Picatinny provides advanced system for efficient fires for field artillery
To meet the challenges facing the Army’s field artillery community, engineers at Picatinny Arsenal have developed a light-weight, man-portable field artillery survey system that enables accurate, efficient fires and maneuvers in GPS degraded or denied environments.
The Location and Azimuth Determining System, or LADS, provides accurate position and azimuth data, and allows Soldiers to accomplish their missions, independent of GPS availability, legacy system availability and field artillery survey experience.
Weapon position is a crucial component of successfully providing accurate, predicted fires. LADS assumes the functions of two legacy systems that are at, or nearing, the end of their sustainable life.
The Improved Position and Azimuth Determining System, or IPADS, is currently used to provide field artillery survey. The Gun Laying and Position System, or GLPS, was used to lay howitzer batteries in GPS degraded/denied conditions.
Not only does LADS combine the functionality of two crucial systems into one, but the system is more accurate and easier to use. The intuitive user interface used by LADS is a government designed and owned software suite.
The interface provides on-screen instructions and enables Soldiers of any military occupational specialty to accomplish their mission with minimal training.
The Army divested the 13T (survey) military specialty in 2018; LADS has the potential to provide field artillery units with a way to organically provide themselves accurate survey. The LADS system was developed by the U.S. Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center, or ARDEC, at Picatinny Arsenal. The center is a subordinate organization of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command.
The LADS project started in 2014 with an invitation from the Fires Center of Excellence, based at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, to participate in a navigation course at its annual Maneuver & Fires Integration Experiment.
ARDEC built and tested a technology demonstrator in eight weeks, and successfully navigated the course under the moniker of “Future Artillery Survey System” or FASS, said Scott Cooper, the ARDEC Project Lead.
After the demonstration, ARDEC funded a science and technology development effort to continue the project under the name “LADS.” A first-generation, “Phase I” LADS technology demonstrator was produced in 2016, followed by a ruggedized, field-ready “Phase II” version in early 2018.
The LADS development team is comprised of members from several ARDEC organizations, including the Weapons and Software Engineering Center, the Enterprise and Systems Integration Center, and the Munitions Engineering and Technology Center.
“The expertise and experience that our team members have brought to the table from their home organizations has resulted in a well-rounded technology development that will positively impact the field artillery community and the warfighter,” said Cooper.
In May 2018, LADS Phase II was deployed to Hohenfels Training Area, Germany, to participate in the Joint Warfighting Assessment 18.1.
LADS was fielded to Soldiers from the 1st Infantry Division out of Ft. Riley, Kansas, for operational assessment. The deployment was in cooperation with the ARDEC Fusion Cell, which identifies methods to accelerate the transition and integration of ARDEC’s services and technologies to the warfighter.
After a 16-hour, new-equipment training session, 13B gunnery sergeants used LADS to successfully complete reconnaissance, selection, and occupation of position missions, battery emplacement missions, and maneuvers during the eight-day field exercise.
Soldiers were presented scenarios designed to test LADS’ ability to operate in simulated GPS degraded/denied environments. The system was used to complete missions including a platoon maneuver and lay without GPS aiding, a night-time position occupation, along with an emplacement and howitzer position verification—this while the weapon’s fire control was utilizing GPS aiding.
“Even when we’ve been awake for 52 hours straight, the LADS software is easy to use and makes it hard to screw up,” said Staff Sgt. Jose Pagan.
These demonstrations in a simulated operational environment have propelled LADS to technology readiness level 6, the last step in the science and technology development process, and the springboard for transition to program of record status.
“Participation in JWA 18.1 as a science and technology effort was very beneficial to our program. It provided valuable user assessments and feedback from an operational environment that would otherwise be impossible to come by,” Cooper said.
“This assessment represents a major milestone in the LADS program’s growth and has allowed us to pursue transition to a program of record with maximum confidence in our product.”
ARDEC is currently developing “Phase III” production representative systems for the Marine Corps Systems Command. Those systems will undergo test and evaluation in FY19/20, followed by planned low-rate initial production and full rate production in FY21/22.
Concurrently, the Army Program Manager Towed Artillery Systems, also at Picatinny Arsenal, is planning a LADS Program of Record to start in FY21, with block upgrades planned for FY23 and beyond.
“With the U.S. Army artillery platforms utilizing digital fire control and the ever present threat of operating in a GPS denied environment, the requirement for accurate, precise survey within the artillery community is needed more than ever,” said Keith Gooding, Program Manager Towed Artillery Systems.
“The ARDEC Location and Azimuth Determining System has successfully demonstrated its performance capability during the recent JWA 18.1 in Germany,” he added. “The LADS intuitive user interface, coupled with its light weight, makes it an ideal candidate to support future Army survey needs.”
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