Veteran sailor/journalist meets Army tech at AUSA

My editor assigned me to an Army trade show this month – my first military trade show as a journalist. Walking the aisles of the Association of the United States Army (AUSA) show in Washington last week touched me with a bit of nostalgia, it was the first time in three years I’ve been in a room full of uniformed military personnel. Last time it was with more sailors than soldiers as it followed my time in the U.S. Navy. Still, it was fun seeing what new toys the Army folks might get to play with in the field – an experience I never had those years at sea.

Before I flew home, I sat in on my boss’s interview with Oshkosh Defense’s John Bryant as he elaborated on the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, but my favorite part of that interview and the week was a side conversation with Bryant, a former Marine Colonel, on serving on a Navy destroyer. Made me feel at home in a new field. To read the interview, click here. My other highlights are below.

Intelligence gathering via unmanned systems

One of my first stops was at Harris – the former Exelis part – where I was introduced to CorvusEye 1500, a 15-inch wide area motion imagery system that observes activity and gathers intelligence over a city-size area. The idea is to put this on an unmanned system to capture two frames per second of video. The system has the ability to capture 10 areas of interest either in color or infrared. The whole purpose is to gather on an area.

Countering threats of small UAVs

While unmanned aircraft are key elements of U.S. forces they are also potential threats when deployed by adversaries and the government is looking for options on how to counter that threat. Engineers at Lockheed Martin are looking to counter small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) with non-kinetic solutions. Company personnel were showcasing their solution, dubbed ICARUS, at AUSA. ICARUS intercepts and counteracts group one and two UAS systems and can even take manual control of the threat and remove it from the area. To read more on it, click here.

Simplifying tools for soldiers with WIN-T

Throughout the show there was a trend toward enabling network centricity for the warfighter. General Dynamics Missions Systems engineers are enabling this through the Warfighter Information Network-Tactical (WIN-T). The company announced a full-rate production contract for WIN-T at the show. The next step of WIN-T is to reduce the number of network management tools. By improving cyber defense and network operations (NetOps) tools through open architecture solutions, it will lead to a simplified dashboard, according to company officials.

Pilots are sharing their line of sight

As I mentioned above, the most fun is to be had by trying out the “toys” themselves at the show when possible. For me that was donning the Helmet Mounted Display system by Elbit Systems, which is designed to improve pilot’s visibility in harsh environments, such as brown outs. That’s not its only perk; the pilot’s can also share their line of site through their helmet trackers.
Technology is so near and so far when you are serving in the military, that putting on this helmet and thereby ruining my hairstyle was a definite perk of my now civilian job.

Rugged displays

Through all the video coverage that is required to gather intelligence, ZMicro’s Real-Time Enhanced Video (RTEV) leverages algorithms to capture video and improve image quality. It’s all about taking a point of interest to see what’s going on out there through dust, smog, snow, etc. The best part is, if you’re so pissed off and you accidently kick it with your boot, it survives to display video another day.

Overall the week at AUSA was fun as I got to check out the latest updates and upgrades of what soldiers will use. The new technology is amazing and provides unprecedented capability to the military as a whole, but I fear the technology is removing the soldier almost entirely from the equation. Every tech designer – whether it is a radio, a display, or a sensor – are focused in some way on making it easier for the warfighter to operate — but is that the reality?

Yes, sailors and soldiers can focus more on decision making and not worry about the trivial stuff – but 10 years ago every sailor went to school for months at a time to learn their job (might be different for the Army). I went to school for six months to be an electrician. Sailors are becoming more operators than system experts. What happens when it breaks down and you don’t know how to fix it? You can’t fly in an engineer to the middle of nowhere to fix it. Something to think about…

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