While this year’s Army Expeditionary Warrior Experiment (AEWE) at Ft. Benning is over, planning is already underway for next’s year’s experiment. Ed Davis, deputy director for the Maneuver Battle Lab at the Maneuver Center of Excellence (MCoE) says that the lab’s final report is due at the end of February, and that the tests next year might have a different twist.
The three-week event that concluded on Nov. 4 put tablets, smart phones, and small robotics in the hands of soldiers, setting squad-sized units against an opposition force that also had wireless communications, night vision equipment and a small unmanned drone. And all of it—on both sides—was connected via a 3G wireless network. While the tests next year will continue to focus on wireless technologies, Davis said that the Army also wants to evaluate new training and development equipment, adding, “I think we’ll see a lot of virtual trainers so you can take a squad leader and give him multiple reps and multiple venues” to get trained up on the latest robotics and communications technologies. In keeping with the squad-level, expeditionary aspect of the experiment, Davis says that “we want training that’s mobile, that doesn’t require a lot of fixed infrastructure, and that’s flexible.”
Another focus of next year’s experiment will be outfitting the opposing force with more communications and surveillance gear in order to make them as capable as possible. “Quite frankly,” he says, “the American soldier hasn’t had to look in the skies and worry about what’s up there” in recent conflicts, but the use of off-the shelf unmanned drones will only increase by non-state actors in the future. “We need to start thinking about how we’re going to defeat those things. How are we going to manage the airspace when you’ve got both them and us up there, while [UAVs] keep getting smaller and smaller. Conventional ways of deconfliction may not be satisfactory.” He also said that the MCoE wants to give the opposition force some localized electronic jamming capability, since “we want to makes the vignettes as complex as we can.”
The MCoE has issued an invitation industry to come down to Ft. Benning in December in order to present their technologies for inclusion in next year’s experiment, and Davis confirms that they have already received ninety-three submissions, and he expects over one hundred by the time all is said and done.