In the hills and woodlands of western Georgia, soldiers in squad to company-sized teams are running mock battles, testing out the latest, greatest and weirdest tactical-level gear that the Army hopes will give them the edge in a rapid, complex, fight of the future.
The Army Expeditionary Warrior Experiments this year focused on six categories: lethality, mission command, mobility, survivability, sustainment, team and soldier performance.
The AEWE began in 2004 to focus modernization effort on the small unit. They run in two phases, the first phase, from October to January, are standalone and live fire events with each system.
The force-on-force experiments begins in February and will run for three weeks. The annual event culminates on March 17 with a an “Insights Day” at Fort Benning, Georgia, that includes briefings on gear tested and how soldiers used it during the experimentation, Maneuver Battle Lab spokeswoman Monica Manganaro told Army Times.
Below is a just small sampling of a few of the 68 items listed for experimentation in six categories.
Cerberus GL UCAV
A 14 pound 3-shot, 40mm grenade-firing bot, this drone puts tactical-level loitering munitions in the hands of the small unit for fires support, basic aerial reconnaissance and battle damage assessments. The platform can fire explosive, flash, smoke, infrared and tear gas rounds and fly for 22 minutes at ranges up to 2 miles. It can also accommodate a laser rangefinder and swap out payloads to use a netgun for opposing drones, 12 gauge rounds and micro munitions. (Skyborne Technologies Pty Ltd.)
This shot-tracking, 1.6 ounce sensor is embedded in rifle or pistol handgrips. The device monitors, timestamps and geolocates all weapon use and weapon discharge in a given area. It uses a rechargeable battery that can run for 96 hours. The autonomous battle coordination system allows commanders to monitor and respond to “ground-level incidents in real time.” (Armaments Research Company, Inc.)
The 6.75-pound, 18.5-inch suppressed 5.56mm rifle with collapsible stock for soldiers rides with vehicles like the Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle or M1 Abrams tank. For day-to-day activities in permissive and semi-permissive environments, key leader engagements and urban settings, the weapon offers more firepower than a pistol but fits within vehicles, allowing for more maneuver room. (Maxim Defense Industries, LLC)
LETS/MACS-B Unmanned System Technology
This air and ground robot system deploys multiple drones from an unmanned ground robot to run rapid 3D-mapping of an area. The system can run autonomously and share data across networked devices. It can also be controlled for more fine-tuned use by a soldier. During force-on-force operations, soldiers can use the system for target acquisition, reconnaissance and mapping, as well as compile data for advanced fires planning. (Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Armament Center)
This snake-like robot gives soldiers the ability to check out subterranean, confined space or unstructured environments. The multipurpose unmanned ground vehicle can transmit visual, audio and data intelligence to the user. It can carry up to a 10 pound payload, including sensors for chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear detection. Its range extends to 1,000 feet and can operate for up to three hours. (Sarcos Corporation)
This tactical level radar kit can be mounted at sites across an area and will remotely monitor enemy movement. The system can detect human movement up to 500 meters and vehicles at up to 1,000 meters away. First displayed at the 2017 AEWE, upgrades include an integrated GPS, ruggedized connectors, MPU5 radios and wireless operation. (ELTA North America)
This scooter-like ATV can ride either with a soldier driving or semi-autonomously. It can carry up to two people and pull a two-wheel, specially designed trailer for casualty or equipment transport. Both two- and four-wheel versions are available. It can fold onto itself for storage and transport. (Mistral Inc.)
Knee and ankle exoskeletons
The novel pneumatic exoskeleton is designed to reduce fatigue and give soldier knees more endurance for carrying loads or changing elevation. It can also help troops maintain peak running and walking speeds for longer when on flat ground. (Roam Robotics Inc.)
Ametrine thermal blanket
Material made using ametrine technology can shelter soldiers from thermal detection. It conceals heat signatures and can be used in forms like blankets, uniforms, or even a vehicle cover. (Federal Resources)
Audio gunshot detector
This body-worn system uses a wireless radio link to detect the source of small-arms fire and present that location on a visual display unit. It provides the direction and distance of the threat, allowing soldiers to collect information for targeting without having to see a shooter. That, coupled with other sensors, can help identify a target. (QinetiQ North America)
Safe Shoot friendly fire prevention
The weapons-mounted mesh networked radio system senses a weapon’s azimuth, angle and communication network backchannel to determine if a friendly entity is in the path of the weapon. It then provides immediate, automatic and autonomous alerts directly to the shooter. (Mistral Inc.)
Single soldier-portable micro generator
The P3 can provide consistent electrical output of 1 to 2 kilowatts and fits in a medium-sized backpack configuration, weighing 20 to 34 pounds. The microgenerator can run on any combustible liquid and is designed for low thermal output and sound attenuation. The microgenerator gives platoons with power requirements an “on-the-go” logistics option. (Enginuity Power Systems)
Bell Autonomous Pod Transport
The APT is a scalable drone that comes in two variants, one can carry up to 20 pounds and the other, 70. The larger version has a 48 kilometer range in under 30 minutes. With vertical takeoff, it does not rely on runways or roads. An all-electric system, it reduces fuel needs. And with swappable pods APT can support various missions from chemical-biological detection, to radio transmission/retransmission, to medical resupply. (Bell)
TEAM AND SOLDIER PERFORMANCE
The system integrates heads-up display goggles and weapons sensors to track weapon orientation, shot counting and downrange gunnery. It connects with existing platforms such as Nett Warrior, adding human performance data. The system can help commanders quantify shooter ability to engage targets accurately and consistently and identify weapon location and orientation. (FN America, LLC)
CRG Total Exposure Health Sensor Pod System
This system is designed to monitor varying air quality exposure. The sensor collects total exposure data for a variety of common volatile compounds and logs that information wirelessly into a system that can be adjusted to specific environments. The pods can be deployed in field environments or industrial settings. (CRG, Inc.)
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.