U.S. Army on track to field 24 systems in Exercise 23 toward a modern force


AUSTIN, Texas and WASHINGTON – The United States military is set to deliver hypersonic weapons, missiles capable of reaching 500 kilometers and a cannon that will reach double its current range as part of a group of two dozen systems it plans to deploy over the next year.

The 24 key systems slated for fielding in fiscal year 2023 are part of a total group of 35 that the Army wants to get troops out of by 2030, when it would then declare the service a fully modernized force.

At the head of the army is the Army Futures Command, based in Austin, Texas.

“Progress is generally going very well,” Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth told Defense News in a recent Pentagon interview. “Given that we have 24 systems in a year that we’re either trying to start fielding or getting prototypes into the hands of soldiers, we might run into some bumps in the road along the way. I think that’s to be expected. »

The rapid timeline forced the Army to move more quickly through the development process, which Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville acknowledged to Defense News as a risk.

But the service continually puts prototypes in the hands of soldiers along the way, what the military calls “points of contact,” with the goal of enabling quick adaptations and honest assessments of progress.

“What’s really important is getting to the Alpha model,” McConville said. “If you get the ability, put it in the hands of the soldiers, then we will gradually improve it.”

Army officials said lessons learned from the war in Ukraine so far do not require changes to its modernization plans.

“We’re absolutely right,” McConville said. The war shows, for example, that the Army’s No. 1 priority, long-range sniper fire, and capabilities in that portfolio like hypersonic weapons with ranges of 1,700 kilometers, a precision missile capable of firing up to 500 kilometers and ship-killing mid-range capable missiles, would all be needed against close adversaries like Russia and China.

Coming soon

The long-range sniper equipment is expected to pass several key milestones during Exercise 23. Hypersonic missiles will be deployed to the first unit at the very end of the exercise after two major flight tests utilizing the capability of Army ground launch.

The military also plans to deliver the first-ever increment of its Precision Strike missile, which can reach 500 kilometers in range. It would later be upgraded with ship destruction capability and increased range and lethality.

The Mid-Range Capability missile, intended to track moving maritime targets, will also be fielded during this exercise, just two years after the military said it would seek the capability. In November 2020, the Army selected Lockheed Martin to integrate the Navy’s SM-6 and Tomahawk missiles with a launcher and battery operations center to create an MRC prototype.

The army is also building extended range cannon artillery systems that will increase the range of the guns to 70 kilometers. The service builds 18 prototypes; the first battalion composed of these prototypes will be delivered in FY23.

The next-generation combat vehicle portfolio has already successfully established initial contact with soldiers. The multi-purpose armored vehicle, intended to replace the M113s, underwent an operational test earlier this year and is expected to undergo a full production decision this fiscal year.

This summer, the Army chose General Dynamics Land Systems to build its Mobile Protected Firepower system, while a unit at Fort Hood, Texas, helped earlier this year evaluate prototype lightweight robotic combat vehicles.

While future manned vertical lift capabilities will come later, the service plans to field AeroVironment’s Arcturus Jump 20 unmanned aircraft system, intended to meet an urgent need for a future tactical UAS to replace the Shadow UAS, during this exercise. The Army will also organize a competitive evaluation of the systems for a second installment.

A short-range, directed-energy air defense capability is expected to be fielded into an Army unit potentially in the first quarter of FY23.

The Army’s Integrated Combat Command System, intended to link sensors and gunners on the battlefield, is in the midst of initial operational testing and evaluation ahead of a full-scale production decision this exercise. .

The lower-level air and missile defense sensor will serve as a radar in the army’s future integrated air and missile defense system. Congress has asked the Army to deploy a four-sensor LTAMDS battalion by December 2023, but the Army wants to do so by the end of September 2023.

Program officials have had to adjust the LTAMDS schedule to address system integration challenges and supply chain issues caused by COVID-19, the program officer told Defense News earlier this year.

The Army is also building a robust synthetic training environment and plans to provide Soldiers during Exercise 23 with the Reconfigurable Virtual Collective Trainer, IVAS Squad Immersive Virtual Trainer and One World Terrain, combat management tools training and training simulation software.

New management

On October 4, the acting head of Army Futures Command, Lieutenant General James Richardson, handed over the reins to General James Rainey.

Wormuth said Rainey’s top priority will be to “ensure we are able to deliver, of course working with the [acquisition] team, all 24 systems in ’23.

After 40 years of service, Richardson marveled at the technological revolution that has taken place over the past four years at Army Futures Command and told an audience in Austin at the Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library that “this It’s no exaggeration to say that the outcome of the future war could turn on something the Army Future Command does or doesn’t do.

“If you are in the AFC, military or civilian, the future is now,” he added.

Jen Judson is an award-winning journalist covering ground warfare for Defense News. She has also worked for Politico and Inside Defense. She holds a Master of Science in Journalism from Boston University and a Bachelor of Arts from Kenyon College.


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