Envisioning the Army of the Future, 1998-2001

Envisioning the Army of the Future, 1998-2001

"Good people working together will produce more technology relevant to the Soldier" was the motto espoused by Dr. Robert Whalin, ARL's second Director. Whalin came to ARL in December of 1998 and quickly set to work in making the organization, in his words, "a fully functional, seamless, smooth-running, well-oiled machine for the Army." He was selected for the position after serving as Director of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Waterway Experiment Station where he had more than tripled the size of its research and development and established a distinguished record. Whalin also brought with him a wealth of experience in both academia and the private sector, having served as an adjunct professor at three universities and six years in industry in southern California.

With much of ARL's organizational structure in place, Whalin now focused on more specific goals that would meet the needs of Army of the future. Among the objectives pursued during his tenure were management of the Army's basic science research grants with academia; leveraging the technology investment of the commercial sector and tapping the leading-edge expertise and facilities of universities and the private sector; and working with U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) and the R&D assets throughout Army Materiel Command (AMC) to develop enabling technologies. In addition, Whalin emphasized human resources development, both in training of the workforce and aggressive minority recruitment. Finally, Whalin placed a priority on investment in technology and supported the construction of a tactical environmental simulation facility, as well as an increase in ARL's computing power.

In May 2000, Information Science Technology Directorate (ISTD) merged with Corporate Information and Computing Directorate (CICD) to form the Computational and Information Sciences Directorate. CISD now had four basic research areas: battlefield communications, data fusion and knowledge management, battlefield environmental work, and computational science and engineering, in addition to infrastructure support efforts. The focal point was the management of the DoD High Performance Computer Network and the High Performance Computer Center.

Basic Research

A fundamental aspect of ARL's contribution to leap-ahead technology is basic research which, while longer term in scope, will often produce paradigm-shifting results. In the development of advanced chemical and biological protective materials, nanomaterials such as dendritic polymers represented a technological breakthrough that provided a means of making emerging chemical/biological concepts and systems more practical and affordable for individual protection, detection, and decontamination. ARL designed, developed and evaluated materials and material systems for application in protective clothing, masks, and detection and decontamination equipment. These enabling technologies were transitioned to the Soldier, Biological and Chemical Command and the Army Medical Research and Development Command for inclusion in developmental programs focused on protecting military personnel from chemical and biological attacks. Major accomplishments in FY 2000 included the development of a next generation reactive topical skin protective cream for chemical agent resistance and decontamination; the development of nanoencapsulated enzymes for Soldier clothing; and nanomanipulation conditioning for enhancing biological agent detection.

Eric A. Cornell, Wolfgang Ketterie and Carl Wieman were Nobel recipients in 2001 for their achievements in physics, partly or wholly supported by ARO. Past ARL affiliated Nobel recipients include Robert F. Curl, Alan J. Heeger, Alan G. MacDiarmid, and Richard E. Smalley for their achievements in chemistry, and Zhores I. Alferov, Herbert J. Kroemer, Donald M. Lee, and Daniel C. Tsui for similar achievements in physics. ARL was also a major participant in the semiconductor revolution that influenced photonics technology and the effort to direct light with the wind, and the technological effort to produce super critical water oxidation in a detoxification effort to eliminate chemical and biological agents. Revolutionizing the warrior Soldier was an objective at MIT, where one major effort was the development and improvement of protective clothing effective against chemical and biological threats, and capable of providing treatment prior to the arrival of medical personnel.

Investments were made in infrared detectors, especially with the first color prototype, and in calibration technology for helicopters with Princeton University. Challenges pertaining to the future Army necessitated innovative ideas and influenced the introduction of biotechnology into engineering and physical sciences arena. Optical technology and the development of an electronic eye and a sensitive nose with the capability of smell were designed to enhance the deployment of robotics under battlefield conditions. Target recognition and land mine detecting were also primary challenges that were influenced by quantum computing.

Applied Research

Information Technology

Information technology for the battlefield continued to drive ARL's contribution to the Army. ARL helped develop a dual-band forward-looking infrared (FLIR) camera, which enabled operation in a wider range of ambient conditions, including day, night, fog, and smoke. The imagery from the wave bands easily fused into a single composite color image that provided the observer more information about a scene than could be previously obtained. This enhanced capability to view the battlefield greatly increases the system's ability to select targets out of clutter and to distinguish targets from decoys and defeat other enemy countermeasures. Battlefield information issues were also addressed by the Warrior Extended Battlefield Sensors Program, through which ARL developed energy-efficient networks and acoustics propagation studies for battlefield sensors that enable more effective communicate among Soldiers and their commanders. The technology was envisioned to revolutionize surveillance and reconnaissance operations on the battlefield. Finally, work continues on the Integration Meteorological System (IMETS), with the goal of forecasting down to a one-kilometer area. It will also be useful in case of chemical or biological attacks on American soil. A similar technology, the lntegrated Weather Effects Decision Aid, was also developed to assist the battlefield commander to deploy helicopters, tanks or aircraft, along with the type of weapons systems, based on the expected weather conditions. In addition, sensors used during the operation will provide audio sounds that would disorient aggressor forces.

A fundamental aspect of obtaining battlefield information lies in trying to extract it from potentially dangerous areas. ARL was successful in robotic and autonomous platform technologies and played a pivotal role in the development and demonstration of technologies that enabled the employment of unmanned ground vehicles in military applications.


Ensuring combat overmatch for the Army continued to be a significant challenge. ARL met this challenge through focused efforts in insensitive, high-energy propellants and munitions which offered increased lethality in more compact weapon systems while reducing vulnerability to attack; kinetic-energy penetrator concepts that enhanced or maintained lethality in more compact configurations; and multifunctional warhead concepts that can defeat a full spectrum of targets (armor, bunker, rotocraft, and troops). ARL was the leader in the investigation of terminal effects of direct-fire armaments systems, and the application of that knowledge to develop lethal mechanisms for penetrators and warheads delivered by large-caliber gun systems or small and medium missiles systems to defeat all classes of armors. Technologies developed were critical to weapon system developments at the Army Armament RDE Center and the Aviation and Missile RDE Center that included the Compact Kinetic-Energy Missile (CKEM), the Tank Extended-Range Munition (TERM), the Line-of-Sight Anti-Tank Missile that provided lethal, accurate anti-tank fire using kinetic energy missile technology (LOSAT), and the Advanced Kinetic-Energy Penetrator. ARL also continued to investigate electromagnetic (EM) and electrothermal chemical (ETC) gun technologies because of their potential capabilities to defeat future threats, including platforms equipped with reactive armor and active protection systems. These guns can be integrated with electric vehicle propulsion and armor systems to provide an efficient, highly mobile, and deployable ground maneuver force.

ARL continued to develop technologies to provide overwhelming lethal force, and the highest levels of survivability to the U. S. Soldier. Technical and scientific accomplishments include enhanced lethality and survivability of the Abrams Tank, assured through research and development in armor mechanics and advanced penetrator-defeat technologies, and also by providing designs for reducing vulnerability in the ammunition compartments. In the area of lethality, ARL worked with the RDECs to provide integral technologies for the M829 family of Abrams kinetic-energy ammunition, the fielded M829A1 and M829A2 and the developmental M829E3. Contributions also included the lethal mechanism design (i.e., the sub-projectile), high-performance propellant technology, launch and flight ballistics, and lightweight composite sabot design. Finally, ARL developed a non-lethal munition fired from the M203 grenade launcher and a crack-resistant face shield for riot helmets, both of which were fielded to troops in the Balkans and Somalia employed in peacekeeping engagements.

Soldier Performance/Battlefield Coordination

ARL's scientists and engineers have worked to ensure that Soldiers will function with maximum effectiveness under all conditions on the higher-technology battlefield. ARL conducted research to define and quantify Soldier capabilities and limitations and apply this understanding to the design and development of Soldier-system interfaces. Scientists and engineers worked closely with Soldiers to identify and develop solutions to current and future performance problems. Basic research in auditory and visual perception, and applied research in cognitive engineering and logistics provide the understanding required by material developers to build systems that greatly enhance Soldier performance. In addition to the research function, ARL championed the Soldier in the material acquisition process by providing leadership in human factors engineering and the application of Manpower and Personnel Integration (MANPRINT) to Army acquisition. ARL's support to combat developers, PEOs, PMs, and the Army's test and evaluation effort is critical to systems success, and ARL's contributions have significantly improved system performance and reduced lifecycle cost.

As the 21st Century approached, the Army needed a command and control vehicle (C2V) that would permit staff to accomplish command and control operations while moving. ARL was asked to develop modeling techniques similar to those on the Comanche helicopter and the Fox vehicle, but with the capability of deploying more personnel. Cognizant of the requirements for effective communication and the need for the command staff to be close enough to the leading edges of the formation, the critical initiative that evolved is to have a C2V suitable to support the FCS. To some extent, the problems pertaining to command and control during the peacekeeping deployment in Bosnia influenced the requirement for the C2V. It has led to further measuring of team behaviors or performance, especially the development of command and control tools. Another interesting aspect is the measurement of command and control involving multinational teams.

HRED efforts were also oriented toward Soldier-system performance impact on force effectiveness. MANPRINT stresses the integration of manpower, personnel, training, human engineering, system safety, health hazards, and Soldier survivability. Major successes in the use of MANPRINT were achieved in the development of the Fox Nuclear, Biological and Chemical (NBC) Reconnaissance System that was accomplished by the Integration Methods Branch use of Improved Performance Research Integration Tool (IMPRINT) and Human Figure Modeling. Success was also attained in the Joint USMC-Army Acquisition Program of the XM777, Lightweight, Towed Howitzer, for which the Air Warrior Team received the MANPRINT Practitioner of the Year Award for improvements of the process which produced the first aviator human figure computer program. Another achievement was the development of the Objective Individual Combat Weapon (OICW). The lighter weight, smaller footprint, and lower profile of the XM777 improved strategic deployment, tactical mobility, and survivability, and replaced the M198 howitzer as a direct and general support system for Army light and interim forces. The OICW provided the infantry Soldier with a decisive overmatch capability while increasing versatility and survivability by increasing the standoff range to exceed 1000 meters, providing day-night operational capabilities, and providing significant improvements in lethality and target effects. ARL recognized that new technologies for the future battlefield will be characterized by the rapid introduction of cognitively demanding weapon and information systems. Successful command and control on the battlefield placed high cognitive demands on leaders and Soldiers. Battlefield decision-making occurs under conditions involving intense time pressure, information overload, fatigue and geographical dispersion.

Survivability and Lethality Analysis Efforts

ARL is responsible for the vulnerability and lethality analyses of all developmental and fielded weapon systems and Soldiers. A vital aspect of the survivability, lethality, and vulnerability (SLV) mission was the vulnerability assessment of the development of a Theatre High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system. The comprehensive analysis involved an evaluation of the effects of all major electromagnetic elements, including EM interference, EM radiation operations, EM radiation hazards, EM pulse, electrostatic discharge, and lightning effects on critical functions and critical subsystems/components of the THAAD system. The analysis provided THAAD program mangers and Army decision makers with early feedback on SLV designs options that had near-term and mid-term impacts, as well as anticipated far-term SLV improvements that addressed reactive threats, thus providing early insight into Planned Improvement Program options. ARL developed realistic trajectory models for targets and missile using available THAAD field data and threat trajectory data in addition to developing multiple target trajectories for use with IR scene generation of infrared countermeasures (IRCMs).

Organizational lnitiatives

At this time, ARL consisted of laboratories and its headquarters in Adelphi and with major sites at Aberdeen, Maryland, the Research Triangle Park in North Carolina and White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, in addition to research elements co-located with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in Cleveland, Ohio and Langley, Virginia and a worldwide presence through various research and business partnerships that included the United Kingdom, Japan and Germany. At Adelphi, the completion of the Zahl Physical Sciences Laboratory was the last of the construction authorized under BRAC. The facility houses the staff of SEDD and the ALC component of the CISD. The Zahl building also includes the Advanced Material Growth and Processing Facility, Display Materials Research Facility, and the Advanced Microanalysis Facility. Movement into the facility began in August 1999 from ALC locations. SEDD personnel, who moved from Fort Monmouth, New Jersey and Fort Belvoir, Virginia to a temporarily leased Shady Grove laboratory facility, were the first scientists and engineers to relocate into the Zahl Physical Laboratory. The Shady Grove facility was completely vacated in February 2000.

ARL recognized that despite the reputation of the scientists and engineers on staff, it still faced challenges regarding personnel, as the retirement process threatened to reduce both the scientific and organizational knowledge base. To this end, ARL initiated or revitalized several personnel programs designed to ensure its position as a top recruiter of scientific talent. Perhaps the most significant of these was the Science and Technology Academic Recognition System (STARS), which recruited minority scientists and engineers to ARL. The dual fellowship/recruitment initiative assisted top students from ARL's partner schools in HBCU/MIs. All of these programs clearly recognize that the U.S. military must stay ahead of the world not only in military technology, but also in the quality of scientists developing that technology.


Last Update / Reviewed: March 1, 2011