Robotic Combat Vehicles (RCV) are being called “game changing” following a month-long Soldier Operational Experiment (SOE) at Fort Benning, Georgia.
During the SOE, Soldiers from A Company, 1-28th Infantry, 3rd Infantry Division used four RCV (Light) surrogates, known as the Project Origin vehicle fleet, to rapidly test emerging technologies relevant to the RCV portfolio. As the Soldiers employed the platforms in tactical scenarios, Army engineers and technicians collected the Soldiers’ feedback and will use that feedback to further develop company capabilities against a notional near-peer adversary.
“The SOE re-enforced our idea that RCVs will not operate as a standalone system, but will provide new capabilities to an integrated fighting force,” said Major Cory Wallace, RCV lead for the Next Generation Combat Vehicles Cross Functional Team.
During the SOE, the Army’s Ground Vehicle Systems Center (GVSC) and Army Capabilities Manager- Infantry (ACM-I) integrated the Project Origin platforms into a grueling multi-week experiment to determine the potential value a RCV can provide a Rifle Platoon. During this experiment, Soldiers conducted movements to contact, attacks, and defense missions with their organic force structure and later conducted the same mission with the Project Origin platforms to clearly delineate these platform’s value.
“Anytime we have an interaction with Soldiers it’s a success, but Project Origin was a significant win,” said Todd Willert, Project Origin project manager with GVSC. “Project Origin’s five-month iteration is critical to defining the RCV’s requirements and giving our Soldiers the best possible equipment to fight and win future wars.”
GVSC has conducted several Soldier touch-point events in the past which affected the capabilities they fielded during this most recent SOE, which concluded in mid-November. During the SOE, Soldiers from Attack Company employed a tethered Unmanned Aerial System (UAS), a counter-UAS jammer, modular smoke obscuration module, a Commonly Remote Operated Weapon System (equipped with both a M240 machine gun and a Javelin), as well as an autonomous drive function.
The RCV operators controlled the vehicles using the Warfighter Machine Interface integrated on dismounted operator control units. All of these capabilities correspond to some aspect of the draft requirements for future RCVs. Additionally, the Project Origin team “swam” a platform across Fort Benning’s Victory Pond to validate the amphibious use case for RCVs.
The Soldiers unanimously stated the Project Origin platforms provided immense value in certain use cases, but failed to provide a similar value while maneuver in tandem with the Rifle Platoon in terrain favorable to dismounted maneuver. While the Project Origin team did not anticipate the Project Origin vehicles performing well in dense vegetation, they did not foresee the positive impact the platforms had on defensive operations.
“GVSC, ACM I and NGCV CFT will use this feedback to shape and inform potential force structures within the Infantry Brigade Combat Team during the ongoing RCV Campaign of Learning,” said Brig. Gen. Ross Coffman, director of the NGCV CFT. “Our knowledge of how we can utilize RCVs and what technologies and capabilities they need to posses continues to expand exponentially based on the inputs from our Soldiers.”
Project Origin continues to be an extreme “low cost, high reward” endeavor within the Army’s robotic initiatives, Coffman said.
The next item on Project Origin’s agenda is to test how the vehicles could be integrated into the Opposing Force’s force structure at the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, Louisiana, in summer 2021.