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Observations from the AUSA ILW's Winter Symposium & Exhibition


Fort Lauderdale Convention Center, Florida
There is very anemic attendance at this AUSA Institute of Land Warfare's Winter Conference & Exposition as projected.  A total of 57 Army officers and 18 Army senior civilians were approved to attend this annual event that recently attracted several hundred.  Indeed, as AUSA President and former Army Chief of Staff retired General Gordon Sullivan outlined on Wednesday, the number of foreign military in attendance now nearly equals the number of U.S. military attendees.
Industry presence is accordingly muted... DSJ estimates that there are roughly 50% of last year's exhibitors... and smaller, less-staffed, equipment-austere industry booths prevail.
BAE Systems and Lockheed Martin are among major Army contractors who did not have exhibits.  Those who are exhibiting with whom DSJ spoke are understandably disappointed, although not terribly surprised, with the Army and industry turnout.  
Part of this event has been moved "to the cloud" in line with budget realities.  While future plans are up in the air, officials made clear that this will be the last AUSA Winter event in the Fort Lauderdale venue.  AUSA leadership has suggested that the event might be located nearer to relevant Army installations.
A few defense systems news bits that we gleaned from the event: 
  • Colonel Rocky Kmiecik, the Army Manuever Center's Director of Mounted Requirements, provided insight into the findings of a Ground Combat Vehicle (GCV) Analysis of Alternatives (AoA) that the Army conducted in 2012. Col. Kmiecik made clear that the GCV will necessarily be both tracked (versus wheeled) and very heavy.  Speaking of the counter-IED-prompted requirement for GCV size and mass, the Colonel noted: "It's fairly easy for us to make a thicker underbelly plate or add a v-shaped hull to make the vehicle survivable, but what that does not address is the accelerated forces that come with blast.  Right now the best way to protect the soldier is by having adequate space inside."  Stressing the need to spread GCV weight across the ground, Col. Kmieck explained that only a tracked configuration will allow cross-country mobility of such a heavy vehicle.  He also underscored the requirement for an enhanced "larger than 25mm, most likely a 30mm" gun to deliver precision firepower, a lesson which he suggested was provided by the AoA's evaluation of the European CV-90.   BAE Systems and General Dynamics, currently engaged in GCV Technology Development (TD) Phase work, will presumably compete for GCV product downselect -- now to one vendor for Engineering and Manufacturing Development -- in FY19.
  • Kevin Fahey, PEO for TACOM's Combat Support and Combat Service Support, tells Defense Systems Journal that media reports of fleeting USMC interest in Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) investment and acquisition are overstated and oversimplified. The USMC position past and present, he notes is simply that acquisition of a AAAV-replacement ACV is a higher priority and if the JLTV program is slowed too terribly much (years), the USMC may have to forego acquisition in favor of the higher-priority ACV.
  • LTC Patrick M. Marshall, Chief of the Army Space and Missile Defense Command's Responsive Space Division Technical Center, spoke on the Army's nascent Space Smallsat program.  Under this program, the Army seeks to develop and potentially deploy small (breadbox-sized) satellites that could vastly increase Army operator situational awareness.  LTC Marshal notes that preliminary project work suggests that these "smallsats" could cost between $500K and $1.5 million, be delivered to Low Earth Orbit (LEO) for between $1 and $2 million.  He tells Defense Systems Journal that the envisioned systems could provide tactically-relevant resolution (1.2 meter) and would stay in LEO for up to 3 years.