The Army wants to find new technologies that would help a ground vehicle in any weather, any terrain, and without a link to GPS, relay its coordinates.

The Army’s Rapid Capabilities Office and Special Operations Command plan to run a demonstration in late March of emerging position, navigation and timing technologies that industry can offer. In a request for information released Dec. 12, the government said it is looking for non-GPS technology that can provide PNT capabilities while mounted on ground vehicles without the presence of a GPS signal.

While the notice was published by SOCOM, the Army’s Rapid Capabilities Office will run the PNT portion of the experiment. The office will then share the results with SOCOM and the Army PNT project office as it comes out, Doug Wiltsie, director of the RCO, told C4ISRNET in a recent interview.

“For industry, this is one of our opportunities to allow them to demonstrate their wares and then allow it to potentially lead to additional demonstration of prototyping and, ultimately, if there’s something that has good performance and is mature enough, may lead to some limited production opportunities,” Wiltsie said.

Without knowing what technologies will be participating, given proposals aren’t due back until Jan. 12, Wiltsie said the Army is interested to see capabilities coming out of the autonomy world and technologies that understand depth and terrain that can compare algorithms used to define location on a map.

“We’ll know a lot more come the middle of January about what capabilities will be brought to bear,” he said.

The Army will test these technologies in a demonstration at Camp Atterbury-Muscatatuck Center for Complex Operations in Indiana, Rob Monto, Emerging Technologies director of the RCO, told C4ISRNET.

The Army will be looking at these technologies in operations that involve day and night, rain, snow, sun with preplanned routes and specific waypoints to understand what the GPS coordinates are of those waypoints, assessing how well they perform on relaying back where they think they are.

“The technologies will be used to go over long distances, multiple environments … so that we can get an understanding of their capabilities and their limitations,” Wiltsie said. The eventual goal, he said, is by putting them in an operational environment they can understand their performance out on the terrain and possibly in more of an urban environment, a key concern of top Army leaders.

[Urban combat: The Army’s next frontier]

Supplementing current PNT efforts

The RCO, along with the program manager for PNT, is continuing to work on an early capability called Project Titan. That program seeks to provide platform PNT assurance with point protection, or access and integrity to PNT data at a platform level, as well as electronic support sensor capability that would help the Army Europe commander when maneuvering in a GPS-challenged environment.

[Army still working long-term acquisition strategy for PNT]

Wiltsie said the effort, aimed at ground vehicles, is ongoing with a first demonstration this summer.

The Army hopes to make a decision on this capability in 2018, which allows for limited navigation and the timing that is necessary to feed and synchronize all the equipment on the vehicle.

Wiltsie said he expects this effort to transition into production by the end of this year adding the Army is looking at this capability to go to Europe but also inject to the Korean peninsula.

The RCO’s efforts don’t work to field to the entire Army, but rather specific combatant commands based on urgent operational needs statements that might inform future requirements for programs of record.

The effort with SOCOM and the March demonstration is an opportunity to see if there are technologies that give the Army higher performance than what they currently are considering.

Without knowing what technology industry will present in March demonstration, Wiltsie said he expects a few successful technologies could lead to a more formal acquisition process in the summer.

Mark Pomerleau is a reporter for C4ISRNET, covering information warfare and cyberspace.

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