By Ed House, Colonel, U.S. Army (Retired)
October 2019-- After 25 years of U.S. Army experience and nearly four years of working in Defense Industry, I continue to be impressed with the amazing technologies being developed in support of our warfighters. However, I have learned the real secret sauce is integrating mature technologies to provide useful warfighting capabilities. Leonardo DRS Land Systems has become an industry-leader platform integrator. The company's platform integration experience began way back in 1979, when we worked with the government to deliver a fully-integrated M901 Improved TOW Vehicle (ITV) using the M113 chassis. In more recent years, Leonardo DRS has been awarded significant integration contracts to deliver capabilities on multiple platforms. The Land Systems business unit appreciates the opportunities and challenges when working with, or without, support from the platform original equipment manufacturers (OEM). Although the business welcomes opportunities to support platform OEMs, we also pursue integration opportunities that do not include the OEM. This platform integrator business model directly supports the Army Futures Command’s new rapid prototyping acquisition strategy. With the U.S. Army moving away from long and cumbersome programs, companies are challenged to anticipate future requirements, develop and test mature technologies and integrate them on platforms to mitigate high-risk gaps in our formations.
Targeting Under Armor Starting in 2008, Leonardo DRS Land Systems collaborated with the Project Manager (PM) Stryker office to develop, integrate, and field more than 450 fully integrated M1200 Armored Knight fire support platforms. This program is a classic example of successful platform integration where the government provided technologies and the platform as Government Furnished equipment (GFE) and trusted the company to provide additional technologies and completing the platform integration before government testing and ultimately unit fielding. This relationship allows the government to easily improve the capability over time through approved engineer change proposals as improvements are made to required technologies.
Back in 2017, Leonardo DRS Land Systems began working with PM Counter-Rocket Artillery Mortar (C-RAM) to deliver a fully- integrated, mobile counter unmanned aircraft system (C-UAS) capability. In support of an urgent operational need, the business worked with several government agencies and industry partners to fully integrate numerous developmental technologies to provide warfighters a fully integrated capability that detects, identifies, tracks, and defeats small UAS. Using GFE Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) All-Terrain Vehicles (M-ATV), DRS LS fully integrated a masted radar, a turret with multiple kinetic defeat effectors, electronic warfare technologies and government-provided command and control. Over the life of the program, Leonardo DRS has demonstrated the flexibility and agility required of a lead vehicle integrator in a rapidly changing program. This activity demonstrated how quickly capabilities can be fielded when the government works with industry partners to rapidly develop, integrate, and test different technologies to meet urgent needs.
After winning the program in 2016, the Land Systems business unit continues to work with PM Bridging to deliver a new fully integrated tactical bridging capability under the Joint Assault Bridge (JAB) program. This program requires Leonardo DRS to use a government-provided combat platform and integrate industry-developed bridging technologies to provide tactical bridging to our maneuver units. The JAB program also includes a very effective public-private partnership between Leonardo DRS and Anniston Army Depot. This relationship exploits the government’s experience on the platform with the company’s expertise with systems integration to deliver this capability. As with all platform integration programs, Leonardo DRS Land Systems and the government work closely together throughout the required soldier training and initial operator testing, setting the conditions for a rapid response to any challenges discovered in test.
In the summer of 2018, the Land Systems business unit was selected to provide a fully integrated Mission Equipment Package (MEP) for the U.S. Army’s Initial Maneuver Short-Range Air Defense (IM-SHORAD) program. With a very aggressive schedule, this program requires the company to integrate several critical technologies to provide a complete detect, identify, track and defeat capability effective against larger air threats at long ranges. Using Moog’s Reconfigurable Integrated-weapons Platform (RIwP) as the centerpiece of the MEP, Leonardo DRS integrates an on-board radar, an Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) and mission command systems with the government-provided command and control network. Additionally, Leonardo DRS has worked closely with its industry partner to complete the platform integration on a purpose-built Stryker. In less than 12 months, Leonardo DRS and our industry partners on the MEP have modified newly developed C-UAS technologies to create an IM-SHORAD capability with the mobility, survivability, and enhanced lethality to move and maneuver with tactical units to defeat current and emerging ground and air threats. The MEP also allows the government to easily introduce new technologies such as directed energy weapons when available.
Leonardo DRS also works with its international partners to provide “Americanized” technologies which are fully integrated on U.S. combat platforms. In conjunction with PM Tank and Vehicle Protection System (VPS), Leonardo DRS, working with teammate, Rafael, successfully completed a characterization effort to test the Israeli Trophy Active Protection System (APS) on the M1 Battle Tank. After nearly two years of testing, the business was awarded, contract to integrate this much-needed technology on tanks for several Armored Brigade Combat Teams. Very similarly to many of these integration opportunities, Leonardo DRS works with a technology provider to make U.S. required modifications and provides the necessary platform integration kits to transition these technologies into combat ready capabilities. The company continues to look at opportunities to improve the technology to better meet future requirements for all combat platforms. Additionally, Leonardo DRS considers this work as a great step forward as we pursue a fully integrated Vehicle Protection System (VPS). For VPS, the government’s goal is to fully integrate an APS technology with other emerging technologies as part of the initial vehicle design to field the full capability at the same time vice a separate integration activity after the platforms are fielded.
Earlier this year, Leonardo DRS Land Systems was one of several industry vendors awarded a contract for the U.S. Army’s Stryker Medium Caliber Weapon System (MCWS) effort to deliver enhanced lethality to the Stryker Brigade Combat Teams. After rapidly fielding an initial capability to one unit and observing challenges with the system, the government is pursuing alternative solutions through a full and open competition. The government provided vendors tiered MCWS requirements that specifically address the known shortcomings of the current solution, and this Phase 1 contract requires the Land Systems business unit to complete a Design Integration Study (DIS) for our solution while simultaneously developing, testing and delivering a fully-integrated “bid sample” in the summer of 2020.
The bid sample is a fully-integrated MCWS capability using a government-provided Stryker DVHA1 and XM813 (30mmx173mm) cannon. The effort requires Leonardo DRS modify the platform without the vehicle Technical Data Package (TDP) and integrate Moog’s MCWS RIwP turret for enhanced lethality, smoke grenade launchers, and enhanced situational awareness technologies on the platform to provide the combat capability. This fully-integrated MCWS MEP cannot affect the current mobility and survivability standards for the vehicle. Once again, this platform integration effort requires the company to work with several industry partners and the government to deliver the capability within an aggressive schedule. Leonardo DRS Land Systems looks forward to the competitive “shoot off” starting next summer.
Leonardo DRS expects the U.S. Army to continue challenging industry to anticipate emerging requirements, develop required technologies, integrate them on existing or developmental platforms and field fully integrated combat capabilities more quickly through a rapid prototyping. The Land Systems business unit is ideally positioned to serve as a lead systems integrator in this new acquisition era. Leonardo DRS has earned a reputation as an industry leader in this area. This paper highlights several examples of demonstrated excellence in platform integration to deliver combat capabilities. The Land Systems business unit has demonstrated the flexibility and agility required to operate in this era of rapid prototyping with complex platform integration and accelerated scheduled. Mature technologies that meet user-requirements remain essential, but it takes an experienced platform integrator to combine these technologies into true combat capabilities for our warfighters.