Advancing Squad-Level Mobility

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July 16, 2018 | Originally published by Date Line: July 16 on

U.S. Army Program Executive Office Combat Systems and Combat Service Support (PEO CS&CSS) is leveraging Other Transactional Authority (OTA), technical demonstrations, and Soldier feedback to speed acquisition of the Army’s new Squad Multipurpose Equipment Transport (SMET) robotic ‘mule.’

As power and equipment demands continue to increase Soldiers’ logistical burdens, the U.S. Army is working with industry to capitalize on advances in power efficiency, robotic technology, and acquisition tools to accelerate a new “robotic mule.” Commercial industry thrives on rapid technological development, but current acquisition processes often make it difficult for the military to follow suit—meaning that technology can become obsolete before it is even in the hands of Soldiers. In the words of Lt. Gen. Paul Ostrowski, Principal Military Deputy to the Army Acquisition Executive, “I’ve got to get that capability out there faster. I’ve got to think of innovative ways to do so.” Key leaders in Congress and DoD have recognized this deficiency in the acquisition process and have outlined initiatives to shrink the timeline required to develop and field new capabilities to Soldiers.

After initial work with industry to define the art of the possible and potential requirements for a system that would help carry Soldiers’ loads and charge their batteries, the Army set a new, faster course in early 2017. The Army Requirements Oversight Committee (AROC) Capabilities Board gave clear direction to “get it done faster and cheaper,” and the Squad Multipurpose Equipment Transporter (SMET) program, managed within the PEO CS&CSS, began to break new ground.

Shortly after that meeting, Lt. Gen. John Murray, Deputy Chief of Staff, G-8, approved a “Directed Requirement” for SMET with three basic requirements:

Carry up to 1,000 pounds of Soldier load
Operate for 60 miles within 72 hours
Silent run-capability generating 3 kilowatts stationary power and 1 kilowatt mobile