Arizona defense contractors celebrated Veterans Day on Friday by demonstrating next-generation military technologies they are developing for the U.S. Army.
Included in the display at the General Dynamics C4 System complex in Scottsdale were advanced combat gear that will be worn by future soldiers, new equipment for field command and control centers, and precise attack munitions.
The new technologies are being developed as part of the U.S. Army’s $100 billion Future Combat Systems program, which includes more than a dozen Arizona companies as subcontractors.
General Dynamics hosted the Future Combat Systems Southwest Region Conference, which brought the Arizona partners together to discuss progress on the program.
The purpose is to supply U.S. Army soldiers with advanced combat equipment to win future battles, said Dennis Muilenburg, general manager of combat systems for The Boeing Co., the program’s prime contractor.
"It’s about bringing new levels of awareness and information on the (battlefield) situation to the solider and improving his lethality and survivability," he said.
The program also is having an impact on the Arizona economy. So far it has brought more than 100 engineering jobs and $300 million in high-tech contracts to the state, and several of the contractors at the conference said they have more job openings available.
Some of the technology has already been delivered to the field such as advanced robots, unmanned aerial vehicles and improved sensors for surveillance and reconnaissance.
Other equipment under development include nextgeneration infantry carriers, mounted combat system vehicles, non-line-of-sight cannons and mortars and armed robotic vehicles that can operate in buildings, caves and sewers.
They will all be controlled by improved communications equipment and battle command computer networks.
The army plans to have a fully equipped combat unit deployed with future-system prototypes by 2008.
Much of the work in the East Valley involves development of software and communications gear. General Dynamics in Scottsdale is responsible for the largest software component in the system — planning and preparation service software that will help battlefield commanders set up their missions, said Manny Mora, general manager of battle management systems for the company.
Also the company is developing software that manages information provided by sensors on unmanned aircraft and other remote vehicles, he said. The information will be transmitted directly to individual soldiers via satellite communications equipment and displayed on helmetmounted eyepieces.
The company is incorporating many of the new technologies in Land Warrior uniforms that promise to turn future American soldiers into sort of RoboCops with the ability to see around corners and through buildings and blast enemies at long range.
The first 400 Land Warrior ensembles will be delivered to the Army early next year for assessment at Fort Lewis, Wash., said Susan Pasternack, GD’s manager of business development for warrior programs.
Small businesses also are participating. Scientific Monitoring, a Scottsdale-based software company, is working on sensors that will monitor the condition of military vehicles and can predict breakdowns before they happen, said president Link C. Jaw.
The company is taking technology that has already been used successfully on Boeing 777 jetliners and applying it to military vehicles with the aim of improving maintenance, he said.
Five employees are working on the program, and job openings are available for three more, he said.
"For a small business, this is a great opportunity for us," he said.