Modular Mission Payloads (MMP)for Small Unmanned Ground Vehicles (SUGV)
Technical advances in robotics technologies have made practical the concept of Small Unmanned Ground Vehicles (SUGV) in battlefield settings. The actual usefulness of such systems, though, lies in their ability to be adapted to perform a variety of missions, or to provide capabilities that were previously not available to dismounted infantry platoons. This paper will present several modular payload options that can serve to improve both the situational awareness, lethality, protection, and mobility of such dismounted troops to observe, orient, decide, and act.
The purpose of the two modular mission payloads presented here is to.
1) increase the situational awareness of dismounted infantry platoons by providing a continuously updated, long-range (up to ~2km) panoramic thermal/visual surveillance capability.
2) to increase dismounted soldier lethality by providing remotely operated weapons (M240, M2, MK19, M134) capability. In both cases, there is also an inherent advantage in that both the surveillance and weapon system are remotely operated, keeping soldiers at a standoff distance from the systems.
IEC Infrared Systems and Precision Remotes have always utilized a modular approach to systems architecture and demonstrated in our ‘Mantis’ panoramic thermal/visual imaging system, which can be mounted on an uncrewed ground vehicle for situational awareness. The imaging unit is comprised of four Line Replaceable Units (LRU’s), as well as several modular electronics modules (Figure 1). LRU’s include the Panoramic Imaging Payload, the Long-Range Thermal Imaging Payload, the Long Range Visual Imaging Payload, and the positioner. All three payloads are mounted on (the long-range imaging payloads allow higher magnification of targets detected by the panoramic imager). All of the imaging payloads are attached to the positioner with a quick-release tools-free, cable-free mounting system, allowing ease of maintenance and configurability in the field, without tools (which can be lost) or cables (which can easily be damaged).
Further, the rotating panoramic imager can be used as a stand-alone module, without the assessment imaging system & positioner, if there is a need to minimize weight further. Likewise, the assessment imagers and positioners can be used without the panoramic imager, allowing complete flexibility of payload configuration. This system is being completed now and will be ready for deployment on robotic vehicles by mid-summer, 2019.
Concerning the Remotely Operated Weapons Systems (ROWS) capability, IEC (which produces products for its sister company, Precision Remotes) presents the T360 ROWS. The T360 was explicitly designed to be the lightest weight ROWS on the market. It was also designed for the capability of operating with a variety of weapons platforms, including both the M240, LWMMG .338 NM, and the M2 (0.50 cal) weapon systems. The extremely lethal M2 can now be deployed with dismounted troops while patrolling, which is a new capability. Figure 2 shows the T360 on the General Dynamics Land System’s ‘W-MUTT’ robotic vehicle at an ANTX exercise in 2017. The T360, with its extremely lightweight (less than 82 lbs., without weapon or ammo), allows more payload capacity on the vehicle for ammunition or other cargo, compared to competitive ROWS, which typically weigh around 450lbs (again without weapon or ammo). This system is currently available, and (as previously noted) has already been deployed on small robotic vehicles, as part of field exercises.
Further, future modular payloads are already in development. IEC, which produces a long-range CUAS system trade named ‘LYCAN,’ is developing a shorter range CUAS system that can be deployed on a small robotic vehicle (Figure 3). This system will utilize the positioner and thermal/visual assessment payloads that are used with the Mantis system but will have a CUAS radar system in place of the Mantis imager. Also, a tri-band RF jammer (effective against the data, video, and guidance signals) will be co-located with the visual imager. This system, which is based on IEC’s existing system (only with shorter-range radar and optics), will be effective against Class IV targets out to approx. 800 meters. This system is nearing completion and is anticipated to be available for deployment on robotic vehicles in late fall, 2019.
Results of early field testing (ANTX) exercise show great promise for the use of ROWS on small robotic vehicles such as the Army’s SMET or the USMC’s UGV. The ability to deploy the massive firepower of the M2 with dismounted troops is a new capability, one which will improve the lethality of a small group of dismounted soldiers. Further, the ability for the forward forces to carry (on the robotic vehicle) an all-weather, day-night surveillance capability with a range of several kilometers. Or to deploy a mobile C-UAS capability that can keep up with and cover small units are capabilities that should enhance both situational awareness and force protection for these units. The reconfigurability of the modular payload system allows maximum use of robotic vehicles by providing differing capabilities for different missions. Further, since all of these systems can be operated from a standoff distance by the soldiers, they can run the operations from undercover, thereby enhancing infantry platoon survivability.
Practical Applications for the Dismounted Infantry Platoon:
All three of the modular payload systems described here have practical applications for dismounted platoons. The situational awareness provided by the Mantis payload can be used by scouts, looking to find enemy forces at a distance. The ability of the T360 payload to fire the M2 system brings a dimension of additional lethality (with mobility) to ground troops that cannot be currently achieved. Finally, the CUAS payload provides force protection by denying the enemy forces the ability to use small UAS for surveillance or fire direction/control.
Recap: Addressing the Benefits for the Dismounted Infantry Platoon
These modular payloads demonstrate new capabilities that are available to the warfighter. Each of these systems weighs more than what an individual soldier can carry, the fact that a small robotic vehicle can transport them directly onto the battlefield and allow their immediate use means that advanced capabilities that were previously unavailable to maneuver units are now practical. The applications presented here are only three examples of such abilities; in the future, other capabilities (perhaps for other weapons systems, or other advanced surveillance capabilities) will undoubtedly be available.
The modern dismounted platoon requires increased weapon effectiveness, responsiveness, and enhanced ground mobility and area denial. Supply the platoon with a mobile T-360 RWS mounting their M2 .50 machine guns would provide all four necessary improvements for the platoon and squad effectiveness and lethality. The T-360 RWS gives the advantage of strategic mobility and firepower at the most vital level of attack, the platoon. TRAP T-360 with the W-MUTT is the force multiplier in a straightforward aspect.
Infantry, once delivered to their objective, say an LZ or airfield objective, their tactical mobility is limited. The Modular Mission Payloads offered in this paper mounted on the US Army Ground Mobility Vehicle, (GMV) such as the GD Flyer gives the platoon or squad the ability to maneuver quickly with more lethality (T-360 RWS) and understand their enemy targets ( MANTIS 360) or counter UAV with the LYCAN C-UAV system. All are mobile, easily integrated solutions for advanced platoon warfare.
- Situational Awareness
All three systems described here offer to increase the awareness of the platoon on the battlefield. The T-360 offers a weapons sensor package with a laser range finder, thermal night vision camera, and day camera. The MANTIS offers 360 thermal and day camera panoramas giving the troops a short- and long-range view of everything around them in two easily viewed images. The LYCAN, as well, provides 360-degree views of the battlefield and the sky above. UAVs are exceedingly difficult to see and target against an atmosphere during the day or night time. This improvement to the platoon’s awareness of enemy movement, day or night, will be dramatically improved as well as their ability to fight and survive.
These three technologies, coupled with human-crewed or uncrewed ground vehicles, will allow light infantry sustainability. The ammunition, food, water, and other consumables that they depend on are primarily dependent on what each soldier can carry. The UGV’s with new modular technologies and support and sustain the platoon in vastly increased capacity and lighten a load of soldiers in the field.