The Army’s Rapid Equipping Force works to quickly get gear into soldiers’ hands to fill short-term needs.

Col. John Ward, REF commander, sat down with Army Times at the Association of the U.S. Army’s Annual Meeting & Exposition this week to discuss some of the major projects he’s working on.

All fall in line with Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley’s priorities for current and near-future needs.

They include:

  • Counter-drone technologies, both mounted and dismounted.
  • Dismounted electronic warfare equipment.
  • Tethered intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities.
  • Urban operations equipment, including up-armored commercial vehicles.

REF held three competitions in recent years to fill the emerging and active counter-done need, Ward said. The office has been flooded with industry responses and has pushed many items into theater. It continues to sort through other submissions and equipment to match specific capabilities with commander needs.

The Rapid Equipping Force was established in 2002 to take immediate theater requirements and find solutions for soldier use within 180 days. Much of the work fills a temporary need while informing other programs and capabilities for the Army, Ward said.

The colonel said that the Joint Improvised Threat Defeat Organization has picked up many of the submissions to get counter-drone capabilities to soldiers.

The force has also held other competitions and has more planned in two high-demand areas — electronic warfare and long-term, tethered ISR.

This year’s competition focused on dismounted electronic warfare equipment while a competition early next year in Yuma, Arizona, will focus on smaller mounted electronic warfare equipment, Ward said.

The dismounted systems, VMAX and VROD Dismounted Electronic Support/ Attack, allow commanders to survey the invisible electronic environment.

VROD detects electronic frequencies, creating a virtual “map” of the electronic environment. VMAX allows soldiers to conduct focused electronic attacks at certain frequencies in the spectrum.

Soldiers at Grafenwoehr Training Area, Germany, including soldiers from 2nd Cavalry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, and the 4th Infantry Division’s 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, trained on the systems earlier this year.

REF is also looking at increasing electronic warfare capabilities to add to the next-generation combat vehicle, including more powerful amplifiers, adjustable antennae and increased software capabilities.

The tethered ISR work is looking at extended flight times of 100 hours or more for longer term surveillance than is offered by current models, Ward said.

Todd South has written about crime, courts, government and the military for multiple publications since 2004 and was named a 2014 Pulitzer finalist for a co-written project on witness intimidation. Todd is a Marine veteran of the Iraq War.

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