Army’s top Acquisition Executive sees the future at PEO Soldier

FORT BELVOIR, Va. (Aug. 6, 2015) – Program Executive Office (PEO) Soldier hosted the Assistant Secretary of the Army (Acquisition, Logistics & Technology) (ASA(AL&T)) and Army Acquisition Executive (AAE) and showcased the next generation of Soldier equipment. The Honorable Heidi Shyu visited PEO Soldier Aug. 5 to learn how this equipment will enhance the lethality, survivability, and interoperability of America’s Warfighters.

The Honorable Heidi Shyu, Army Acquisition Executive, receives an update on how Program Executive Office Soldier is working to increase Soldier lethality, survivability, and interoperability from BG Brian P. Cummings, Program Executive Officer Soldier.

The Honorable Heidi Shyu, Army Acquisition Executive, receives an update on how Program Executive Office Soldier is working to increase Soldier lethality, survivability, and interoperability from BG Brian P. Cummings, Program Executive Officer Soldier.

Program Executive Officer Soldier (PEO) BG Brian P. Cummings, Deputy PEO Timothy Goddette, and Project and Product Managers briefed cutting-edge programs and developments taking place. BG Cummings opened the visit with a moment remembering MG Harold Greene, who was killed in action in Afghanistan exactly one year before, and former AAE the Honorable Claude Bolton, who passed away July 28.

Project Manager Soldier Weapons COL Brian Stehle updated Ms. Shyu on the XM17 Modular Handgun System. Ms. Shyu was pleased with the progress that was made in gathering requirements and preparing for the Request for Proposal (RFP).

Next, the Rapid Equipping Force (REF) Director briefed Ms. Shyu about his organization’s ability to provide solutions to Soldiers “from the FOB (Forward Operating Base) to the foxhole.” COL Steven A. Sliwa said the REF harnesses current and emerging technologies to provide immediate solutions to the urgent challenges of Army forces deployed globally.

Ensuring integration of Soldier equipment is one of the highest priorities of PEO Soldier today. Ms. Kathy Gerstein, Director of Systems Integration, discussed the efforts the PEO has made to further enhance the Soldiers’ capabilities by increasing the integration of PEO Soldier portfolio equipment during the design phase. The emphasis is to lighten the load Soldiers carry without reducing their capabilities. “We’ve created one single data source for the dismounted Soldier configuration baseline,” Ms. Gerstein said. This baseline will be utilized to inform tradeoffs between cost, weight and capability as PEO Soldier lightens Soldier load.

Human factors are a large portion of ensuring Soldier acceptance of any new piece of gear. The Load Effects Assessment Program–Army (LEAP-A) measures the quantitative effects of equipment weight, bulk, fit, and comfort on Soldier performance. MAJ Dan Rowell, Assistant Product Manager for Warrior Integration Site (WinSite) briefed the AAE on the Soldier Baseline that WinSite has developed. Using anthropometric data in a digital environment, anyone in the Army can access the actual dimensions Soldiers will fill when wearing combat gear. “This is right on point,” Ms. Shyu said. “I just got a call about the [fit for Soldiers] inside the vehicles.”

Dennis Tran explains how the Warrior Integration Site used the Dismounted Soldier Baseline information to evaluate space usage within vehicles to the Honorable Heidi Shyu, Army Acquisition Executive. Mr. Tran is a general engineer with Project Manager Soldier Warrior.

Dennis Tran explains how the Warrior Integration Site used the Dismounted Soldier Baseline information to evaluate space usage within vehicles to the Honorable Heidi Shyu, Army Acquisition Executive. Mr. Tran is a general engineer with Project Manager Soldier Warrior.

Ms. Shyu was also shown a demonstration of the rapid prototyping capabilities of the WinSite. A laser scanner was used to create a model in a 3D computer-aided design environment, and Ms. Shyu was shown a 3D-printed prototype for a redesigned helmet mount made in the lab. The ability to take a design from concept to reality using these technologies significantly reduces lag time compared to other prototyping methods.

The Ground Soldier System team, including LTC Adrian Marsh and MAJ Alex Gonzales, briefed Ms. Shyu on the latest Nett Warrior program developments. She particularly liked the flexible antenna pack. “I remember Soldiers’ feedback on the earlier antenna, so I’m glad you’re working on this.”

During her visit, Ms. Shyu had the opportunity to test out the future of night vision, sensors and precision targeting equipment being developed by Project Manager Soldier Sensors and Lasers (PM SSL). The briefing took place in a darkened indoor range located at Fort Belvoir’s Night Vision and Electronic Sensors Directorate.

Wearing an Advanced Combat Helmet (ACH) with a next generation sensor, the Enhanced Night Vision Goggle (ENVG) III mounted on it, Ms. Shyu was handed an M4 with a Family of Weapon Sights-Individual (FWS-I) variant attached. The FWS-I gives Soldiers the capability to see deep into the battlefield, increase surveillance and target acquisition range, and penetrate day or night obscurants. The next generation part of the system becomes apparent when the FWS-I is wirelessly linked with the ENVG III, transmitting a video signal of the reticle into the ENVG III display. With this technology the Soldier sees what the weapon sight “sees.” This allows the Soldier to aim without having to raise the scope to eye level. It even allows the Soldier to shoot around corners without leaving a covered position.

Honorable Heidi Shyu looks through JETS

The Honorable Heidi Shyu, Army Acquisition Executive, looks through the handheld, lightweight highly accurate targeting system called the Joint Effects Targeting System.

The PM next demonstrated to Ms. Shyu a handheld, lightweight highly accurate targeting system called Joint Effects Targeting System (JETS) that is the future of precision targeting devices. The portability of JETS will allow small units supported by Army Forward Observers or Joint Terminal Attack Controllers (JTAC) to have access to precision targeting in all operational environments.

Ms. Shyu ended her visit with a briefing from Dr. James Zheng, Chief Scientist for Project Manager Soldier Protection and Individual Equipment (PM SPIE) Technology Management Directorate (TMD). Dr. Zheng presented Ms. Shyu with a great deal of data regarding armor plate and helmet deformation under fire, the enhanced survivability rates for Soldiers, and future technologies that will further enhance Soldier protection while decreasing weight and bulk. Ms. Shyu appreciated the data gathered on the protective capabilities of the Enhanced Small Arms Protective Insert (ESAPI) plates.

One of the functions of TMD is to perform forensics research of protective equipment from the battlefield. Dr. Zheng showed Ms. Shyu an Enhanced Combat Helmet that a year ago stopped an AK-47 round. The doctor said this was the first documented case of a helmet stopping a rifle round at 10 meters.

Ms. Shyu expressed her appreciation for the work that PEO Soldier has done, particularly in the field of innovation, pushing the boundaries of what’s possible to better protect and equip our Soldiers. She thanked each of the briefers, saying, “I’m impressed by the constant improvement and changes.”

About Debra Dawson