Simerly, chief of Combined Arms Support Command, Capability Development and Integration, spoke at a media roundtable Wednesday.
Discussions centered on the findings of the Demand Reduction Summit April 19 sponsored by the Army Capabilities Integration Center at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia. The summit was attended by the joint services and major Army commands and centers of excellence.
During the attack into Baghdad, the Army was forced “to take an operational pause to refuel and reset our formations,” he said.
In the future, the Army wants its brigade combat teams to operate independent of a logistics chain in austere environments at extended distances for extended times, he said, terming that effort “demand reduction,” or reducing the need to supply the BCT with fuel, ammunition, water, energy and other supplies.
“This is not a new challenge,” he added, but it has been given renewed emphasis with the multi-domain battle concept being the preferred strategy.
A multi-domain battle means a joint forces battle taking place not just in the domains of air and land but also in the domains of sea, space, and cyberspace. Such a force might employ infantrymen with cyberspace skills, innovative air defense systems to deter enemy aircraft, and even ground-to-ground missiles to target enemy ships.
In his remarks, Simerly touched upon a few of the near-term and long-term technological capabilities and innovations that could shape demand-reduction efforts.
NEAR-TERM DEMAND REDUCTION
The Army’s Fuels Automated Management System is an information technology application under development that will allow commanders to understand how much fuel they have, where it is and how far operations can extend based on the fuel at hand, he said.
Additive manufacturing will reduce demand at the point of need and allow Soldiers to produce combat spares or other critical items to lessen reliance on a supply chain that will be contested or extended, he said.
Improved tactical power generation or microgrid technologies will allow Soldiers to be more efficient at power production, distribution, storage and control of power, he pointed out. This effort will be aimed at BCTs on the move as well as on the halt.
LONG-TERM DEMAND REDUCTION
Capabilities that allow Soldiers to use alternative sources of energy like hydrogen vehicles or a greater use of hybrid-electric technology will reduce the supply chain and prevent that pause on the road to Baghdad that occurred in 2003, Simerly said. Platforms like the Abrams tank and the Paladin are some of the biggest fuel guzzlers. These may need to be completely replaced with something like hybrid-electric.
Autonomous aerial distribution that can deliver supplies 150 kilometers out with a payload of up to 2,000 pounds is a desired capability, he said. Lighter versions of these unmanned aerial vehicles might carry about 500 pounds that could supply an infantry squad every third or fourth day with fuel, ammunition and water and fly close to the surface of the earth. Micro-UAVs with payloads of 20 to 50 pounds would be helpful as well, perhaps carrying medical supplies.
Right now, at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, leader-follower vehicles — a mix of manned and unmanned trucks — are being tested, he said. However, in the distant future, autonomous convoy operations or single autonomous vehicles that carry supplies and operate off-road are a much-desired capability.
Unfortunately, the commercial sector is focusing on roads, and not much is being done off-road.
“Our sensors right now can’t very well tell the difference between a toddler and a tumbleweed,” he said.
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