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Old November 8th, 2020, 08:21 AM
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Default US Army New Missiles and Robots


WASHINGTON: Instead of picking a single missile to be its thousand-mile Mid-Range Capability, the Army has chosen to mix two very different Navy weapons together in its prototype MRC unit: the new, supersonic, high-altitude SM-6 and the venerable, subsonic, low-flying Tomahawk.

“Following a broad review of joint service technologies potentially applicable to MRC, the Army has selected variants of the Navy SM-6 and Tomahawk missiles to be part of the initial prototype,” says a Rapid Capabilities & Critical Technologies Office (RCCTO) statement released this afternoon. “The Army will leverage Navy contract vehicles for missile procurement in support of the Army integration OT [Other Transaction Authority] agreement.”

Lockheed Martin won the OTA contract, worth up to $339.4 million with all options, to integrate the two missiles – both built by Raytheon – into the Army fire control systems, vehicles, and support equipment required for a fully functioning artillery battery. Lockheed builds the current wheeled HIMARS and tracked MLRS launchers, which can handle a wide variety of current and future Army weapons, but neither the service nor the company would say whether they could fire either SM-6 or Tomahawk, citing security concerns.

They are set to enter service in 2023.

I asked the Army if it would modify either weapon to better its needs: The answer is no. “The Army will not modify the Navy missiles,” an official said in an email to Breaking Defense. That means the Army’s going to buy exactly what the Navy is getting.
The SM-6 selection surprised me at first, because its reported ranges are well short of the 1,000 miles the Army wants for the Mid-Range Capability. While the real range is classified, estimates range up to 290 miles (250 nautical miles).

However, the Navy is now developing an extended-range model of the SM-6, the Block 1B. (It’ll use the rocket booster from another Standard Missile variant, the ICBM-killing SM-3, which is known to have a range greater than 1,000 miles). What’s more, while the current SM-6 maxes out at Mach 3.5, the SM-6 Block 1B will reportedly reach hypersonic speeds, i.e. above Mach 5. While the Navy plans for Block 1B to complete development only in 2024, it wouldn’t be a stretch to have a handful of missiles available early for the Army’s MRC roll-out in late 2023.

WASHINGTON: The Army wants the first casualty of the next war to be a robot, not a human being. But no amount of high technology will allow a bloodless victory, warned the new commander of the service’s Maneuver Center at Fort Benning, which runs tank and infantry training. So instead of devising some futuristic all-new force, Maj. Gen. Patrick Donahoe and his staff are reviving battle-tested Cold War concepts – like tank-infantry teamwork and robust division-level formations – and updating them with a large dash of unmanned systems.

In guerrilla warfare in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Army beefed up its brigades to operate largely independently, with higher echelons such as divisions and corps in a supporting role. For future large-scale wars, Donahoe said, the Army wants to strengthen the division, restoring the brigade-strength artillery and reconnaissance (“divisional cavalry”) elements eliminated in the 2000s. This combination of long range firepower and scout forces — both air and ground — will allow division commanders to fight and maneuver over distances much larger than what their subordinate brigades can cover.

To compensate, Brigade Combat Teams may yield some of the specialized assets they’ve accumulated since the Cold War. “The BCT will probably be smaller [and] will have to get augmented for different tasks by the division,” Donahoe told the NDIA Armaments, Robotics, & Munitions (ARM) conference. “But it will be more technically technologically enabled [with] autonomous systems.”

Army studies of recent conflicts – Russia vs. Ukraine, Armenia vs. Azerbaijan – shows you can have a dramatic impact by adding a small infusion of 21st century tech to a largely Cold War force, Donahoe said. How? One approach the Russians have employed to devastating effect is to use drones to spot targets for rocket launchers. Likewise, while the US Army is developing a host of new missiles, armored vehicles, and aircraft, most units will be using Reagan-era hardware for years to come. In essence, Donahoe wants to organize these existing weapons in new formations and add drones and ground robots to scout ahead.

A Counter-Revolution in Military Affairs

Donahoe’s approach is at odds with a longstanding strain of technophilia in the Army. Particularly in recent months, I’ve noticed some generals reciting, in various forms, the mantra of the Future Combat Systems program cancelled in 2009: the idea that technology would let US forces “see first, understand first, act first.” Donahoe took issue with that techno-optimism in his remarks on Thursday.

“We know from our experience of the last 20 years that technological leaps are great, but they can’t give you this omniscient view of the world,” Donahoe warned. “This goes back to [the] late 1990s, early 2000s, when we had this drumbeat in United States military circles of this ‘Revolution in Military Affairs,’ [predicting] we will know everything, we will have such information dominance, we will be able to see first, act first….[Today], you hear some of the same arguments being made.”

“Be cautious of revolutions in military affairs,” said Donald Sando, Donahoe’s civilian deputy and an intellectual mainstay at Fort Benning for many years. “We can’t hope endlessly that technology will make warfare easier or less brutal or less costly, [because] The reality is, it doesn’t; it changes it. It makes it harder in many cases.”

“It is important that we use technology to the absolute best we can,” said Donahoe. “But we should never forget that it’s the soldier on the ground, it’s the tank crew in close combat, it’s that infantry fighting vehicle closing with the enemy… The tank-infantry team will remain the primary way we impose our will on the enemy in close combat.”

“That doesn’t mean we’re going to [send] those forces into a meatgrinder” without first trying every high-tech trick in the book, Donahoe said.

Historical data on direct-fire engagements “shows that our enemies generally shoot first 80 percent of the time,” Sando said. “We don’t like those odds, [so] we want to avoid the close fight if we can. If we can’t avoid it, we want to enter it under conditions that are favorable to us.”

But how? Current Army doctrine prescribes “making contact with the smallest element.” In layman’s terms, if you must stumble upon the enemy and get shot at (the formal term for this is a, “meeting engagement”), then do it with the smallest vanguard possible, giving the main body time to prepare and maneuver without being pinned down. In the future, Donahoe said, the goal will be to make first contact with an unmanned element.

Cold War doctrine envisioned engaging the enemy along what’s called the Forward Line Of Troops, or FLOT. In the new concept, according to a briefing at the conference, a Forward Line Of Unmanned Aerial Systems (FLUA) will fly ahead through no-man’s-land into enemy-held territory, followed by a Forward Line Of Robots (FLOR) on the ground, followed in turn by the Forward Line Of (Human) Troops. The unmanned systems will flush out the enemy, stumble into meeting engagements and ambushes, take and receive the first hits, and map the enemy position for the human troops coming along behind them.

Of course, the Army can’t do this today. To execute the concept in reality, they need a lot more unmanned systems, so they’re going to build them.

Robots For Every Echelon

To see the enemy before they shoot a human soldier, the Army wants to issue reconnaissance drones to units at every echelon, from long-range aircraft to palm-top micro-drones:

Division commanders already have the Army version of the Predator, the MQ-1C Grey Eagle; there’s a long-term plan to replace this with a new Advanced Unmanned Aerial System (AUAS) but this is pure PowerPoint so far.

Brigades currently make do with the RQ-7B Shadow, which requires a runway and extensive support equipment, and whose engine noise often warns enemies to hide from its approach. The Future Tactical UAS (FTUAS) program is now field-testing four possible replacements, all of them designed to operate without a runway, with minimal support, and with much less noise.

Battalions don’t have their own scout drones today, so the Army is developing formal requirements for small UAS known as Long-Range Recon (LRR).

Companies will continue to use the four-pound RQ-11B Raven, which soldiers launch by picking it up and throwing it into the air.

Platoons will get a Short-Range Recon (SRR) mini-drone. A decision to start production is pending, a briefer said, and if that goes ahead as planned, the first SRRs will go to operational units in 2021.

Squads are already receiving the Soldier-Borne Sensor (SBS) package, which consist of two Black Hornet micro-drones – small enough to land on the palm of your hand – plus a control unit and charging station.

Ground robots lag behind the aerial systems. It’s actually easier to program a computer to fly through empty air than to maneuver around rocks, trees, and ditches. But the Army is developing new Unmanned Ground Vehicles for reconnaissance, combat, and resupply:

The Robotic Combat Vehicle (RCV) Heavy is basically an unmanned light tank, in the 20 to 30-ton range. The first experimental RCV designs will be field-tested in 2023.

Textron is building an experimental 10-ton RCV-Medium, based on its Ripsaw mini-tank, while Qinetiq is building the seven-ton RCV-Light. (The contracts cover just eight vehicles for experiments in 2022, not full-scale production). These smaller Robotic Combat Vehicles are multi-purpose tracked machines that can carry supplies, sensors, jammers, or remote-controlled weapon systems.

The next size down is the Small Multipurpose Equipment Transport (S-MET), a wheeled vehicle much like a militarized golfcart. General Dynamics won the production contract, and the Army plans to acquire 624 S-METs through 2024. The S-MET’s primary mission is to trundle along behind foot troops carrying up to 1,000 pounds of supplies, but it could also be fitted with sensors and even weapons to scout ahead

The Army is also converting manned supply trucks into self-driving Leader-Follower vehicles, fielding a tracked mine-clearing robot called the M160 Flail, and modernizing its fleet of remote-controlled bomb-squad-style robots.
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Old November 8th, 2020, 08:27 AM
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Default Re: US Army New Missiles and Robots


The Army is conducting a study to determine whether it should change the size of its infantry squads as it adds “Next Generation” technology to the force’s elemental fighting unit.

Col. Alexis Rivera Espada, head of the Army’s Maneuver Battle Lab at Fort Benning, Georgia, referenced the “squad study” Thursday during a presentation at the National Defense Industrial Association’s virtual Armaments, Robotics and Munitions annual event. The study commenced this year and will include experimentation in force on force events next year.

The colonel called the study, directed by Army Headquarters, the first of its kind in decades.

In recent years, the Marine Corps ran its own series of infantry squad experiments, eventually shifting its size from 13, which had been in place for decades, to 15.

The 15-Marine squad adds a squad systems operator to take on the new array of small drones and coming ground robots available to the unit. The other add-on was an assistant squad leader to better manage coordinating fires and the flood of information coming to the squad.

The Army has held infantry squads in nine-soldier formations for decades, preferring to keep the company as a base of maneuver for its dismounted troops, meaning the smaller squads were simply components of that larger group.

But, in just the next two years, two key pieces of gear are headed to that smaller squad.

The Integrated Visual Augmentation System, or IVAS, a do-it-all goggle that adds augmented reality for navigation, targeting, communication, bio-tracking and even facial recognition and text translation is expected to go to its first units within a year.

The Next Generation Squad Weapon, or NGSW, will add extended range, accuracy and lethality once fielded. The 6.8mm weapon will replace both the Squad Automatic Weapon and the M4 carbine.

But those are only the tangible items in the hands of soldiers. More importantly, a deeper, more expanded and robust network of sensors and connections from the squad through its higher echelons will put an array of weapons platforms in the hands of the lowest levels of the close combat units.
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Old November 8th, 2020, 08:27 AM
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Default Re: US Army New Missiles and Robots

I honestly don't believe the 6.8mm NGSW will ever show up. They're asking for the insane from that piece of technology.

Guns N Ammo laid out the issues:


While the details about the Army’s projectile are still classified, here is my best guess on its potential makeup. First off, I bet it weighs approximately 135 to 140 grains and must travel at velocities close to 3,100 feet per second (fps) from 13- to 16-inch barrels to meet Army needs. The only way to get that kind of performance from those lengths of barrel is to run chamber pressures up around 80,000 to 90,000 pounds per square inch (psi). This would put proof loads over 100,000 psi. That’s a spicy meatball!

High-pressure ammunition is a hotly contested topic, and I’ve been very critical of the concept. I remain critical of anything that raises chamber pressures above 55,000 psi in a direct-*impingement firearm. Anything higher than that and the gun quickly beats itself to death.

Pressures exceeding 55,000 psi in rifles designed for high pressure come with some definite advantages and a handful of disadvantages. The biggest advantages of high-pressure ammunition are substantially increased velocities, the option to attain those velocities from much shorter barrels and improved terminal effects.

All-brass cases can’t handle that kind of pressure and can result in ruptured/split cases, primers being blown out of their pockets, or case heads separating from the body. Either way, all that pressure will go somewhere it isn’t wanted.

SIG SAUER:.277 SIG Fury at SHOT 2020. SIG’s military designation for their cartridge is 6.8x51mm. This round uses a three-piece case that has a steel case head, brass body and a locking washer that mechanically connects the two.

True Velocity/General Dynamics: A polymer cased ammo.

Textron & Winchester: Plastic telescoped cased ammo.


All this is because CoS Mark Milley has a hard on for defeating Level IV body armor at 600~ meters in an individual weapon

My opinion?

Nobody ever pointed out to Mark Milley that at 600~ meters, you can just use regular 5.56mm ammo to keep the enemy suppressed while you bring marksmen fire (all that extra money spent over the last few years on ACOGs and variable scopes etc) to shoot them in the head.

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Old November 8th, 2020, 11:40 AM
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Default Re: US Army New Missiles and Robots

On the 6.8mm topic.
There's also the factor that the 5.56mm has bee found a bit lackluster when it comes to stopping power. Of course everyone would like every weapon to have the stopping power of a .50cal!

If the USMCs current move to replace their tube artillery with various types of MLRS systems is fully adopted it will have "interesting" repercussions on picklists, costs, and artillery overload.
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Old November 8th, 2020, 06:08 PM
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Default Re: US Army New Missiles and Robots

Originally Posted by Suhiir View Post
On the 6.8mm topic.
There's also the factor that the 5.56mm has bee found a bit lackluster when it comes to stopping power.
That's mainly in places that are wide open in Afghanistan. To which everyone has responded by bringing back 7.62mm GPMGs into lower squad organizations, along with more 7.62mm rifles like M-14, and various AR-10 derivatives.

It just seems to me that this 6.8mm hyper pressure cartridge is a R&D solution to keep gun companies in business with contracts.

It might actually see limited service with Special Forces, who admittedly would need the extra overmatch the 6.8mm round requires; but for Big Army and Big Marines, just have a few M240s on the truck if you need it.
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Old November 8th, 2020, 10:48 PM

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Default Re: US Army New Missiles and Robots

Al sounds wonderful, till the guy in the third world country defeats with some common sense and simple tools and weapons. Fancy toys don't win battles. We should have learned that by now...

"Only the dead have seen the end of wars" - Plato

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the orders come down from on high,
It's 'On Full Kits' and sound 'Board Ships,'
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Old November 8th, 2020, 11:11 PM
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Default Re: US Army New Missiles and Robots

When the Soviets went into Afghanistam they found themselves being plinked at range by old .303 rifles which only the full-fat .30 Russian Dragunovs and PKM machine guns could answer, so they issued more of those to the grunts. They also got interested in the 30mm AGS system as well...

Naturally the NATO forces with complete 20-20 hindsight of the Soviet experience () found themselves in exactly the same situation when they decided to take thier turn in the country. Cue rapid reissuing of full-fat 7.62 weapons all over the place, and 40mm GLs too.

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