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The Army’s approach to future weapons and war technologies is as clear as it may seem simple, meaning it involves putting emerging technologies in the hands of soldiers to assess how they integrated into a Combined Arms Maneuver formation.
The Army calls them Soldier Touchpoints, and it is something Army Futures Command has been doing with the services’ acquisition community to solidify requirements for new technologies.
Army Futures Command, Touchpoints
The touchpoint applications include the use of robotic technologies, networking systems and of course Long Range Precision Fires. A number of critical innovations in these areas are driving a need to help soldiers adapt to new tactics, formations and weapons applications, such as the advent of “shaped charge” course-correcting artillery and the service’s Extended Range Cannon Artillery (ERCA) program which more than doubles the range of standard artillery.
Maj. Gen. John Rafferty, Director, Long Range Precision Fires Cross Functional Team, Army Futures Command, explains that Soldier Touchpoints are a foundational element of Army modernization. Part of the rationale is based upon the recognition that combat-experienced soldiers are well suited to understand how best to use new weapons and determine their effectiveness in combat circumstances.
“One of the fundamentals of Army Futures Command is soldier-centered design,” Rafferty told Warrior in an interview.
Longer-range artillery targeting, coupled with new dimensions of networked targeting, massively change the scope of operations and introduce critical new tactics. Target identification can increasingly be established beyond the horizon, and computer automation of AI-enabled systems, a technological enhancement allowing soldiers to find new sets of targets and perform fire control and attack functions much more differently.
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Soldier Touchpoints are expected to continue to figure prominently in the development of the ERCA program, Rafferty said, because the service is now testing as many as six prototypes to prepare the system for war.
“We're learning right now from commanders and staffs in the field, how we're going to fight with this, how we're going to sustain it, and that setting up for the operational assessment,” Rafferty said.
ERCA will be operating with the First Armored Division and Fort Bliss to conduct operational assessments in a division level setting and a year of ballistic live-fire training.
“We will get a good sense of the material’s ability to withstand new kinds of stress, and we’ll be able to refit those prototypes over the next year,” Rafferty said.
This process is both elaborate and of great significant to future Army operational concepts, as much of what is learned in Soldier Touchpoints informs the development of new doctrine for the service.
“The second goal is to refine the operational concept. We will go in there with draft doctrine, and then take all of our notes from that year and publish the doctrine. We will put it in a Division context. It will culminate with a Combat Training Center rotation. Then we will refine the organization to determine what gaps we have. The third objective is to refine the concept of sustainment,” Rafferty said.
Kris Osborn is the President of Warrior Maven - Center for Military Modernization and the Defense Editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.