defense Command, foresees space and cyberspace as two battlegrounds where future conflicts
will be fought.

Army leaders have been focusing on five areas that will encompass future operations: major combat operations, irregular warfare, limited intervention, peacetime operations and peacetime military engagement.

“We can’t train soldiers in the entire spectrum,” Vangjel said.  The most critical hindrance is time, not money.

             Vangjel said he is “graying out” the peacetime operations and circling major combat, irregular warfare and limited intervention, but he’s “circling them with a rubber band.” 

              Vangjel said he is “graying out” the peacetime operations and circling major combat, rregular warfare and limited intervention, but he’s “circling them with a rubber band.”  The edges will still be flexible so leaders from noncommissioned officers to combatant commanders can adjust their focus on changing situations in the field.

“This is our approach – meet current Army needs and anticipate asymmetric needs,” Vangjel said.

Maj. Gen. Howard B. Bromberg, commanding general of the U.S. Army Air Defense Artillery Center and Fort Bliss, Texas, said Fires leaders have talked with coalition partners to expand their artillery defense capabilities, and few of them have already planned to stand up their own firing centers.

Coalitions will be even more important in the future – “We can’t do it alone,” Vangjel said.  Future objectives at the Fires CoE include establishing a Joint Fires University and a Joint Close Air Support Center of Excellence. 

Vangjel pointed out five pillars with in the Fires CoE campaign design plan:

-          Grow leaders.  Provide agile and adaptive leaders to win the current fight.

-          Prepare.  Integrate lessons learned, doctrine, training and support to create the best Fires force.

-          Transform.  Deliver capabilities in a timely manner, and anticipate threats and requirements.

-          Engage.  Promote partnerships and collaboration throughout the Fires enterprise.

-          Sustain.  Provide Fires forces and capabilities to the current fight and the Army Force Generation Model.

The Fires CoE was directed by the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Commission to relocate the Air Defense Artillery (ADA) Center and School at Fort Bliss, Texas, to Fort Sill and consolidated with the Field Artillery Center and School.  The consolidation is scheduled to be completed by 2011, and it will be one of five multi-branch centers of excellence.

             Three military officers who don’t wear Army uniforms told attendees at the Association of the United States Army’s Fires Symposium about their experiences in what is becoming increasingly more common – the joint operational environment with not only all the U.S. services but multi-national forces.

Air Force Col. Eric L. Nelson, commander of the joint Fires integration and interoperability team at U.S. Joint Forces Command, said service members at the tactical level “get it.”  Whether they are soldiers, sailors airmen or marines, operating in a joint environment comes natural to them.

However, with multiple services and nations fighting one fight, they are also bringing with them varying systems which sometimes leads to communication problems.  Nelson told the defense and industry leaders in attendance the importance of decreasing the complexity of systems while increasing their interoperability.

Nelson, who has served as a commander of a Navy squadron and also a joint expeditionary group in Afghanistan, said operations are complex enough on the ground, but it’s becoming even more crowded in the air.  For example, it’s not uncommon to have operating at one time in the skies over Kabul, Afghanistan, a Predator unmanned aerial vehicle, a Navy EA-6B Prowler, Army Black Hawk and Air Force Pave Hawk helicopters, plus a civilian airliner taking off from the airport.

Australian Army Col. Don Roach showed attendees a map from when he was deployed to Afghanistan showing a region that was controlled by British, Dutch and Estonian forces, another region controlled by Canadian forces, and another region controlled by U.S. and Romanian forces.  But those complexities led to procedures that had to be adapted and clearly understood.

“They understand who the battlespace owner is, and clearance to engage in Fires has to come from him,” Roach said. 

Battlespaces are also more wide open, and the challenge is getting Fires support to maneuver forces in a timely fashion, Nelson said. 

He also called the evolving nature of joint operating environments as a conflict between the “super power” and “super empowered.”  Combatants range from organized forces down to small tribes and clans, but while they lack the formal training, they think, learn and adapt to fighting coalition forces.

“What doesn’t work results in death,” Nelson said.  “Those who adapt live to fight another day.”

He said the enemy has it down to a science where they engage coalition forces and begin “looking at their watches” and sense when airpower will be overhead.

Roach said the enemy adds to the already complex environment by trying to play to the coalition’s constraint on avoiding collateral damage.

“The challenge to us all is to get good at proportionality and deny the enemy the opportunity to accuse us of attacking civilians,” he said.

Roach is currently one of 42 international officers attending the Army War College and said “the focus is well and truly fixed on coalition operations.”

Marine Corps Col. Anthony J. Johnson, commander of the marine artillery detachment at the U.S. Army Field Artillery School, detailed how the Navy and Marine Corps has changed its strategy by moving its “footprint” out to sea 25 nautical miles, or beyond the horizon from land. 

The old strategy of projecting amphibious power was to land a large force on a beach, Johnson said.  Now with the possibility of host nation sensitivities to a large U.S. presence, smaller units go ashore and Fires support comes from ships outside those 25 nautical miles.

This littoral area is critical as 70 percent of the world population lives within 100 miles of the sea, Johnson said. 

The Navy is also looking at extending its range of surface fire support to more than 63 nautical miles with the possibility of up to 240 nautical miles, Johnson said.  The challenge though is finding affordable systems, and the time of flight for artillery – if it misses a target, could it be re-engaged in time before it moves.

Precision, Affordability Need in Future Fires Systems

A few Army, defense and industry leaders discussed some Fires-related systems that are being researched and tested, and the two most important things that are driving these new systems is precision and affordability.

“We are looking at increasing precision across the board on weapon systems while doing it less expensively,” said Joseph A. Lannon, director of the Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center.

Precision reduces collateral damage and also means not as many rounds need to be fired on target, Lannon said. 

Precision lethality in urban terrains has “progressed tremendously” across the Army and the other services, noted C. Stephen Cornelius, director for systems, weapons development and the integration directorate at the Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center (AMRDEC).

Dave Dorman, vice president of business development for ATK’s advanced weapons division detailed the precision guidance kit (PGK), which would greatly improve accuracy on artillery shells.  This system would involve soldiers setting a fuse – which takes under 10 seconds to do -- on a conventional artillery round, and it would provide global positioning system accuracy and two-dimensional correction throughout the artillery round’s flight. 

As artillery rounds generally become less accurate over greater range, the PGK would give rounds same accuracy throughout their range, Dorman said.

Cornelius said that to combat budget concerns, AMRDEC researchers are looking more at developing systems that can be used on existing platforms to increase capability.  One successful example of this was modifying Predator unmanned aerial vehicles to be equipped with Hellfire missiles.

Upgrades could also occur on the Non-Line-of-Sight (NLOS) systems, Cornelius said.  After seeing a demonstration of from one of those systems, he thought about “a lot of things that could fit in that launcher.”

The Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System also has capabilities for alternate warheads, and phased array sensor systems will be used on a lot of tactical missiles.

“There’s a lot of untapped potential in systems today,” Cornelius said.  Researchers and developers are becoming “adaptive to get them to do things they weren’t originally designed to do.” 

PEO Soldier Looks for Soldier Feedback and Rapid Fielding

Sgt. Maj. Thomas W. Coleman, Program Executive Office, Soldier (PEO Soldier), at the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Systems Center, said as new systems reach the field, they interact with soldiers for feedback to give to engineers and program managers. 

PEO Soldier’s goal is to get new equipment into the field as soon as it’s ready.

“We are modernizing at mach speed with soldier equipment because it touches every soldier,” Coleman said.

One of the biggest changes that has occurred since 2001 has been soldier body armor, Coleman said.  After many periods prior to 2001 with very little changes, improvements have come at a rapid pace.

Soldiers are also relying more on sensors and lasers, and PEO Soldier researchers are working at increasing range while reducing power consumption.

Some weapons that PEO Soldier is already testing:

·         M-26 shotgun.  This gives soldiers more firepower when entering rooms and buildings.

·         XM-25 air burst system.  Still in experimental phase, this uses a laser targeting system and allows soldiers to set increments where the round will hit beyond the designated target – good for firing bursts through windows.

·         XM-153 Common Remotely Operated Weapon Station.  This mounts on top of vehicles and supports a variety of weapons.  Coleman said they are considering replacing the joystick controller with an X-Box style controller because soldiers will be more familiar with it.

·         Electromagnetic guns. Still off in the future but making great strides is research on electromagnetic guns, according to Harry D. Fair, director and founder of the Institute for Advanced Technology at the University of Texas.  Basically, a weapon system would be powered by electric currents to launch projectiles.

             The advantage to this is that electromagnetic weapons would have “dial in” capabilities – the weapon could be set to control the energy of the projectile to just knock a person down or do something more lethal, Fair said.  They also have “unprecedented” ranges.

                      Electromagnetic guns also eliminate the need of propellants and charges, which reduces the logistics footprint because it eliminates the need to build, transport and store them, Fair said.

             The biggest challenge has been what to do about the power supply, Fair said. 

Researchers have looked at using pulsed alternators that the Army has used in the past, but they would need some advances.

             But Fair noted the huge advances in battery technology that have been made over recent years, and researchers are looking down that avenue as well.

·         Laser weapons. Lee Gutheinz joked about the science fiction aspect of shooting laser guns, but using high-energy laser beams is something that would provide low collateral damage while being scalable and operable in clandestine engagement.

“Thermal laser systems are ready for prime time,” Gutheinz said.

As a program director with Boeing Directed Energy Systems, Gutheinz has seen the evolution of laser technology as it is already being used in range finders.  But his division in Boeing is also researching the benefits of using lasers and thermal energies in more lethal roles.

Laser weapons aren’t likely to look like the shooting of laser guns like seen in Hollywood, but they will operate more like aiming a beam of light to heat and melt targets.

Gutheinz said Boeing has conducted ongoing tests using its Laser Avenger, which is a laser system mounted on top of a Humvee, to target improvised explosive devices.  In test of another laser system in December, a small unmanned aerial vehicle was tracked throughout flight over a short range and shot down by a laser. 

In 2012, testing will begin with the Army on a high-energy laser program, he said.

One of the biggest drawbacks is that laser systems operate on direct line of sight, but researchers are testing optical relays – such as one mounted on a UAV loitering over a target area -- that would redirect or project the laser beam onto targets, Gutheinz said.

All were speaking during the Association of the United States Army’s Fires Symposium and Exhibition in Dallas March 17 to 19.