Military Vehicle Event A High Tech Showcase

NOVI — A standing room only crowd of more than 900 packed the Suburban Collection Showplace Tuesday for the opening session of the seventh annual Ground Vehicle Systems Engineering and Technology Symposium.

Opening keynote speakers Paul Rogers, director of the U.S. Army’s Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center, and Gen. David Perkins, commanding general of the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, spoke about military vehicles in the current defense environment.

Rather than engineering new vehicles, Perkins said, Army engineers now seek “a combination of mobility, protection and lethality.” He said the Army does not seek “a plan to buy things,” but instead “a strategy to obtain a capability.”

The end result, he said, “is not a tank. It may not even be a combat vehicle. It is a combination of capabilities … so we can compel an enemy to comply with our will.”

Later Tuesday, a panel discussion on combat vehicle modernization said the armed forces are “very concerned” about the threats posed by small unmanned aerial vehicles — they could carry small bombs into military formations. But panelists also said the Army is studying how to integrate UAVs’ capabilities into its formations.

Tuesday afternoon, Rand Corp. senior historian David Johnson gave a sobering assessment of advances in armament of America’s adversaries, saying that U.S. forces have “significant gaps and vulnerabilities against these weapons. These vulnerabilities exist today and need to be addressed.”

Included are advanced Russian tanks and rocket launchers. Johnson noted that “the Russians in particular have been busy the last several years fixing problems they experienced in Chechnya and Georgia and their ongoing operations in Ukraine.” Meanwhile, U.S. forces’ strategy and weapons development has been focused on the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan against poorly organized groups of irregular forces. As a result, American military vehicles are much better protected against IEDs — but also as a result, they’re now so heavy now they can’t be transported by American aircraft.

Warned Johnson: “while we may not fight the Russians and the Chinese, we will surely have to fight their (weapons) systems.”

Johnson said possible future opponents like Hezbollah, Hamas, Russian separatists and the Islamic State create a serious challenge because of their training, discipline, organization, superior “standoff” weapons that can be used at a significant distance from U.S. forces, and the use of complex terrain. Included are highly effective anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons that have been left behind by the collapse of failed states like Syria and Libya.

Johnson’s prescriptions include new efforts to counter unmanned aerial systems and rockets, especially “counterfire” systems to find and destroy rockets beyond 100 kilometers away.

GVSETS continues through Tuesday. A second day of events, called the Advanced Planning Briefing for Industry, takes place Wednesday, setting out more detail on upcoming military vehicle opportunities. The event wraps up Thursday with detailed technical briefings in five areas of interest to the military: autonomous ground systems; modeling and simulation, testing and validation; power and mobility; vehicle electronics and architecture; and systems engineering.

GVSETS also features a trade show with 60 exhibitors.

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GVSETS is sponsored by the National Defense Industrial Association Michigan Chapter.

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