DETROIT ARSENAL, Mich — Modernization is the buzz word floating around the Army currently and with good reason. To keep ahead of our near-peer adversaries, we must develop better technologies faster to dominate the battle space.
“We’ve done a good job at keeping up with developing current technologies,” said Maj. Gen. Darren Werner, Commanding General U.S. Army Tank-automotive and Armaments Command. “However, we need to get it to the Soldiers in the field for it to matter.”
Werner, along with other officers and civilian leaders attended a Leader–Follower demonstration on Apr. 5 at the Detroit Arsenal. The event was led by the Ground Vehicle Systems Center on the arsenal to highlight the effectiveness of semi-autonomous robotic Tactical Wheeled Vehicles.
Bernard Theisen, Division Chief Combat Support Robotics and Safety for GVSC, briefed the capabilities of the Leader-Follower vehicles and stated that they had some similar on-road capabilities to some current high end luxury vehicles and other off-road capabilities unique to the military.
“The vehicles have the capability to be driven independently, remotely, or in this instance, made to follow a lead vehicle,” said Theisen.
The Leader–Follower vehicles offers field commanders better options when operating in a combat zone by providing manned and unmanned capabilities.
According to Alfred Grein, Acting Director GVSC, by installing robotic kits to vehicles, a lead “manned” vehicle can lead a convoy of one or more follower “unmanned” vehicles accurately and safely.
Outside of Leader–Follower option, the Program Executive Officer Combat Support and Combat Service Support is looking at fielding the technology as GVSC continues developing further ways to leverage and improve the capabilities at a later time.
“Now that the hardware is in place, we can look at ways to enhance the remote and semi-autonomous capabilities in the future,” said Grein. “All we have to do is update the software.”
There are currently 60 Leader–Follower systems issued to the 41st Transportation Company at Fort Polk, Louisiana with their next software upgrade currently undergoing safety testing at Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Maryland. GVSC Agile Development, Security, and Operations approach through the Software Foundry allows for Soldier to provide constant feedback to the developers and to deliver better products to the user faster while supporting both PEO Ground Combat Systems and PEO CS &CSS operational needs.
By Scott Wakefield