The WMRD armor technology program has undergone a major change in focus during the past 2 years. At the time of the last review (2009) the WMRD armor program was primarily focused on developing and demonstrating armor technologies that could meet Army Future Combat Systems (FCS) requirements and on meeting urgent Army needs for upgraded combat vehicle armor for use in Iraq and Afghanistan. Since then, the Army has cancelled the FCS program, announced plans to initiate a new Ground Combat Vehicle (GCV) development and acquisition program, and fielded a number of combat vehicles with improved protection that employ WMRD-developed armor technology. These developments have provided WMRD with an opportunity to restructure its armor S&T program to better meet long-term Army protection needs. WMRD has taken advantage of this opportunity by developing plans to support GCV armor requirements and by following a new back-to-basics approach that has led to the establishment of longer-term, ARL grand challenges in protection. The restructuring of the WMRD armor technology program will help the Army to ensure that new and improved armor technologies are available to address all currently projected and future emerging threats.
WMRD has streamlined its core armaments technology programs to make them consistent with the Army’s current “squad-centric” focus aimed at increasing the combat effectiveness of small units. New efforts have been established in four areas: (1) low-cost, hyper-accurate munitions technologies; (2) disruptive energetics and propulsion technologies (disruptive technologies are those that provide significant improvements over current technologies, often through sudden innovation); (3) lethal and scalable effects technologies; and (4) soldier lethality technologies. Efforts in advanced propulsion technology now place more emphasis on small caliber munitions and less emphasis on artillery and tank cannon propulsion. WMRD has established a solid armaments technology program that will likely be capable of providing improved technologies to meet future Army needs for advanced weapon systems.
WMRD technical staff continue to show tremendous enthusiasm for their work and awareness of the importance of the solutions being generated through research. They have universally embraced the need to marry experimental and empirical protocols, long established at ARL, with the emerging multiple-scale modeling efforts. Early-career staff lead these efforts, aided by mentoring from the more senior staff. Likewise, the practical aspects of the ARL mission are repeated everywhere, and it is important that actual military vehicles and weapons remain a part of the underpinnings. A passion for timely solutions is well demonstrated, which provides urgency to the research. WMRD’s efforts address fundamental and pressing Army needs, and so any means to accelerate progress is of great national importance—a message that is clearly embedded in the program’s scientific staff. Networking is evident, but fostering of relationships with outside speakers and visitors would be beneficial. External reviews and emerging new university linkages are encouraged.
The connection between ARL and the Army Research Office (ARO) is working well. ARO staff have developed strong connections with ARL personnel and programs and have cleverly incorporated ARL interests into the ARO-sponsored programs. A number of recent examples of links between ARO-sponsored projects and ARL interests were described, including projects that involve exchange of personnel (in both directions), use of facilities, transfer of expertise, ARO-sponsored students who became staff at ARL, and seminars and workshops on various topics. In addition, there have been important examples of technology transfer from the ARO-sponsored projects to ARL programs.
The researchers’ excitement for their work is contagious, and investments in human talent of the past several years have produced exceptional results. Interactions with universities in the region have