WASHINGTON: The US Army’s modernization effort is well underway, with service leaders pledging that 24 of the service’s 35 modernization programs will be in soldiers’ hands as fielded systems or prototypes in fiscal 2023.
The multi-billion-dollar effort includes a wide range of next-generation battlefield capabilities, from new ground vehicles to long-range missiles to enhanced network tools as the service pivots away from counterterror operations to near-peer threats in China and Russia.
“Our efforts are already paying off,” Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville said in his keynote speech at the Association of the United States Army (AUSA) conference in early October.
The Army’s 35 modernization priorities, known in the service as the 31+4 priorities, are made up of 31 modernization programs run out of Army Futures Command and another four by the service’s Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies office.
But while individual programs have been publicly lauded as among the first 24 out of the gate, Army Futures Command recently provided Breaking Defense with the full list of programs set to be in soldiers’ hands by FY23, either as fielded systems or, more broadly, in various phases of prototyping. Soldiers are already playing with some of the new tech, and an Army Futures Command spokesperson said that each have already met or are expected to meet the FY23 deadline.
The list runs in order of modernization priority. For example, the first four are part of the Army’s top modernization priority of Long Range Precision Fires, and the last six part of Soldier Lethality, the service’s sixth modernization priority.
1. PrSM: Precision Strike Missile
2. ERCA: Extended Range Cannon Artillery
3. LRHW: Long Range Hypersonic Weapon
4. MRC: Mid-Range Capability
5. AMPV: Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle
6. RCV: Robotic Combat Vehicle
7. MPF: Mobile Protective Firepower
8. FUA/FTUAS: Future Unmanned Aircraft Systems/ Future Tactical Unmanned Aircraft System
9. Unified Network: Integrated Tactical Network
10. COE: CPCE/MCE- Common Operating Environment: Command Post Computing Environment/Mounted Computed Environment
11. CPI2: Command Post Integrated Infrastructure
12. MAPS: Modular Active Protection Systems
13. DAPS: Dismounted Assured Positioning, Navigation, and Timing System
14. M-SHORAD: Maneuver-Short Range Air Defense
15. Indirect Fires Protection Capability: Iron Dome
16. LTAMDS: Lower Tier Air and Missile Defense Sensor
17. AIAMD: Army Integrated Air and Missile Defense
18. DE M-SHORAD: Directed Energy Maneuver-Short Range Air Defense
19. NGSW: Next Generation Squad Weapon
20. IVAS: Integrated Visual Augmentation System
21. ENVG-B: Enhanced Night Vision Goggle – Binocular
22. RVCT: Reconfigurable Virtual Collective Trainer
23. SiVT: IVAS Squad Immersive Virtual Trainer
24. OWT / TMT / TSS: One World Terrain/ Training Management Tools/ Training Simulation Software
Retired Army Maj. Gen. John Ferrari said that list “fairly consistent over the past several years, so that is a good sign that the Army remains behind these programs.”
But he suggested he was concerned with the remainder of the 35 programs that aren’t included.
“Rapid prototyping is very good but only about 2/3rds will be in that stage by 2023,” said Ferrari, who served as director of program evaluation and analysis in the Army G-8 office and is now a nonresident senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. “In the glass half empty scenario that means the others are going through a much longer process for which the Army will spend a lot of money but may not see success; given the pace of tech change these longer term programs face both high tech obsolescence risk as well as funding challenges going forward.”
The first item on the list, the Precision Strike Missile, rocketed past a milestone earlier this year when it flew beyond 499km, that much closer to full production. As for the Army’s Long Range Hypersonic Weapon, run out the RCCTO, the service delivered the prototype battery to soldiers at Joint Base Lewis-McChord earlier this year and is on track to deliver its first hypersonic missile round in FY23, according to the RCCTO director. The office’s Mid-Range Capability, which will fly somewhere between the PrSM missile and the Long-Range Hypersonic Weapon, has completed early research and started the prototyping phase this year.
Some programs, such as the Army’s Integrated Tactical Network, are already being fielded to soldiers. The augmented reality IVAS system is scheduled for first unit equipped in September 2022 after a technical issue with the goggles pushed operational testing back several months.
As noted, the Army still faces the reality of declining budgets in the future with Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth stating in September that the service faces “hard choices” moving forward. In October she announced that the service was beginning a broad analysis of the service in the face of budgetary pressures. Ferrari noted that the money question is lingering over the service’s modernization programs.
“Money is going to be a huge factor going forward,” Ferrari said. “It is not clear how the Army within the constraints of the larger defense budget can keep this all on path, and if it cannot, then how does it decide what gets done vs not get done. The Congress was supportive in the NDAA to spending money on procurement so the closer an item is to production the more likely it survives.”
Here’s the Army’s 24 programs in soldiers’ hands by 2023 – Breaking Defense Breaking Defense is written by Andrew Eversden for breakingdefense.com