GRAFENWOEHR, Germany – A spotlight shined in the training area of Grafenwoehr, Germany as troops from the U.S., the U.K., and Department of Defense civilians gathered to watch as several new pieces of technology and concepts were used during a Robotic Complex Breach Concept assessment and demonstration, April 6, 2018.
“We are evaluating capabilities and the performance of a complex breach using robotics systems,” said Keith Briggs, the assistant engineering lead for the Robotic Complex Breach Concept.
Soldiers conduct breach operations when they encounter complex obstacles along their movement that may be reinforced with mines. The unit works together to secure the area and suppress any enemy contact, while using smoke to obscure their breach and mine clearing operations to continue their assault to the objective.
“The breach is one of the most difficult tasks that Soldiers can be faced with on the battlefield, so the opportunity to deploy robotic assets in place of a Soldier is something we are heavily striving for,” added Briggs.
The robotic assets used during the breach included aerial technology with the Lethal Miniature Aerial Missile System (LMAMS), Puma and Instant Eye.
The Puma is an unmanned aerial vehicle that is designed for reconnaissance and has an integrated payload specifically for identifying buried objects such as mines or improvised explosive devices. This technology allows Soldiers to identify mines early during their advance.
The Instant Eye is equipped with a chemical detection module for identifying the presence of Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) threats, which alerts the unit of the hazard and allows them to plan accordingly
The LMAM is a direct-fire missile used for neutralizing enemy targets.
“The LMAM allowed us to work faster and support the breach with our fires support,” said 1st Lt. Cody Rothschild, a fire support officer with 1st Battalion, 7th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division.
The military-vehicle mounted Automated Direct and Indirect Mortar (ADIM) is a mobile mortar that increases unit lethality. It can be manually operated by a standard mortar crew or remotely operated by a fire direction center.
Rothschild added, “The ADIM was a great asset to our breach today and definitely increased our survivability.”
The other robotic systems demonstrated ground equipment capabilities and included the M58 Wolf and the Terrier armored digger equipped with technology allowing them to be remotely controlled.
The M58 Wolf is a remote controlled, M113 armored personnel carrier variant, unmanned vehicle equipped with a smoke generator capable of producing continuous obscuration that inhibits the enemy’s optical and infrared detection.
“My team utilized the M58 Wolf smoke generator,” said Capt. Josiah McCoy, commander, Company B, 1st Battalion, 63rd Armor Regiment, 2nd ABCT, who led the maneuver element involved with the breach. “This [M58 Wolf] helped out the engineers and allowed us to set the conditions.”
As the smoke obscured the enemy’s view, the Terrier cleared the mines and breached the obstacle for other maneuver elements to pass through.
The Terrier, currently fielded by the U.K’s army, is a combat engineer vehicle capable of accomplishing combat and construction-engineering tasks while manned or remotely controlled.
Soldiers with the 82nd Brigade Engineer Battalion, 2nd ABCT, maneuvered their way through the obstacle utilizing the innovative robotic systems together with their U.K counterparts of the 22nd Engineer Regiment, 8th Engineer Brigade.
The multinational effort, combined with the advancements in technology, allowed the maneuver element to complete all phases of the breach.
McCoy added that the robotics breach provided a unique opportunity for combined arms to work together while using automated breaching assets.
“I think this was a great opportunity to increase our skill sets and strengthen our relationships with other entities,” McCoy said. “This opened our eyes to what capabilities are out there and how we can improve now until this tech is implemented.”