Future Multi-Domain Operations (MDO) will require a Joint Force that can penetrate and dis-integrate enemy anti-access and area denial systems and exploit the resultant freedom of maneuver to achieve strategic objectives. Within the MDO construct, the Army must consider multiple, complex, and integrated threats, which leverage multiple technologies to obtain a differential advantage and undermine U.S. ability to achieve overmatch. Future fires capabilities must continue to deter adversaries, and when necessary, enable freedom of maneuver via the destruction, neutralization, or suppression of adversary stand-off capabilities. Fires capabilities must be precise to impart effects only on desired target sets, responsive with rapid deployment, effective to provide appropriate range and lethality, and multifunctional to respond to the evolving battlefield. Maneuver forces will integrate reconnaissance and security operations, maneuver sensors and long-range capabilities into positions of advantage, integrate intelligence and operations, defeat enemy cross domain capabilities, and transition from shaping operations to close combat. The Army Modernization Priorities of Long Range Precision Fires, Next Generation Combat Vehicle, and Soldier Lethality support the needed capabilities for Future fires. The Ballistics Sciences foundational research competency focuses on transformational basic and applied research to identify, study, mature, and transition concepts that enable U.S. forces to dominate the battlefield of the future through decisive, effective, and scalable lethality technologies critical to the U.S. Army’s concepts for Fires and Maneuver.
Central to the Army’s ability to project overwhelming force in future Multi-Domain Operations is an advanced suite of lethal systems that address the full spectrum of military operations from soldier weapons (individual and crew-served), to direct fires (large and medium caliber), and to indirect fires (mortars, artillery, and missiles). To accomplish this mission the Ballistics Sciences foundational research competency is comprised of three research areas: Energetic and Propulsion Research; Flight, Navigation, and Control; and Lethal and Scalable Effects. These three areas represent the ballistic life-cycle from trigger pull through extended flight, to terminal effects.
Energetic and Propulsion Research spans the discovery of new energetic materials for explosive or propulsion applications, for post-launch propulsion technologies to achieve extended range, and for terminal effects on target to defeat or suppress enemy integrated air defense systems and other threats. The focus within the Flight, Navigation, and Control Research area is the expansion of flight kinematics in a GPS-denied or degraded environment to achieve longer range, higher speed to target to reduce the enemy’s response time, and endgame maneuverability to avoid enemy integrated air defense systems and engage moving targets. Enhanced kinematics coupled with swarming munitions have the potential to achieve unprecedented scalable lethality at extended range to open anti-access area denial corridors to enable the advancement of ground forces. Research within the Lethal and Scalable Effects area is focused on terminal effects; battlefield dominance through highly lethal, yet scalable, effects on target. Research is conducted to maximize lethality across a broad range of targets through the study of advanced penetrator technologies, multipurpose warhead technologies, and multi-warhead collaborative engagement techniques. In addition to lethal mechanisms, this research area is developing the knowledge and technologies for radically new weaponry that reversibly incapacitates personnel at stand-off distances. Scalable and reversible incapacitation technologies will allow soldiers to focus on taking control of situations without risking innocent populations or political situations.
Research Focus: To discover, innovate, and transition S&T capabilities that facilitate the development of discriminant lethality across a broad range of missions; increase effective range on gun / rocket / missile systems in order to conquer anti-access area denial (A2AD) environments; enable robust technical tools and methodologies for evaluation and combat decision aids.
Vision for MDO: Lethality systems available to commanders of the Army of 2040 are precise, long range, and highly mobile. A globally responsive, lethal, and resilient force serves as a significant deterrent to rising conflict. The desired end state is to leverage the range of S&T enablers to provide forces with the right lethality at extended ranges at any place and time without increased warfighter risk.
Within the Ballistics foundational research competency, ARL’s S&T investments are focused on gaining not only a greater understanding and discovery of mechanisms but also on generating concepts and emerging technologies that support future lethal systems. Knowledge and concepts gained through these research efforts will lead to technologies that enable a broad array of discriminate lethality systems. These competencies and knowledge can support the Army through 2025 and generate new concepts that are essential for lethality superiority of the Army 2040 and beyond.
As one of ARL’s foundational research competencies, research within Ballistics Sciences supports several of ARL’s Essential Research Programs (ERPs). The ERPs supported by Ballistics Sciences are Long Range Distributed and Collaborative Engagements (LRDCE), Physics of Soldier Protection to Defeat Evolving Threats (PSPDET), and Convergence of Lethality, Protection, and Autonomy to Dominate Ground Combat (CONVERGE).
The principle objective of LRDCE is to provide effects on targets at extended range in denied environments. It encompasses aspects of each of the three research areas within Ballistics Sciences and does so with a system’s level approach to addressing key requirements of the Army’s Long Range Precision Fires Modernization priority. Research seeks knowledge to expand munition kinematics (range, speed, maneuverability), accurately deliver fires in contested environments, and improve munition survivability through all phases of launch, flight, and terminal engagements. Specifically, LRDCE focuses on advanced energetics for increased energy density of propellants and explosives; optimization of grain topologies for gun/rocket propulsion; modeling of fluids, to include chemical reactions and behavior of structures for post-launch propulsion; optimization of maneuvering airframes and control technologies with increased survivability and the understanding of complex flight behavior. Advancements in science are sought to enable exploitation of aspects of swarming munitions, namely collaborative guidance and navigation as well as synergistic terminal effects. From launch, to flight, to endgame effects, LRDCE is focused on achieving long range precision and effective fires.
PSPDET is focused on achieving protection overmatch for the dismounted solider, our most precious resource. Through novel approaches in materials and a deep scientific dive into high-strain rate physics, where Ballistics Sciences is most foundational, PSPDET is addressing soldier survivability. Soldier survivability is one aspect of the Army’s Soldier Lethality Modernization priority.
CONVERGE couples lethality and protection technologies with autonomous capabilities to increase combat effectiveness for teams of manned, optionally-manned, and unmanned systems. Within this ERP, on-platform technologies for lethality will be co-developed with the specific movement and maneuver of the platform/platforms to maximize lethal functions. The Ballistic Sciences core competencies will contribute the weapon concepts and target-interaction concepts to defeat all tactical threats.
Energetic and Propulsion Research:
Focuses on the discovery, synthesis, scale-up, characterization, and transition of energetic materials for explosive or propulsion applications; all in a compressed timescale versus traditional methodologies. This is achieved through rapid hypothesis testing of new molecules through advanced computational and experimental techniques, including highly sophisticated instrumentation and measurement devices. These goals are addressed through research in technology areas – areas that encompass fundamental technology building blocks and scientific advances through which innovation is realized. Combinations of existing and innovative technologies will be brought together through partnerships to realize disruptive system advances. All of these advances are driven by overcoming key learning and technical challenges required to further enable the Army of 2040 and beyond.
Flight, Navigation, and Control:
Research is focused on the discovery and development of novel delivery methodologies that extend range and provide higher maneuverability for atmospheric flight vehicles spanning subsonic to hypersonic regimes.
Lethal and Scalable Effects:
Research designs, fabricates and evaluates technology options for scaling warhead lethality and providing extreme efficiency for highly effective, simultaneous mixed/multi target defeat and collateral damage. This also designs and evaluates scalable structure defeat to mitigate collateral damage for disruptive urban warfighting.