US Army Soldiers’ AWA 17.1 Assessment Examines 3D Printing, Driverless Convoys & More

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download-29We know that our armed forces, including the US Army, are out there protecting us every minute of the day, often ready to give their lives for their country, and our freedom. And while we may have a very broad overview of what they actually do, most of us are busy going about our own lives and perhaps not thinking about all the complex details and issues our servicemen deal with every day. One of the primary considerations of course is looking out for any threat. And that starts at the base or in the war zone.

The Air Defense Airspace Management (ADAM) is currently involved in the two-week Army Warfighter Assessment 17.1 that began early in the week. Servicemen will be working together and then providing their thoughts and feedback on new warfighting capabilities. Capt. Jonathan Janiszewski is an ADAM officer, and his team is currently in charge of watching the sky for threats that may arrive in an airborne manner, whether via rockets, artillery or mortar. Should something occur, their job is to alert soldiers to take warning.


Capt. Jonathan Janiszewski [Photo: C. Todd Lopez]

As Janiszewski conveys, however, often these warnings are far too broad, going out to many soldiers who would not be affected. As that happens, there is the concern that they will become desensitized and then not act when there truly is an incoming threat. They wanted to find a solution so that they would not be crying wolf. That has come in the form of “Leader Effects Tool Suite and Localized Warn to the Edge Capability,” a new upgrade for the existing Air Missile Defense Workstation and Forward Area Air Defense system. With this, the issue of alerting far more people than need to be in the know is averted. With “LET’s Warn,” they can narrow down their alert to the specific people who would be in the way of a threat.

“So, we’re not crying wolf,” said Janiszewski. “We’re informing the exact individual who is going to be impacted by that threat, of that threat, and that allows them to react accordingly. It allows those soldiers to take cover, get inside hardened shelters.”

Others receive what’s referred to as a situational awareness-type message.

“We’re only warning the individuals affected by that threat,” said Janiszewski. “As a result, we end up with a situation where everyone else continues to maneuver. Adjacent units continue their mobility, their attack, whatever it is they are in the midst of executing.”

Pointing out the danger in allowing soldiers to become desensitized to warnings that don’t apply to them, Janiszewski makes it clear how important this upgrade is, as it could be the difference in saving lives since everyone knows to continue to pay serious attention.

There are other important tools being used for AWA 17.1 as well. Actually, they are being created. Chief Warrant Officer 2 Ron Billingslea, an allied tradesman with the 47th Brigade Support Battalion, supports his brigade through making wood, metal, and plastics projects. As AWA ensues, he will be evaluating R-FAB, which is the Rapid Fabrication via Additive Manufacturing system encompassing a lab of 3D printers which are working continuously to create objects that may be needed during the AWA, such as plastic washers, as well as treads necessary for their robotic ground vehicles.


Chief Warrant Officer 2 Ron Billingslea shows off some of the 3D printed parts they have created at AMA 17.1. [Photo: C. Todd Lopez]

The point of using the 3D technology during the AWA is to see how they help support the bridge, with soldier readiness and soldier innovation being most important, according to Billingslea. This paid off almost immediately as in repairing a generator they needed a specific type of wrench which they were immediately able to 3D print. Problem solved. In another instance, so far, they also created a tool that will open 55-gallon drums—alleviating a great deal of frustration as soldiers had been pounding at them previously with other ineffective tools.

“We came up with a way to carbon-inlay a tool to just push in a little, apply some pressure and it opens perfectly fine,” said Billingslea.


A 3D printer works on a part at R-FAB, October 14, 2016 [Photo: C. Todd Lopez]

They are also working on other tools currently that should not only make a big difference in efficiency, but in speed in production, affordability, and self-sustainability in being able to create a tool simply whenever they want to. According to Capt. Jeremy R. Pinson, of Combined Armed Services Command, currently they may 3D print a replacement part, but they will still order the traditional replacement also. In this context, they still only see the parts as temporary solutions. There is also the issue of intellectual property. Pinson points out that other manufacturers often own the patents on parts they might need to replace, and legally they can’t just start 3D printing them.

As feedback is so important during the AWA, Billingslea has already reported that one of the cameras they use for 3D modeling was found to be too fragile for the military environment. They are also testing other high-tech equipment such as driverless cars. And these are very interesting indeed—much different from what we are used to hearing about so far. According to Capt. Octavia Heningburg of the 47th Brigade Support Battalion, the second vehicle trails behind the first one, mimicking whatever it does.

“If it stops, the second vehicle stops,” explains Heningburg.

Obviously this would be perfect for the convoy scenario, requiring fewer men in the following trucks, and allowing for greater safety in warzones.

“It’s a force protection issue, primarily,” said Maj. Mark A. Gesky, of the Army Capabilities Integration Center. “We can take soldiers out of vehicles that are less protected and transfer them into better-protected vehicles, whether that be mine-resistant ambush protected vehicles or other up-armored vehicles.”


[Photo: C. Todd Lopez]

The soldiers will be providing feedback on this system, along with everything else they are examining during the AWA.

“It’s not only what we take forward, it’s what we don’t take forward. And with the soldiers here, working it at the ground level, you get very frank, honest feedback at the user level, which you may not always get if you don’t have an active brigade actually testing this,” says Col. Charles Lombardo, 2d Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division.

“This is soldiers providing frank feedback to the data collectors. It’s unfettered. People aren’t editing that. It’s from the soldiers.”

Use of 3D printing is picking up in the Army and in armed forces around the world. Discuss in the US Army forum at

[Source: US Army]

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