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US Army's new network software paves way for manned, unmanned teaming

The US Army's Combat Capabilities Development Command (DEVCOM) is developing a new software application designed to help facilitate teaming unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs) with advanced, manned combat platforms, such as the service's Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle (OMFV).

The Network Coverage Overlay (NCO) is a software application developed by army engineers at DEVCOM's Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Cyber, Intelligence, Reconnaissance, and Surveillance (C5ISR) Center.

Designed in conjunction with the US Futures Command's Next-Generation Combat Vehicle Cross-Functional Team (NGCV CFT), the service's Program Executive Office Ground Combat Systems (PEO GCS), and the Ground Vehicle Systems Center, the NCO is intended to support integration of manned and unmanned teaming capability via robotic enablers in current and future army combat vehicles, according to C5ISR Future Radio Concepts Team Lead Archie Kujawski.

“What we are doing, under the work of our [NCO] architecture, is to support a remote link with the Robotic Combat Vehicle via radio frequency [RF] communications,” starting with the army's OMFV, Kujawski said. NCO programme officials have begun to refine the critical RF-centric detection and networking technologies associated with NCO through solider engagements via operational experiments, he said.

A US Army Remote Combat Vehicle – Light (RCV-L) equipped with a Tethered Unmanned Aerial System. (US Army )

A US Army Remote Combat Vehicle – Light (RCV-L) equipped with a Tethered Unmanned Aerial System. (US Army )

That soldier feedback will be used to further NCO capability requirements, with the end goal of transitioning the research and development effort into a full-fledged programme of record, Kujawski added.

The work conducted during those operational experiments consisted mostly of modelling and simulation efforts, combined with end-user feedback, to evaluate the NCO's performance in a combat environment, according to Kujawski. The goal, he added, “was to determine the requirements that are necessary to enable the concept of manned and unmanned teaming”, via the NCO technology.

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