From missiles that can reach across continents to the first new infantry rifle in generations, the Army is rebuilding itself. Photos courtesy of Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, Sig Sauer, the US Army. Composite by Matt White and Kenna Lee/Coffee or Die Magazine.
The Army is transforming from the soldier up, from the rifles they carry to the missiles that fly over their heads.
By the end of 2023, soldiers will go into the field with 24 new weapons and other combat systems, either prototypes or fully operational equipment.
The two dozen systems currently or soon to be rolled out are the backbone of the Army’s plans to fully modernize the weapons and equipment it uses in nearly every aspect of how it fights by 2030, officials said in early October at the annual meeting of the Association of the US Army, or AUSA, in Washington, DC.
Over the next decade, the Army will field more than 30 new systems, from rifles to tanks and drones to the continent-crossing 'Dark Eagle' missile system. Army Futures Command officials told Coffee or Die Magazine that 14 of those systems, including enhanced night vision gear, are already in the hands of soldiers. With more than half of the systems not yet in the field, the next couple of years are key for delivery.
“We are getting it done,” Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. James McConville said. “In the future, we are not going to be outgunned, we are not going to be outranged, and we’re not going to be outmaneuvered on the battlefield.”
Sgt. Gabrielle Hurd, from the 237th Military Police Company with the New Hampshire Army National Guard, shows her team the route they will take to the summit of Mount Monadnock, New Hampshire, during field testing of the Enhanced Night Vision Goggle-Binocular in 2019. US Army photo by Patrick Ferraris.
McConville originally announced in October 2021 that 24 weapons systems would be fielded by the end of fiscal year 2023.
Perhaps closest to soldiers’ daily lives will be the Army’s new rifle and automatic squad weapon, which mark the first revamp of small arms in more than a generation. After a multiyear shootout among manufacturers, two Sig Sauer weapons were selected as the Army’s next-generation rifle and squad automatic rifle earlier this year.
Sig’s XM5 — the military version of the MCX Spear — is expected to start replacing the M4 carbine as the Army’s primary rifle in 2023. Those with close-combat jobs, such as special operators and infantry, will be first in line for the new guns.
Sig’s XM250, a lightweight, belt-fed machine gun, will start replacing the M249 SAW.
Both new guns use 6.8mm ammunition rather than 5.56mm, offering a longer effective range. Once delivered, the guns will drop the “X” designation, becoming the M5 and M250.
Army Futures Command officials told Coffee or Die that the service was also on track to replace the weapons that soldiers use all over the battlefield, from long-range precision fires to tanks and drones.
The system with the farthest range will be the Long-Range Hypersonic Weapon, a high-altitude missile built to skim the top of Earth’s atmosphere at more than five times the speed of sound, beyond the reach of enemy air- and missile-defense systems.
The delivery of the first prototype hypersonic hardware to soldiers of the 5th Battalion, 3rd Field Artillery Regiment, 17th Field Artillery Brigade, was completed on Oct. 7, 2021, with a ceremony at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington. US Army photo by Spc. Karleshia Gater.
The hypersonic missiles, nicknamed Dark Eagle, will be able to strike targets 1,725 miles away, roughly the distance from Washington, DC, to Salt Lake City, Utah.
The missile system can reach 10 times farther than any previous Army missile, thanks to the 2019 expiration of a 1987 treaty between the US and Russia. The now-lapsed Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, or INF, put a 310-mile cap on missiles that armies of both countries could develop.
With that treaty now void and no serious prospect of its return, systems like Dark Eagle are now legal.
But while rifles and missiles have been Army staples for decades, other coming-soon systems will include weapons that would have sounded like science fiction a generation ago. The Directed Energy Maneuver-Short Range Air Defense, or DE M-SHORAD, prototype is basically a laser gun that can knock drones out of the sky from the top of a Stryker combat vehicle.
A software engineer on the project told the Army in September that the laser was awesome but didn’t live up to sci-fi movies. “If you grew up on ‘Star Wars,’ it’s a little disappointing to learn that the beam makes no sound and isn’t visible to the eye,” Damon Templet said. “A tracking system puts the laser beam on a target and then the optimal aimpoint is maintained until the track is neutralized.”
Other systems include both autonomous and crewed vehicles, such as the Robotic Combat Vehicle, an unmanned sidekick for other combat vehicles, and the Mobile Protective Firepower, the Army’s new light tank. Both are already in the field as prototypes.
The Army Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office’s prototyping effort is on track to deliver the Directed Energy Maneuver-Short Range Air Defense, or DE M-SHORAD, the Army’s first combat-capable directed-energy system. The DE M-SHORAD Combat Shoot-Off took place in Fort Sill, Oklahoma, in summer 2021. US Army photo by Jim Kendall.
The full list of the two dozen Army systems expected by the start of 2024, with the fiscal year in which they were delivered or are expected to be fielded:
1. NGSW: Next Generation Squad Weapon, the Sig Sauer rifle and automatic rifle (FY22).
2. IVAS: Integrated Visual Augmentation System (FY22).
3. ENVG-B: Enhanced Night Vision Goggle-Binocular (FY21).
4. RVCT: Reconfigurable Virtual Collective Trainer (FY23).
5. SiVT: Squad Immersive Virtual Trainer, a software suite for the IVAS (FY23).
6. OWT/TMT/TSS: One World Terrain/Training Management Tools/Training Simulation Software (FY23).
7. PrSM: Precision Strike Missile, a short-range battlefield missile (FY23).
8. ERCA: Extended Range Cannon Artillery, the Army’s latest effort to acquire a self-propelled howitzer cannon after two failed attempts in the last two decades (FY23).
9. LRHW: Long-Range Hypersonic Weapon (FY23).
10. MRC: Mid-Range Capability, a medium-range missile (FY23).
11. FTUAS: Future Tactical Unmanned Aircraft System, a new battlefield drone system (FY23).
12. AMPV: Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle, a replacement for the M113 armored personnel carrier, originally fielded in Vietnam (FY23).
13. RCV: Robotic Combat Vehicle (FY22).
14. MPF: Mobile Protective Firepower, a light tank (FY21).
15. UN: Unified Network (FY19).
16. COE, or Common Operating Environment: CPCE/MCE Command Post Computing Environment/Mounted Computed Environment (FY19).
17. CPI2: Command Post Integrated Infrastructure (FY21).
18. MAPS: Mounted Assured Positioning, Navigation, and Timing System (FY19).
19. DAPS: Dismounted Assured Positioning, Navigation, and Timing System (FY22).
20. M-SHORAD: Maneuver-Short Range Air Defense (FY21).
21. IFPC: Indirect Fire Protection Capability (FY21).
22. LTAMDS: Lower Tier Air and Missile Defense Sensor (FY22).
23. AIAMD: Army Integrated Air and Missile Defense (FY22).
24. DE M-SHORAD: Directed Energy Maneuver-Short Range Air Defense (FY22).
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Jenna Biter is a staff writer at Coffee or Die Magazine. She has a master’s degree in national security and is a Russian language student. When she’s not writing, Jenna can be found reading classics, running, or learning new things, like the constellations in the night sky. Her husband is on active duty in the US military. Know a good story about national security or the military? Email Jenna.
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