WASHINGTON, Nov. 30, 2010 — An Army organization is transforming conceptual science into valuable capabilities for warfighters.
“The fact that we’re able to take technology… and rapidly spin those things out to soldiers… You know, that’s really a testament to the vision of the guys who started these programs 10 years ago,” Col. John “Buck” Surdu, military deputy, U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, communications-electronics center, said yesterday during a “DoDLive” bloggers roundtable. The command is based at Fort Monmouth, N.J., with facilities at Fort Dix, N.J., and Fort Belvoir, Va.
“What’s limiting our ability to deliver more of those [technologies] to soldiers is the production capability of some of the vendors,” Surdu said.
In 2009, he said, three command-developed technologies were commended as some of that year’s “Army’s Greatest Inventions.” They included the Rucksack Enhanced Portable Power System, the Wolfhound Handheld Threat Warning System, and the Counter Radio Controlled Improvised Explosive Device Electronic Warfare Duke V3.
“The interesting thing about the Army’s Greatest Inventions Program is it’s an opportunity for soldiers — not the researchers who have a vested interest in the development effort — to grade technologies that have been recently deployed to the field,” Surdu said. “Every year, 10 inventions or developments are selected by soldiers as being the top 10 for the year. At CERDEC… we were fortunate enough this year to have three out of 10 selected, which is a pretty good percentage.”
Surdu explained the capabilities of each technology, and why the warfighters who used them felt it gave them an advantage on the battlefield.
“Wolfhound allows us to… identify where the enemy is, so that we can make decisions about how to respond, whether that’s to engage them with fire or follow them back to their lairs,” he said. Yet, Wolfhound’s greatest asset is its integration of commercial technologies to thwart improvised explosive devices.
The Duke V3 device, Surdu said, has potentially life-saving capabilities as a threat deterrent.
“It stops the ability for the enemy to set off radio-controlled IEDs within what’s called the CREW [Counter Radio-Controlled Electronic Warfare] bubble — the area that’s being jammed by the CREW devices,” he said. “These are typically put in convoys… In fact, many of our camps and FOBs are protected by jammers as well.”
Development of the REPPS, Surdu said, began with a specialized group within CERDEC that works on supplying soldiers’ electric power requirements.
Creating systems that supply increasingly efficient energy assists U.S. troops in a big way, Surdu said.
“If you’ve ever had to carry 120 pounds’-worth of equipment up a mountain,” he said, “you realize how, you know, carrying one-fourth the number of batteries is particularly useful.”
Utilizing flexible photovoltaic cells, Surdu said, the system employs solar energy to recharge batteries used to power everything from radios to unattended sensor systems, with the latter helping increase survivability and base-camp defense.
Surdu said he’d like to see more modularity used in ground combat vehicle designs and other systems for the Army.
“We need to be designing ground combat vehicle[s] and other systems for the Army with modularity in mind from the beginning… We design software that way — that’s why you get patches and other things loaded into your system — we design software to be upgradable and updatable over time… But we don’t necessarily design our big systems of record with that expandability in mind right from the beginning,” he pointed out.
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