Members of the Walking Point: Insights on Modernizing the Soldier and Squad Panel at AUSA’s Global Force 2021 virtual event on 18 March provided updates on relevant programme developments, of which three are worthy of note, significantly helping the US Army establish overmatch against potential adversaries.
The Army’s Soldier Lethality Cross-Functional Team (CFT) is working on several next-generation programmes to enhance capabilities for the close-combat force. Maj Gen David Hodne, Director of the CFT, and Commandant of the Infantry School, cut to the chase early on, telling viewers, “We’re going to deliver some revolutionary capability […] There are going to be soldiers who are going to say, ‘Wow, we’ve never had this capability before.’”
In one instance, the Army delivered the Enhanced Night Vision Goggle-Binocular (ENVG-B) – the CFT’s initial modernisation victory – to soldiers after just 23 months. This allows clear vision by day or at night, in low- and zero-light conditions, and through fog, smoke and inclement weather. It also gives soldiers better clarity, depth perception and rapid target acquisition.
Other current key programmes include the Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS), a fighting goggle with synthetic training capabilities, and the Next-Generation Squad Weapon programme, intended to be a catch-all replacement for the M16, M4 carbine, and M249 Squad Automatic Weapon. Sig Sauer, Textron and General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems are competing to build the weapon, that will use a common 6.8mm cartridge. The new rifles will be fielded beginning near the end of FY 2022. IVAS programme maturation will continue during the experimental exercise EDGE21. The event will include soldiers, wearing IVAS goggles, conducting an air assault out of UH-60 helicopters.
The imperative to modernise the Army’s ground combat capability is being driven by two powerful influences: the Pentagon’s increasing commitment to be ready on Day One of any conflict with a peer competitor, and the service’s lost overmatch vis-à-vis potential adversaries in parts of its portfolio. Indeed, Maj Gen Anthony Potts, Program Executive Officer, Soldier, said that while the Army recognises it has lost some overmatch, it is working to regain that advantage as quickly as possible.
Marty Kauchak reporting for MON from New Orleans