US Army

Army uses human-machine integration to boost mass fires

By Jamie Southerland

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U.S. Army © photo by Lucas Hunter

The U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Aviation & Missile Center and Ground Vehicle Systems Center's combined Autonomous Multi-domain Launcher team conducted a successful live fire of a Reduced Range Practice Rocket fired from the AML at Yuma Proving Ground in April. (U.S. Army © photo by Lucas Hunter)

In a groundbreaking event on April 24, 2024, the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Aviation & Missile Center, in collaboration with the DEVCOM Ground Vehicle Systems Center and the Tennessee National Guard's 1st Battalion, 181st Field Artillery Regiment, showcased the Autonomous Multi-Domain Launcher, or AML, in a live-fire demonstration launching three reduced range practice rockets in a successive ripple fire mission.

Over the two weeks leading up to the live fire event, the team successfully fired three reduced range practice rockets. In total, including the live fire demonstration, there were six fired at YPG. The team also demonstrated the AML prototype's mobility modes: teleoperations, waypoint navigation and convoy operations. This exercise showcased the launcher's capability to move independently from a hidden position to a firing point, adjust its direction as instructed, and receive fire control commands from a remote gunner.

Led by the DEVCOM AvMC team, the event highlighted the seamless collaboration between human operators and autonomous systems. Field artillery Soldiers from the Tennessee National Guard spearheaded all operations during the demonstration. At the same time, subject matter experts from DEVCOM AvMC and GVSC gathered crucial feedback to inform future design iterations.

"The DEVCOM AvMC/GVSC AML team has succeeded in proving the possibility of using remote, autonomous technologies to deliver long-range precision fires," remarked Lucas Hunter, AML project manager for DEVCOM Aviation & Missile Center. "This opens the possibility of increasing firepower without major force structure adjustments and without risk to our Soldiers."

The productive event, held at Yuma Proving Ground, was a pivotal moment that validated the successful integration of autonomous technology into a modified High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or HIMARS, launcher. This achievement marks a significant milestone for the AML, setting the stage for its participation in Valiant Shield '24.

“Our Soldiers and the Tennessee National Guard are grateful for the opportunity to see the developments of the AML program and provide feedback to shape the future of long-range precision fires,” said Maj. Michael S. Lowry, 1-181st Field Artillery battalion executive officer. “To be able to follow the AML project over the past four years from inception to operating in a tactical environment is a unique experience for a National Guard HIMARS Battalion.

“Our launcher chiefs present for the operator's training and live fire quickly envisioned how the AML could augment our current force structure and increase lethality and were eager to provide crew feedback,” Lowry continued. “The accomplishments of the DEVCOM AvMC AML engineers are truly remarkable in such a relatively short amount of time.”

The AML concept aligns closely with the Army Modernization Strategy setting the stage to deliver the Army of 2030, emphasizing the integration of robotics and autonomy to enhance lethality. The autonomous, unmanned, highly mobile launcher, transportable via C-130 aircraft, promises to amplify firepower with additional launcher platforms and triple the magazine depth, potentially without commensurate increase in personnel.

"We are skillfully integrating humans and machines into formations that optimize the natural advantages that both bring," stated Brig. Gen. Rory Crooks, director of the Long Range Precision Fires Cross-Functional Team. "Our collective efforts allow humans to determine how to best utilize terrain to accomplish the fire support mission while offloading burdens and risk of executing them to machines."

With the AML program slated to transition to the LRPF CFT and their ASA (ALT) partners beginning Fiscal Year 2025, the successful live fire demonstration underscores the Army's commitment to advancing warfighter capabilities through innovative technologies and collaborative partnerships with the warfighter and industry.

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