WASHINGTON — Seeking to bolster its development of uncrewed vehicles, the Army is using a separate acquisition pathway for software, paving the way for future coordination among platforms of all sizes.

The Army includes combat vehicle modernization as a top priority. The service has looked to develop three types of robotic vehicles — light, medium and heavy — to use as “scouts” or “escorts” for crewed fighting vehicles.

Both the light and medium versions of the vehicle are undergoing testing at Fort Hood, Texas. However, earlier this year, the service said it would defer its medium-size vehicle program, choosing to first focus on smaller platforms.

As it looks toward light vehicles, the Army will pay special attention to the acquisition pathway the service is using for the vehicles’ software, Doug Bush, the assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology, told reporters Wednesday.

“From an acquisition standpoint, we’re focused on ... the software, which will be critical for all ground robotic programs going forward,” Bush said. “Getting that right early is going to be essential.”

By developing the software separately from the vehicles themselves, the same software could be used across multiple platforms, potentially improving coordination and communication among vehicles.

The software acquisition pathway for the program will focus on embedded software development and sustainment activities, such as autonomy software, control station software and payload control software, according to the Army’s fiscal 2023 budget justification documents.

The pathway will also incorporate feedback from soldiers and other integrators into product roadmaps.

Bush said that while the Army is still broadly interested in robots of many sizes, the service is focusing on light vehicles because it sees that as a necessary first step.

In 2020, the Army selected QinetiQ North America to produce light-vehicle prototypes and Textron to build medium versions.

According to budget justification documents, in FY23, the Army will launch a competition for new light vehicles. Over the next five years, the service plans to spend nearly $750 million on developing light vehicles and the software acquisition pathway.

Catherine Buchaniec is a reporter at C4ISRNET, where she covers artificial intelligence, cyber warfare and uncrewed technologies.

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