US Army Combat Capabilities DEVCOM Test Robotic Combat Vehicle-Medium (RCV-M) at Fort Dix, New Jersey
US Army Combat Capabilities DEVCOM Test Robotic Combat Vehicle-Medium (RCV-M) at Fort Dix, New Jersey

US Army Test Robotic Combat Vehicle-Medium (RCV-M) at Fort Dix, New Jersey

Members of the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command (DEVCOM) Armaments Center at Picatinny Arsenal, New Jersey, and Ground Vehicle Systems Center (GVSC) located in Detroit Arsenal, Michigan, joined together on a range at Fort Dix June 30 to perform a live-fire test of a Robotic Combat Vehicle-Medium (RCV-M), an experimental prototype under the Next Generation Combat Vehicle Cross-Functional Team (NGCV CFT). The tests focused on firing the RCV-M’s XM813 main gun, as well as its M240 machine gun, from an unmanned and wirelessly-operated weapon station.

“We want to look at the integration of a turret, which was provided as government furnished equipment to the effort, onto the platform. We’re using high speed cameras to look at the platform, cannon, and turret dynamics. We’ve got data collection systems downrange to collect the dispersion information. Here, we’re evaluating the armaments integration, but the overall expectation is to get these into the Soldiers’ hands and perform some experimentation as part of a regular training regimen down at Fort Hood, Texas, next summer,” said Mike Mera, an engineer in the Remote Weapons Branch at Picatinny Arsenal.

Engineers and program officers from the U.S. Army DEVCOM Ground Vehicle Systems Center and DEVCOM Armaments Center operate a robotic vehicle crew station from inside a Mission Enabling Technologies-Demonstrator vehicle at Fort Dix, N.J., June 30, 2021. The crew station allows Soldiers to provide waypoints or remotely operate Robotic Combat Vehicles from a distance. (Angelique N. Smythe, Picatinny Arsenal Public Affairs)

The RCV-M program is a joint collaboration among the NGCV CFT, Product Manager Maneuver Combat Systems (PM MCS), Product Manager Soldier Lethality (PM SL), and Combat Capabilities Development Command. The RCV-M platform includes products from Textron, Howe and Howe Technologies, FLIR, and Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace (KDA). The verification exercise ensured the stringent requirements for the turret and host platform were not only met by design, but also in reality. Although this system has been in the works for approximately 18 months, this was its first live-fire test.

Cristian Bara, a GVSC test engineer for the RCV-M and MET-D said,”He also came from Michigan to observe how the guns performed from the test plan perspective and to ensure the quality of the systems were where they needed to be. These are all prototypes,” Bara said. “This is the first system that we’ve developed where we have a gun of this caliber mounted on the robot, a completely unmanned robot, and that is also controlled from a different location or within the manned combat vehicle; it’s certainly unique. The overall goal is to ensure that the systems, technologies and capabilities work as we design them and are being used as intended.”

A Robotic Combat Vehicle-Medium fires a around at a target during the vehicle’s live fire testing at Fort Dix, N.J., June 30, 2021. The testing prepares the vehicle’s systems and the engineers who design and operate it the opportunity to exercise its capabilities before the 2022 Soldier Operational Experiment at Fort Hood, Texas. (Angelique N. Smythe, Picatinny Arsenal Public Affairs)

The RCV-M armament system’s control station was housed in a Mission Enabling Technologies Demonstrator (MET-D). From there, crewmembers were able to move, shoot and communicate through a mixture of touchscreen panels and physical controls. The functional check ensures the MET-D and RCV systems communicate properly, messages and data are received on both ends, and the hardware and software also perform as intended. The RCV-M live-fire demonstration took place at Fort Dix on ranges formerly used to train Abrams and Bradley crews in gunnery from manned combat vehicles.

Fort Dix, the common name for the Army Support Activity located at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, is a United States Army post. Fort Dix is under the jurisdiction of the Air Force Air Mobility Command. It is located less than two hours south of Picatinny Arsenal. The partnership between the two installations allowed for flexibility in scheduling the range for testing of experimental systems in relevant environmental and training conditions. Established in 1917, Fort Dix was in 2009 combined with adjoining U.S. Air Force and Navy facilities to become Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst (JB MDL) in 2009.

A Robotic Combat Vehicle-Medium fires a around at a target during the vehicle’s live fire testing at Fort Dix, N.J., June 30, 2021. The testing prepares the vehicle’s systems and the engineers who design and operate it the opportunity to exercise its capabilities before the 2022 Soldier Operational Experiment at Fort Hood, Texas. (U.S. Army photo by Angelique N. Smythe/Released) (Angelique N. Smythe, Picatinny Arsenal Public Affairs)