Bottom line up front on the U.S. Army’s fiscal 2013 budget request: Communications and rotary-wing aircraft win, most new ground vehicles live to fight another day, and the service’s modernization plans look pretty secure.
While the service is being forced to trim about 80,000 soldiers over the next five years, it is still investing in upgrades to existing platforms. In fiscal 2013, the Army plans to spend about $3.6 billion on its top three rotary-wing aviation programs and $10.6 billion on ground vehicle programs, the Defense Department announced Feb. 13.
The U.S. Army’s Network Integration Evaluation (NIE) effort — the cornerstone of its tactical communications, surveillance and intelligence-sharing modernization — looks like it will emerge from the fiscal 2013 budget rollout in pretty good shape, according to Army officials.
The program currently anticipates its next evaluation in May, while working on plans for capability evaluations to continue through 2013 and into fiscal 2014, according to service spokesman Paul Mehney.
As of the end of January, the K-MAX unmanned helicopter had delivered over 100,000 lb. of cargo on more than 50 resupply missions in Afghanistan, according to numbers provided by Lockheed Martin, which produces the K-MAX along with Kaman Aerospace.
The U.S. Marine Corps flew its first-ever unmanned cargo resupply mission in Afghanistan on Dec. 17, sending the K-MAX on a mission to supply Marines stationed at a small combat outpost with 3,500 lb. of food and equipment.
The U.S. Army’s Ground Combat Vehicle office is teaming up with the armed service’s Network Integration Evaluation (NIE) effort at Fort Bliss, Texas, this spring to test several non-developmental vehicle technologies as part of its larger analysis of alternatives/non-developmental testing and evaluation program.
As soon as the helicopter touched the ground on a dusty airfield in southern Afghanistan, the game had been forever changed.
After a decade of sending vulnerable, manpower-intensive, fuel-guzzling ground convoys to resupply troops at far-flung combat outposts in Iraq and Afghanistan—and seeing those convoys consistently ambushed, blown up or just delayed—the U.S. Marine Corps had had enough. So, on Dec. 17, 2011, the Corps for the first time delivered supplies to troops using a remotely piloted helicopter.
By the end of this year, the U.S. will have spent more than $50 billion on training and equipping the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) in an effort to hand over security duties once NATO departs in 2014. The past two years have seen almost half of that spending, with $11.6 billion having been spent in 2011 and another $11.2 billion on tap in 2012.
Additional autonomy will be key if U.S. unmanned aircraft are to operate in the contested airspace of the future, according to the U.S. Air Force’s first deputy chief of staff for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.
THROWBOTS: Qinetiq North America announced Jan. 24 that it had received a $5.3 million order from the Pentagon’s Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization (Jieddo) for more than 100 Dragon Runner 10 throwable robots. Weighing in at just more than 10 lb., the 15-in.-long, 13.5-in.-wide and 5.8-in.-tall robot can climb stairs and carry various payloads including sensors, cameras, and robotic arms while maintaining effective wireless communication over long distances. Deliveries will continue into spring 2012.
The Pentagon’s Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization (Jieddo) is looking for industry solutions to the problem of homemade explosives (HME) — specifically those made with ammonium nitrate fertilizer, which has become the deadliest weapon used against NATO troops in Afghanistan.
According to a Broad Area Announcement issued Jan. 17, Jieddo is looking for studies that will “define the signatures and available observables” for these explosives, as well as “aid in the development of capabilities to counter these threats.”