Army Names Top 10 Modernization Efforts of 2016

A soldier tosses a training grenade at Fort Harrison, Montana. U.S. Army Reserve photoA soldier tosses a training grenade at Fort Harrison, Montana. U.S. Army Reserve photo

The Army‘s “Top 10” modernization programs in 2016 range from a new hand grenade designed to be easier for lefthanders to throw to hydrogen-powered vehicles, Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) said in a release Thursday.

The improvements soldiers can look forward to include:

1. Enhanced Tactical Multi-Purpose (ET-MP) grenade. Engineers at Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey are developing an “ambidextrous” Enhanced Tactical Multi-Purpose (ET-MP) grenade that can be thrown more easily with either hand. The current M67 grenades require different arming procedures for left-handed users.

Matthew Hall, the Grenades Tech Base development lead, said the transition to the new grenades is expected to take place in fiscal 2020.

2. A new, lighter ballistic shirt. In designing the shirt, “We set out with this science and technology effort to meet the needs of high-performance athletes, which is what soldiers are,” said Robert DiLalla, team leader of the Infantry Combat Equipment Team at the Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center.

The shirt weighs 35 percent less than the current interceptor body armor system components it will replace. In tests, “The soldiers have spoken loud and clear with more than 90 percent user acceptance in multiple user evaluations,” DiLalla said. The new shirts are expected to be ready in 2019.

3. 30MM cannon for Stryker Vehicles. The first prototype of an M1126 Stryker mounted with a 30mm cannon was delivered to the Army in October. Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Daniel Allyn said the service moved to address a “capability gap” with the Strykers after Russia’s aggression against Ukraine in 2014.

4. Longer Range Howitzers. Picatinny Arsenal engineers have been working to double the range of the M777A2 howitzer. The new weapon, called the extended range cannon artillery, or ERCA, adds six feet to the cannon but less than 1,000 pounds to the overall system.

The M777A2 “can shoot about 30 kilometers, but once all of the upgrades are complete, it will be able to shoot about 70 kilometers,” said David Bound, M777ER Lead, Artillery Concepts and Design Branch, which is part of the Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center, or ARDEC.

5. Debut of Joint Light Tactical Vehicles. The first seven JLTVs were turned over to the Army and Marine Corps in late September by Oshkosh Defense for testing at different sites around the force. The JLTV is a tactical wheeled vehicle with a chassis that offers protection from underbelly blasts and also has greater fuel efficiency.

6. “Entangled Photons” for More Secure Communications. Scientists at the Army Research Laboratory are looking at ways to use the photon — the most elemental “quantum” component of light — to enhance communications, sensing and cryptography.

“We don’t really know what all the applications are” to the research, “but our mandate, in part, is to find those applications,” said Michael Brodsky, a physical scientist at the Army Research Laboratory. The idea was to “entangle” the photons, which could lead to more secure networks, Brodsky said.

7. New Armored Vehicle. The first armored multi-purpose vehicle, or AMPV, was handed over to the Army on Dec. 15 to begin a 52-month engineering and manufacturing development phase. The AMPVs are meant to replace the M113 armored personnel carriers.

8. Hydrogen-Powered Vehicle. The Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center and General Motors rolled out a prototype of the ZH2, which runs on a hydrogen fuel cell instead of the usual diesel. The prototype was unveiled in October at the Association of the United States Army Annual Meeting and Symposium.

9. New Tourniquet. The Army began fielding the new “junctional” tourniquet, which can be used to stop hemorrhaging in the torso, rather than limbs.

10. Improved Helicopter Engines. The Army has begun developing an improved turbine engine program, or ITEP, to give AH-64 Apache and UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters greater lift capability in high-altitude environments such as Afghanistan.

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Richard Sisk
Richard Sisk is a reporter for Military.com. He can be reached at richard.sisk@military.com.