U.S. Army Orders Several Hundred Heavy Robots

 In GDI, USA, Land, Defense, Cyber/ICT, Threats

The U.S. Army has con­firmed that it select­ed FLIR Systems, a com­pa­ny that spe­cial­izes in the pro­duc­tion of ther­mal imag­ing cam­eras and Unmanned Systems, to pro­duce the Common Robotic System – Heavy, or CRS‑H, (pro­nounced “Chris‑H”) to bol­ster EOD Soldiers’ pro­tec­tion by increas­ing stand­off to inter­ro­gate haz­ardous devices in the range of mil­i­tary oper­a­tions and in home­land defense appli­ca­tions.

Delivery of this mod­ern­ized capa­bil­i­ty is slat­ed to begin in the third quar­ter of Fiscal Year 2020. The con­tract is val­ued at $109 mil­lion, and the Army Acquisition Objective is 248, accord­ing to a recent ser­vice news release.

“The Army is mod­ern­iz­ing robot­ic and autonomous capa­bil­i­ties with a fam­i­ly of endur­ing sys­tems that lever­age the best of avail­able com­mer­cial tech­nol­o­gy crit­i­cal to giv­ing Soldiers over­match in future con­tin­gen­cies,” explained Timothy G. Goddette, the Army’s pro­gram exec­u­tive offi­cer for Combat Support & Combat Service Support, head­quar­tered here. “The cur­rent approach allows the Army to focus resources on fast-chang­ing pay­load tech­nol­o­gy, rather than hav­ing to replace entire sys­tems — mean­ing Soldiers can access new tech­nol­o­gy faster and can buy more of what the Army real­ly requires.”

The Army’s release states that CRS‑H’s basic oper­a­tional capa­bil­i­ties include: plat­form speed – 6 mph; obsta­cle clear­ance – 32 inch­es (Jersey Barrier); plat­form endurance – 7 hours; weight – 700 lbs.; inter­op­er­abil­i­ty pro­file com­pli­ant; cyber hard­ened.

CRS‑H’s spe­cial fea­tures will pro­vide enhanced capa­bil­i­ty to detect, iden­ti­fy, access, ren­der safe, exploit, and achieve final dis­po­si­tion of heavy explo­sive ord­nance, includ­ing Improvised Explosive Devices, Vehicle Borne IEDs, and Weapons of Mass Destruction at safe stand­off. CRS‑H will field with these native pay­loads:

• Cameras (includ­ing pan, tilt, zoom)
• Secure radios
• One radio relay to extend oper­a­tional range in urban and com­plex ter­rain
• Robust manip­u­la­tor arm
• Cargo car­ri­er rack
• Operator con­trol unit.

With the CRS‑H pro­gram, a phased, quick­er acqui­si­tion plan allowed the Army to make informed pro­gram deci­sions based on direct Soldier feed­back on com­mer­cial­ly avail­able tech­nol­o­gy — field­ing equip­ment faster than typ­i­cal process­es allow. The sys­tem was devel­oped under Other Transaction Authorities, or OTAs, dur­ing Phase I and Phase II efforts. An OTA is an author­i­ty of the Department of Defense to car­ry out cer­tain pro­to­type, research, test­ing and pro­duc­tion projects. OTAs were cre­at­ed to give DoD the flex­i­bil­i­ty nec­es­sary to adopt and incor­po­rate busi­ness prac­tices that reflect com­mer­cial indus­try stan­dards and best prac­tices into its award instru­ments.

“Using an inno­v­a­tive acqui­si­tion strat­e­gy that involved close syn­chro­nized team­ing with the Army EOD Capability Developer and Army G8, employ­ment of the Army’s Robotic Enhancement Program and the OTAs, the CRS‑H team award­ed this con­tract with­in a year and a half of Capability Production Document approval. Using tra­di­tion­al acqui­si­tion process­es, it could have tak­en as much as three and a half years to get to this point in a pro­gram,” said Lou Anulare, the Army’s prod­uct man­ag­er for Unmanned Ground Vehicles.

Soldier eval­u­a­tion has tru­ly been a crit­i­cal part of the CRS‑H pro­gram from the out­set, and has helped com­press the time it takes to field a mod­ern­ized capa­bil­i­ty that meets the needs of the Soldier. “We devel­op equip­ment for Soldiers to use in demand­ing sit­u­a­tions, and there is no sub­sti­tute for their per­spec­tive in oper­at­ing the sys­tem – their input is of utmost val­ue,” said Maj. James Alfaro, chief EOD capa­bil­i­ty devel­op­er, Sustainment Capability Development and Integration Directorate, Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.

Anulare echoed Alfaro’s com­ments and explained the first Soldier “touch­point” occurred dur­ing the program’s Phase I’s “fly off” in late 2018 at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo. There, an EOD team con­duct­ed oper­a­tions to uti­lize each of the three can­di­date CRS‑H sys­tems to sim­u­late mis­sions respond­ing to com­plex explo­sive haz­ard threats — to include Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Devices and large ord­nance items. Each EOD Soldier pro­vid­ed feed­back on each sys­tem rel­a­tive to each mis­sion. The Army pro­vid­ed this feed­back direct­ly to each com­pet­ing com­pa­ny, which was used to upgrade their sys­tems pri­or to deliv­er­ing hard­ware for the next fly off.

The sec­ond Soldier touch­point took place dur­ing Fly Off #2 in May and June this year at a Military Operations on Urban Terrain site on Fort Hood, Texas. During this event, Anulare said three sep­a­rate EOD teams eval­u­at­ed each of the three can­di­date CRS‑H sys­tems. These teams con­duct­ed mis­sions that repli­cat­ed explo­sive haz­ard threat sce­nar­ios expect­ed dur­ing large-scale com­bat oper­a­tions. Each Soldier pro­vid­ed feed­back through sur­veys assess­ing over­all sys­tem per­for­mance of each of the can­di­date CRS‑H sys­tems. Ultimately, the Soldier feed­back gained through exper­i­men­ta­tion proved to be a crit­i­cal fac­tor in the source selec­tion process for the CRS‑H pro­duc­tion con­tract down-select announced Nov. 14.

The next steps in the CRS‑H pro­gram call for using Phase II test­ing results to obtain a Safety Confirmation and Operational Test Agency Evaluation Report to allow for imme­di­ate field­ing to EOD Teams under a Conditional Materiel Release with Commercial Off The Shelf tech­ni­cal man­u­als in the third quar­ter of Fiscal Year 2020. The Army will then com­plete addi­tion­al logis­tics require­ments, includ­ing main­tain­er man­u­als and Field Level Maintainer New Equipment Training nec­es­sary to achieve Full Materiel Release in Fiscal Year 2021.

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Source: Defence Blog

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