There is no equivalent to the French DGA procurement agency in the United States. This is doubtless why Major General Robert M. “Bo” Dyess, deputy director of the Army Capabilities Integration Centre has complained of the difficulties that US manufacturers have in understanding exactly what the requirements of the US Army are. And what has led to disasters, such as the defunct FCS (Future Combat Systems) programme, stopped in 2010 at a cost to US taxpayers of some US$18bn.
After carefully reading the report of a meeting organised by the US Army to outline its requirements to industry on 15 December 2016 at Fort Eustis, Virginia, it appears that there may be export opportunities for French companies because the army wants certain technologies that have already been developed in France, such as the exoskeleton and a mule robot.
A few months ago the US Army had set out its eight main priorities. These have since been reworked into six: modernising its aviation, its combat vehicles, its advanced protection, its robotics and autonomous systems, its cyber and electromagnetic capacities, and its munitions.
The presentation on 15 December unveiled that between 2018 and 2022 the US Army will continue with the modernisation of the Echo model of the Apache AH-64 combat helicopter as well as the Mike and Victor models of the Black Hawk utility helicopter and the CH-47F Chinook cargo helicopter. The block II of the latter will be introduced between 2023 and 2027. The next generation of rotor aircraft should be available by the 2030s but between now and 2018 the army is going to be testing two Bell/Lockheed Martin and Boeing/Sikorsky tiltrotors.
In Europe we are sometimes jealous of the Pentagon’s budget but we ought to keep in mind that the US Army does not have the means to buy a new light reconnaissance vehicle, so, in the meantime the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle will have to do. A crash programme has been launched to equip the Stryker with a 30mm cannon by 2018 given that in its current configuration it is outgunned by its Russian counterparts.
The tracked Armoured Multi-Purpose Vehicle made by BAE Systems will slowly start to replace the 50-year old M113 armoured personnel carriers. In the long term, the army would like vehicles with 50% more power and robust light weight tracks: a message probably addressed not only to the manufacturer of the Bradleys, BAE Systems, deployed since 1983 and which the army would like to replace, but, why not, to other European manufacturers of armoured vehicles.
To replace soldiers doing “dull, dirty, dangerous tasks” such as countering improvised explosive devices or route clearing, the army would like to use robotised and autonomous systems; it is particularly interested in leader-follower robotic technologies, or mule, such as described in our article on 13 June 2016 with the Baudet-Rob2 developed by French SME Effidence, with IRSTEA (Institut national de recherche en sciences et technologies pour l’environnement et l’agriculture) an agricultural and environmental research institute, and the Institut Pascal.
Moreover, the US Army is interested in active vehicle protection systems like the one we wrote about yesterday as well as a position navigation and timing capability for environments in which the GPS is degraded or denied.
In the long term, the army says it will be using offensive and defensive cyber and electromagnetic tools.
The US Army is also seeking to establish a better working relationship with innovative and agile SMEs because it is often there that disruptive technologies are developed. The United States does decidedly need a DGA!