Latest Military Technologies Being Employed by U.S. Soldiers
COL. TUBBS: Good afternoon. My name is Greg Tubbs, Colonel Greg Tubbs. I'm the director of the Rapid Equipping Force stationed at Fort Belvoir. And I'm glad to be here today to answer some of your questions and, hopefully, give you insight to some of things that I do for a living.
If we can show the first slide.
This is a slide that the first director of the Rapid Equipping Force developed in conjunction with the chief of staff of the Army. This is actually our artist's rendition of what his pencil sketchings were, and gave us what our first order of business was, or our missions. We listened to him, we went back to the office, wrote down what we thought our mission statement was, took it back to the chief of staff of the Army, and he ratified or improved that mission statement at that time. And as you see, the missions were, broadly: to equip, assess and insert. That's the -- equip the current force and a slight -- the detail there is it's different from fielding, because we already have an acquisition community that's already very adept and professional at fielding the force. But sometimes we have immediate warfighter needs, and in order to meet those, we might equip a warfighter and then transition that to a professional project manager in the acquisition community. So that's what we do is equip.
We assess some of those technologies or equipment in theater, either in Afghanistan right now or Iraq, and then we might -- again, in conjunction with the acquisition community or TRADOC, we might provide additional forces with that technology.
Then the insert piece is that we work very closely with TRADOC, the acquisition community, the Futures Center, PMUA, or unit of action, and we look at technologies that are in the future, either in the labs or in development in the science and technology databases or infrastructure, and we look at things that we can pull forward into the current force so we can use it in the current fight.
So that's, in a nutshell, what our missions are. And I'll accept some questions on that shortly.
You see in the green box, the Joint IED Task Force is number one. As I distribute the energy that the organization has, I spend a preponderance of my time and resources supporting the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Task Force and Brigadier General Votel. And then when I'm not concentrating on those missions, I have a general support mission to the rest of the Army, where I exercise what I mentioned earlier in the brief.
As you see, this is just a pictograph that depicts the way that I look at my missions that I've just described to you. Again, the Army portion at the top is the IED task force, and I provide direct support to them. And then I provide additional support to the Joint IED Task Force Defeat mechanism, and what I provide is scientists, logisticians, operators, anything that they need to help facilitate their mission, to either look at technology or science or look in the acquisition community, all the national labs. We do those type of things to facilitate what he's trying to do, again to help the warfighter.
I've already mentioned to you the general support mission for the Army. The way that we do that is by the soldiers primarily that I have stationed in country in both Iraq and Afghanistan. And of course I won't tell you exactly where all those are, but I have about over 20 folks in both countries. And what they do is they interface with the soldiers and the leadership, and they try to find out what, again, their immediate warfighter needs are, because the enemy adapts and the environment emerges and changes every day, so what we want to do is see what's changing, see what the soldier needs. We want to very rapidly turn that and get it back into the soldier's hands.
Of course, TRADOC and Future Center. We've spent a lot of time developing relationships with TRADOC and the Future Center because we think that working within the Army infrastructure, it behooves us, of course, to come up with the best solutions for the force. And a lot of what I do is relationship based, and I think that's how we make things faster. So we've invested in that because a lot of things that we either equip, we assess or insert, when we want the rest of the Army to have it, we want to do the full evaluation by TRADOC and ensure that it's brought into the force in a deliberate way.
And then, of course, the Joint Staff and the Secretary of Defense, or DOD, sometimes we'll get missions from them. Because of the nature of the relationships we've built, if something needs to be happening rapidly, sometimes we get involved. Sometimes our involvement, it runs a full spectrum. On the lowest end, it could just be to be a catalyst to help things happen, or as deal makers to bring two people together, again to help the warfighter.
I talk to a broad depth and swath of folks in the Army and in the nation that want to help the warfighter, and sometimes the little that we do is bring two people together that can come together and, again, help the warfighter. And we're pretty proud of what we do when it comes to that.
Next slide, please.
A couple of samples of things that we've done, and we'll show you a couple of these at the end of this short brief. The MARCBOT, probably proudest of that because we know, not just anecdotally but in the real world, it has saved lives. There's over 30 of them in theater right now, and we're in the process of putting several hundred additional small robots into the country.
Now we don't compete with explosive ordnance device type robots, and what we do is try to put a robot at the lowest echelon, where soldiers can interrogate potential improvised explosive devices. We had one -- in a one-week period interrogated 32 potential improvised explosive devices, and of those 32, 26 were actual improvised explosive devices.
Now for $5,000 investment for this type of device that has a camera, a swivel arm -- and you'll see it earlier -- a little bit later -- we think that's a pretty good investment.
Soldiers like them. They save lives. We get testimonials periodically that attest to that. When we go visit people, when I go visit them in either Afghanistan or Iraq, they'll tell me time and again -- they point at pictures of soldiers and say that "I know for a fact that that soldier's life was saved by this device." Or they -- on occasion, they've brought me the broken MARCBOT that was blown up in an IED blast. So to me, it's much better to use that device to get blown up than for our soldiers to suffer. So we're -- I'm most proud of that.
The TACMAV. It's an 18-inch wingspan, ultra-light, if you will, UAV. And what we use that for -- it's got two cameras. It's relatively inexpensive, in comparison to its competitors.
We work parallel and collaboratively with the program manager in the ASOL (sp) community to bring that to the warfighter. And what it does is it fills a gap at the lowest echelons.
Again, when I talk to soldiers and when I talk to battalion commanders or brigade commanders, they ask a simple question: "Can you provide me something to just see over the next hill? Can I just see around the corner?" Because that becomes very instructive for them when they're trying to save their soldiers' lives. And it can -- obviously and intuitively makes the difference between life and death.
So we're pursuing that. It's very cheap in comparison to any other type of UAV device.
JLENS is a very sophisticated camera system that -- they can either be on towers or on these blimps, and that provides us a persistent stare or persistent surveillance type capability.
When you see the Coke can -- and that's a camera to the right of it -- it just shows you what technology can do to provide you this camera type capability. And what the intent is, is obviously to see the battlefield at all times, to try to control battle space.
And this microwave is a project that we undertook to prevent -- it's a camera system that currently exists in some of the cities in the United States. We took an off-the-shelf type product and adapted it in wartime, in contact. And it's -- very rarely has that been done. And it's been very successful in the way that it's informed the military, the Army specifically, and the other services, in how we want to do persistent stare, persistent surveillance; how we want to do network center warfare; how we want to distribute these ISR assets and capabilities in the future. So it helps us inform as we move forward and continue to evolve to provide solutions to the soldiers.
The overhead cover protection backstop is just an overarching name that we give to initiatives to try to protect soldiers from mortar blast, missile attacks, and that type of thing. And you've seen in the news in the last couple of years that that happens. We just want to have initiatives to try to protect the soldier when it comes to that. And I'll leave that technology at that.
Jammers. You probably already know quite a bit about that. Those are items that the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Task Force has developed in conjunction with the Rapid Equipping Force and the ASOL (sp) community to try to counter either vehicle-borne or improvised explosive devices. I'll leave it at that.
Another good thing that I've really been excited about in the about 11 months that I've been the director, is what's on the right is the translator. We saw that we don't have a preponderance or a wide database of Arab speakers in the United States or in the Army, so we had a shortfall. So when I was talking to soldiers or we'd get anecdotal stories of the soldier trying to speak with the people either in Iraq or Afghanistan, it was intuitive to me -- again, a compelling logic-type situation where we needed to try to provide a device for the soldier to interact with the populace. So we provided a relatively cheap translator. It was like a small PalmPilot-type device. He would toggle on a phrase that he wanted to say. We put a speaker on it. He would hit the phrase, and then it would talk to them in Arabic. Now, it was limited, of course, to the database that we had in that first model, and gets at what we think we do pretty good in the Rapid Equipping Force. We gave it to the soldier, saw how it worked. The first report we got back was one soldier said that now he does in 40 seconds what used to take him about 40 minutes to pantomime. So it became very powerful; it's communication, and that can be the toughest part of anything, especially in wartime.
So what we did is we -- we have a term we call "spiral development." We took the assessments -- back to the first slide -- of that first generation, if you will, translator. We made modifications to that device. And the next spiral, we call it spiral two, was a device that you could talk into and it would find the phrase that the soldier was looking for, you know, because we want to get his hands off that so, you know, he can do other tasks. He would talk the phrase into the translator and it would speak Arabic to who he was looking for -- or who he was talking to.
The third spiral is we looked at certain type mission sets in country that had certain type phrases, and they were just different. And we took about 500 discrete phrases from those type units, and we had them added to the device. And we're currently retrofitting, if you will, or modifying the second spiral to have those additional 500 phrases.
So we don't ever just stop. What we do is we equip something; we do the "spiral development"; we do the assessment; we continue to make it better; because what we don't want to do in my organization is develop this over a two or three-year period and give it to the soldier three years from now. If I'm looking for immediate warfighter needs, I want to help the soldier today. And the big Army, if you will, can look forward and can look deeper; and we have the assets to do that; and they're doing that. But we don't work separately from them. We stay informed, and we do it collaboratively in a very friendly fashion, again, to help the warfighter.
I've got very few specified tasks from the leadership, but one of them is to have a common operational picture in the Area of Operation where we're deployed, to have a global perspective, if you will, and to know what the rest of the Army is doing; because what I don't want to do in an era of limited resources is to do something that someone else is doing, or you know, sometimes there's beauty to that as well, but we don't want to waste assets or energy in the war fight.
So I keep a -- I go to some meetings. I try to limit them, but I'm linked at the right areas, at very high levels of the Army staff to where I keep a very good picture of what other folks are doing in the Army. I'm linked in with the -- uniquely with the -- all the Army labs, the national labs, ASOL (sp), TRADOC, all the commands, and I have access with them. And I periodically go into theater, and of course, I talk to the people that I have there every day. And that helps me keep a good picture of what's going on and to drive solutions to the warfighter.
Again, some of the things that we'll see today -- you saw the MARCBOT already. It's got a -- you can see the power of it -- just intuitively, but you'll see it when we start driving it. Another one, on the right hand side of the slide, is the Tough Bot. And what drove us to this is just looking at the actions that occurred in Fallujah. And we thought that the warfighter -- you got to understand too, in my organization we have guys that have theater experience. As a matter of fact, I saw Lieutenant-Colonel Dennis Walburn (sp) yesterday. He was stationed in Mosul working for me in the Rapid Equipping Force and lost his left leg while he was there in an Improvised Explosive Device. Now, the reason I tell you that is because we are in contact, we are engaged with the warfighter, and we're trying to find out what they need.
And he was giving me just yesterday -- he's been released from Walter Reed as an outpatient. He came to my office yesterday and gave me information. He's still concentrated on the fight, and he gave me some pretty good information that I needed to try to help the warfighter. Now, regrettably, it took a little time to get that information to me, but he's still in the fight, and that's the mindset that he has. And that's what most of the people that work at the Rapid Equipping Force have. You know, you typically have people that either get it or don't get it, and most of the people in the Rapid Equipping Force get it. And I think that brings some of the power to the battlefield when we engage.
Okay. If we can, I'll start taking some questions. Sir?
Q: Colonel, Glen Massey (sp) with Inside the Army. Something that you didn't mention here, I think it's a little bit different in that it's longer term. You call it the Small Vehicle. And I believe the last brief -- (inaudible) -- a couple weeks back on that. Would you mind giving me a quick explanation on what the Small Vehicle is, how it differs from some of the vehicles that are out there. And secondly, what was the Army Requirements and Resources Board's reaction when you briefed them on this?
COL. TUBBS: I think less important than what the Resource Board reaction was -- because we were informing them, and what it was was an urban fighting-type vehicle. And why we got involved is because it showed a way to get at the future. There was a hybrid engine component, the way the weapon systems were brought forward, there was a zero turn radius composition to the wheels; so there was a lot of things that when I look at innovation in technology and science across the board -- see, I not only look at the area of operation, but I look at -- you know, I read periodicals, and most of them I scan. I'm looking for things that are either off the shelf in a civilian workforce and the government workforce that I might be able to adopt or adapt for the warfighter.
So this is what -- it was very promising to me of how we could use semi-autonomous robotics with that vehicle. So I wasn't looking specifically at that vehicle; I was looking at the promise of the technology and the innovation that we could derive with an excursion, if you will, by seeking that vehicle.
Q: A quick follow-up. Have you identified an off-the-shelf product, a vehicle that's out there?
COL. TUBBS: It's not on the shelf. It's a prototype that an individual had developed. And there's about 200 like systems in the United States.
Part of what I do too is -- constantly we see technologies that people bring to us at the Rapid Equipping Force. Some work, some don't work. And this was a very good technology and showed promise, but there are a lot of technologies that are like it. But what it did is informed me to let us take a look at that type technology and how it would inform us forward.
Now, we've passed that to the acquisition community, to TARDEC, and that's really where -- it's down their lane and where they can do a better job than I can probably do.
Q: Sir, what do you see as the most promising advances in terms of IED threats? This is a daily reminder we're seeing with lives lost, limbs lost.
COL. TUBBS: From my perspective, ma'am, I think the biggest -- the best thing that we're doing right now is General Votel's efforts in conjunction with a lot of helpers from the Joint Staff and how we interlink with the combatant command, how we interlink with the warfighter, and how we're approaching the information that they're giving us. And I think we're doing it in a new and a dynamic way, not a lockstep method. We're not looking for a solution to the IEDs five years down the road; we're looking for a solution tomorrow. So that drives you to a different solution set.
Q: The forward soldiers who we talk to say that communications -- tactical communications are not very good in the field, the portable radios. Are you doing something in that area? And also, in body armor there is some new body armor being sent that is too heavy, not very practical. Are you looking at anything in that area as well?
COL. TUBBS: I do generally, ma'am, you know, because it's -- I like to say there's nothing that I'm not interested in. I don't put a lot of emphasis or a lot of energy towards that, because there's already a lot of people in the acquisition community that look at armor. I'm aware of some of the innovations that they're doing. I try to stay engaged only because -- I'm not a crusader, but I like to look at what the soldier needs every day.
In the next couple of days, I'll be going back into region, so have a vested interest myself in what the latest body armor is. And I think we do a pretty credible job of providing that forward to the warfighter.
Q: And communications?
COL. TUBBS: On communications, I think we have the best in the world. And the environment's tough, and I'm not making excuses for that. But sometimes you'll get in situations with tactical radios that they're just not going to work.
Q: In urban communications, this would -- they have complaints about -- in urbanized areas –
COL. TUBBS: I know that the Army is aware of the challenges there, and we're working it hard.
Q: Colonel, can you tell us which soldiers will be getting this new technology, when they're going to get them, and how many they're going to get?
COL. TUBBS: Excellent question. I can't tell you that. And again, it goes back to the earlier comment that I made -- the difference between equipping and fielding. I'm not a replacement for the acquisition system. I work very closely with the acquisition system because it makes me stronger. You know, I look for any partner that will help me do it faster, quicker or better. In the acquisition community, I could look no further or closer to find a better partner. And they're better suited to do that.
What I do is, I provide more limited quantities, you know, and it depends on the complexity of the system. When we started out in Afghanistan in 2002, we provided a WellCam. It's a camera on a rope. It was better than putting a soldier on a rope and dropping him down the well, you know, holding on to his legs. So we put a camera on it. It was that simple of a technology, but they immediately started finding weapons caches. So you know -- but we provided one. Now we've provided many more.
But the senior leader guidance to me is, when I take on a project, is that day start looking for where I'm going to transition it into the big Army, because the Army's much bigger than I am.
So what we do is, I'll provide smaller quantities. Some of the things, regrettably -- and I'm not going to tell you about them -- haven't been successful. But as fast as I move, not everything's going to work like we intended it to. When we do testing, and we do it, and we think it works, we provide to the warfighter. If it doesn't work as intended when it gets in actual combat, we'll put it out, and it goes into the failure column, and we don't lose any sleep over it. We go to the next project.
But we pass that on -- that's when I was talking about TRADOC. TRADOC's mission is to look at that. Then we work with the acquisition community to spiral into the force.
Q: A follow-up question. Thank you very much. But what do you say to a soldier or Marine or a warfighter in the field who says, "Wow, this is great technology. I could really use it. When am I going to get it?" If someone asks you that, what would your response be?
COL. TUBBS: There's no cookie-cutter response to it. We try to be upbeat about it. Like some of this technology, like the MARCBOT, it's proven itself, it's very effective, and we've bought plenty of them. And we're providing them both -- some to the Marines and some to the Army moving forward.
Q: Sir, are any of these programs going into like a full-rate production for widespread procurement?
COL. TUBBS: What we have -- sir, I'll answer it this way. What we've done is the Army has come up with a -- you know, it's not a process, but it's a spiraling conference that we'll have in conjunction with TRADOC, and we will provide candidates to the senior leadership of things that we want to insert into the force. And those that pass muster, if you will, or that we want to go into full-rate production, that will happen.
A good example of that that the Army's inserted earlier is the Buffalo vehicle. And what we're doing is the leadership has decided to put that in certain type units, and we have moved forward on that. And that's all happened in the last 365 days.
Q: Either of these two programs -- for example, MARCBOT or Toughbot, are those candidates for –
COL. TUBBS: The MARCBOT is a candidate for the next spiraling conference, which is soon. And of course, you already know what's going on with jammers. We already have UAVs, but this might go into the force, but we'll see how it operates actually in the theater.
Q: Since you mentioned UAVs, do you see any redundancy between this TACMAV program and the Raven program?
COL. TUBBS: As you know -- or may not know, the Raven program started out in my organization. And I obviously see no -- redundancy depends on the task maturity level that you're looking at. Raven, for a system is a couple hundred thousand dollars plus. This system is about $39,000. It doesn't provide the same resolution, doesn't provide the same capability, but it fills a gap at a very low echelon. So it's a different type tool and it's got a different task and a different purpose. So from my perspective, there's no redundancy.
Q: One final quick question. What does MARCBOT do versus Toughbot? What is the difference between the two vehicles?
COL. TUBBS: Our vision originally, like I said, in Fallujah was to take that robot and a soldier could throw it in a window. Instead of sending a soldier through a door, if he was in an urban environment, he could throw it through a window. It's got two cameras on it; it could very easily and rapidly interrogate the interior of the room before live humans came in the area.
Q: Is that Throwbot or Toughbot you're talking about?
COL. TUBBS: Oh, I'm sorry. The first generation was a Throwbot, but when we threw it up against the wall it broke a wheel off. So -- (laughter). I say that because it's sort of humorous. We really test what we use, and we have live soldiers take it and use the soldier test. So they said you could throw it, and this is what you do. We take immediately -- if somebody comes to my office and says something can do something, we put it to the test within seconds. If he said that it's tough, I, you know, threw it against the wall, it didn't work. He said, "Okay, we think we're going to make it a Toughbot." (Laughter.)
That's not entirely true. But they went back, and this is really hardened. And the next time I threw it up against the wall it survived and it provided utility.
Q: On things like Toughbot, you concede there are some possible homeland security operations -- fire, rescue, law enforcement applications. Do you get involved with any of those agencies as well?
COL. TUBBS: Sir, I do, to an extent, because I will tell you, again, that's the power of what the Rapid Equipping Force does for the Army, is I don't turn down any partner. The -- for the Marines, for instance. We provide some things to the Marines. I have a very close contact with Marine requirements guys, and if they come up with a good idea, I'll steal it in a minute.
And I will tell you, several months ago, there was a QuickClot type medical device that they had. They were buying it. I was -- you know, I'm not a Marine, but I said sometimes Marines do some pretty good things. So I said, "Why are they doing it?" We quickly looked into it and saw that there was utility for our soldiers, too. So we've worked very closely and collaboratively to help both sets of soldiers.
Q: Is the intention now to give every soldier in the Army QuickClot, the way the Marines do? They actually carry it in Iraq.
COL. TUBBS: I'm not aware of that, ma'am. I don't know if every Marine has that, because it has some drawbacks in all applications. But all the soldiers -- they've done -- the Medical Command has done a thorough analysis, and those that can use it and take the benefit of it will probably have it.
Q: Can you quantify at all how many IEDs are being found by these robots now in Iraq? And as you're developing these technologies, I mean, is your sense that it's these types of things that are ultimately going to defeat the roadside bomb threat, or, I mean, how do you look at it long-term, in terms of the fact that it's claiming so many lives?
COL. TUBBS: There's about six or seven questions in there, but let me tackle one aspect of it. We think it's -- there's not -- we don't think, in the community or myself, that there's a silver bullet answer to improvised explosive devices. So the -- General Votel and the Joint IED Task Force and myself -- we look at it as a full- spectrum, you know, problem set, and it needs full-spectrum solutions, and that this is just a piece. Of course the training of the soldier is very important in this piece. The due diligence, if you will, professionalism, the contingency operations, the tactics, techniques and procedures are probably much more important.
But this gives these type robots -- we don't want to replace explosive ordnance device professionals or engineers, but we want to provide in the -- you know, what do you do if you're a soldier, an infantryman, and you come up on a dead animal carcass that looks strange, or something in the road that wasn't there yesterday? You want to look at it, and you don't want to come right up on this glass of water to see what's in it.
So what you can, from a standoff instance, have more protection -- you can see this and look around it, see what it is, because, you know, those type of specialized assets are in high demand. So this allows you to at least interrogate, because you can continue on your mission if it's not an IED. And of course if it is an IED, you'll have to take other measures.
STAFF: Sir, we'll take the last question right here, and we'll start the demonstration after this. (Off mike.)
Q: Okay. I have two questions, please. Concerning the translator device, could you give us more details about how it works and if it has the ability to translate both languages? And I don't know if you are going in the future to provide this kind of materials to the Iraqi forces.
COL. TUBBS: I think -- I don't know is the answer to your last question. But it might be a pretty good idea.
I will tell you I look at all kinds of translators, and this is relatively cheap or on the low end of what's in the realm of the possible. I am looking at a two-way translator. I think that even gives you more power. But the technology's just not that -- you know, as you well know, the Arabic language is much more complex than the English language. So we -- I have a very unsophisticated two-way translator at this point, and we continue to evolve that, because it would really be more powerful intuitively if I could have a two-way near-instant conversation.
Q: Thank you.
STAFF: Do you want to start the demonstration?
COL. TUBBS: Yeah, sure would. Can we have the first one, please?
I think it's driving in. It would be the MARCBOT.
STAFF: Are you ready? Okay.
Now, ladies and gentlemen, we'll give you a chance to get pictures of this afterwards as well in the light (if possible) -- (off mike).
COL. TUBBS: And as you can see it's relatively unsophisticated. We look for something that the soldier -- like the controls that he's sort of familiar with, with the type of lifestyle that children have -- or young folks have, not children. It is off-the-shelf-type technologies that we've married together in a unique way. You can see you can come up on an object with the way that the articulation works, and you can send that camera forward to interrogate potential IEDs.
Q: Is the camera in that little box on the top?
COL. TUBBS: Yes, so you can move it around. You can see -- and a soldier could do this from several hundred feet, and then that allows him not to get blown up in the attack. And it's saved countless lives.
Now, your earlier question was, how many lives has it saved? It is very difficult to get feedback in contact, but we try to get that. We know that it continues to save lives, but we don't track the numbers closely.
Q: What about numbers of -- I asked you, you know, numbers of IEDs that these things are finding. Any sort of numbers you can attach to it?
COL. TUBBS: I wouldn't hazard to guess. Quite a few.
Q: You said 30 in theater now?
COL. TUBBS: Yes, approximately 30.
Q: Thirty. Where?
Q: Is that a MARCBOT -- (off mike)?
Q: Where? Are –
COL. TUBBS: I couldn't tell you exactly where it would be for operational reasons.
Q: Colonel, does the name MARCBOT have a significance?
COL. TUBBS: No, it doesn't.
Q: You said in one week (it saved 30 ?). Again, where? You can't say?
COL. TUBBS: Well, the majority of them are in Iraq.
Q: What does one of these cost?
COL. TUBBS: The latest version is version four, and it cost about $8,000. We started out -- I'm sorry?
Q: Each one.
COL. TUBBS: Yes. We started out, it was about $3,000. And I will tell you the -- we do try to be frugal with the taxpayers' money. So we look at everything, and it's really -- I don't know how they're making any money on the product, because when you look at what you tie to it -- my son's got a car that's similar to that, and they're pretty expensive.
Q: Who makes MARCBOT?
COL. TUBBS: I'm sorry?
Q: Who makes it?
COL. TUBBS: Exponent is the corporation that makes it.
Q: Could you put a weapon on it?
COL. TUBBS: There -- I wouldn't put a weapon on this one. There are people that are putting weapons on robots, but we're not in that business right now.
Q: Can you put any other type sensors on it besides just a small camera?
COL. TUBBS: You could. In other type robots they have done that. But it becomes -- again, it just becomes a remote platform so you can get the soldier closer without getting his body closer to it.
Q: Can you describe how you can use that to find a bomb? Can it go underneath something? Or how about does it find disguised improvised explosive devices?
COL. TUBBS: Well, a lot of the bombs will be in, like, a dead animal carcass or in a plastic bag. You know, they're not hidden that well. But it allows you -- if you're on a convoy and you're familiar with that route and you see nothing new on the road -- you know, it goes back to the training and the tactics, techniques and procedures. If you see something that's unusual, that's not normal for that situation, then you would want to use some techniques to put this on it, to look in the bag, move the bag to some extent. If the bag's empty, you can continue on. If there is something in it, you can an negotiate this arm and the camera around to see what may be in it. There are people that have used this to find explosive device in carcasses, and then that allows you to mitigate that device once you've found it.
Q: Ideally, how many of these would you like to see in Iraq and Afghanistan?
COL. TUBBS: We really haven't done the numbers to see what that number needs to be. But I have -- again, we don't wait until we get total resolution and clarity on it. What we have done is invested in several hundred more because we know that the desire and the need is at least those numbers.
Q: Is it fair to say that there are at least several hundred out there?
COL. TUBBS: Not yet. There's 30 out there now. I'm in the process in the next probably six months of putting another couple of hundred in the field.
Q: Is it the night-vision camera?
COL. TUBBS: I'm not sure who exactly makes that specific camera.
Q: So what's the story about the sophistication of the insurgency if you have to order several hundred more of these MARCBOTs, you've got 30 now and you've got to order several hundred thousand -- several hundred more, what does it tell you in terms of, from your end, how sophisticated the insurgency's become?
COL. TUBBS: I don't think it has anything to do with the sophistication of the insurgency. It just has to do with the explosive devices being out there and you have to find them. To me it's a lot like an Easter egg hunt. If you have more Easter egg hunters, you'll find more Easter eggs.
Q: You can't use it in a populated area -- (off mike).
COL. TUBBS: You can. You know –
Q: If you have a house or a building, you're not going to send it in if you know there's people in there, because they could just turn it over, right?
COL. TUBBS: Well, they could, but -- you know, I wouldn't use it in that application. But there are other robots in theater. It probably wouldn't be as useful in a building like you describe.
STAFF: So we'll bring that one back later to take pictures, but if you have other ones, we'll go ahead and take the other ones.
COL. TUBBS: Okay. Let me have the next one.
Q: (Off mike.)
COL. TUBBS: We might. (To staff) The magnetometer? Do we have that?
Q: (Off mike) -- the Toughbot? (Laughter.)
COL. TUBBS: (To staff) The magnetometer? Where is it? Yeah.
Q: You had an interesting rifle out there before. What was that?
COL. TUBBS: I'm sorry, sir.
Q: The rifle you had out there before.
COL. TUBBS: Okay. It was a paintball gun. And it's a non- lethal type weapon. You know, it's -- there's -- obviously, you don't want to injure, you know, civilians or people that aren't that much of a threat to you. You know, not everything requires deadly force. And it was an option to get at that.
STAFF: This is a magnetometer. We didn't develop this, we bought it off the shelf about a year and a half back for cache detection. As you know, caches buried devices, we wanted a way, a simple way, rather than stepping on -- doing the old mine test with the toe probe, to find metal objects buried under the ground or in the wall. So we went off, very simple, standard piece of equipment. Comes straight from the manufacturer. It's a point-directional metal detector. So you can look down, look around, look through (walls?), as you walk through buildings and do searches. Very simple piece of equipment.
The cost of this, sir?
COL. TUBBS: The cost is about $850. And we think that when you do the cost-benefit analysis, that's a pretty high pay-back for what we invest in it.
STAFF: It's a very simple piece of equipment and it helped extensively in Afghanistan specifically because of the mud huts that they were doing the searches on. So, a very easy, simple piece of equipment.
Q: What was the original civilian application for that? Is that for beach combers looking for coins on the beach, or was it for something industrial?
STAFF: It was industrial. It was to find buried power lines and buried -- (inaudible). So you can actually spot them.
Q: Did you have to make any adaptation to it?
STAFF: We did nothing to it but put it in a box and sent it to Afghanistan.
COL. TUBBS: It's an excellent example of how you look at things across the United States or the world of what you could be using.
Q: (Off mike.)
COL. TUBBS: The -- (inaudible)? This is another -- and not everything's expensive. And I will tell you, a lot of times when we look at it, we knew there was a need and we developed this very inexpensive cable. And what it does is it gives you options -- it's got a standard like cigarette lighter connector on it. And this very simple device was used a couple of months ago to save an Afghan girl's life because the medic on site that was trying to save her life ran out of battery power, couldn't evacuate her because of a sand storm, and he was able to keep his medical equipment running for about 16 hours because he had this adapter. Without that adapter, the little girl probably would have died. And the –
Q: What's it connected to? A vehicle or a battery –
COL. TUBBS: You can attach it to a battery. It's a converter. You know, we're used over here to converters. But we provide thousands of these to soldiers. They can run, you know, cell phone adapters off of them. It just extends the battery life of whatever you have and gives you more options.
STAFF: It operates off a standard (VA-55 ?) military battery that most soldiers have in the field for other items -- radios.
COL. TUBBS: And a lot of times -- this is a standard battery. A lot of times when this is done for its primary purpose, there's still battery life in it. Some of the applications, when it's done with that application, it still has 50 percent of its power available but it won't run the device that it's on. So you take that battery and then you can use it for several months in other applications. So it's just a -- you know, it's a way to help the soldier, because he's getting to be a little heavy, and it gets a little onerous if you're always with a replacement.
The Expray is this kit here. And again, it's low tech. But what this does is if you think that you've found someone that's been using explosives, it's low-tech spray that you can take a swab of his hands, you spray on it, and you can tell if he's ever come in contact with explosives.
Q: Is that like they use in airports -- (off mike) -- going through your luggage with something?
COL. TUBBS: Yet's, it's similar to that, but it's sort of a low- tech type thing, but it's just another tool we use. Again, there's no single application that's going to help us defeat the insurgent, but this just really helps the warfighter.
Q: So it's essentially like GSR residue detection that the police use, I think.
COL. TUBBS: Yes, sir. And you see it has several cans, because as you use one spray to the next, you can isolate what the explosive device was that was being used.
Q: Do you have any way to contact with several soldiers to give you ideas, like do (survey them on ?) different ways to develop new –
COL. TUBBS: Do you mean interface with the soldier?
COL. TUBBS: Yeah, we do on the ground almost every day with the soldiers that I have in both Afghanistan and Iraq, and then we have surveys. We talk to their chain of command. We interview them when they come back, when they go to schools, when they come back from region, we have a mechanism where we're getting their input. So we talk to wounded veterans in Walter Reed. We really don't want to discount any input, because we don't know where we're going to get the good ideas from. So we get a lot of ideas from them and then we take what we can and develop. Because if something doesn't exist, I have scientists that will work on it. If it's in the realm of the possible and it doesn't violate physics, we may even try to develop it with the scientists that I have working for me. But that becomes hard.
Next thing would be -- you already saw a little of the TACMAV. Let's take a look at that. And see, this is like the soldier, because you can -- and soldiers will do this. They put it back in their pack, take it out. You know, this is the marvel of our country and the world. He takes it out of the pack. It's got an electric motor. It has a pretty good loiter time, not as good as the (Raven ?), but it helps the smaller units. It's got cameras, a camera here so he can see from the side. Wait, I've lost the other camera.
Q: How many of those systems are overseas?
COL. TUBBS: None at this point. The -- we -- this was an off- the-shelf -- somebody else was using this and we harvested it, if you will. We modified the software for it to make it easier for the soldier to use. And what we wanted to do is cut down the training time to use this device from a four weeks to six weeks to about a two- week training period, and then we're going to provide that to the soldier because we can't take a soldier out of contact for six weeks to learn to use this tool. But now we have it to a point to where, you know, he can unfold this, it's got an electric motor in it -- we can't turn it on here -- and then throw it in the air, relatively easy to fly, very easy to fly, but it provides some immediate feedback. And again, it's just to see over the next hill, see around the corner to see what's there so he can move on and do his mission.
Q: When would you expect that to go overseas?
COL. TUBBS: I would be reluctant to tell you, but soon.
Q: What's the price on this?
COL. TUBBS: This system, a three-aircraft system, plus the -- more than just the computer, but the other devices that make it run is about $39,000.
Q: And I'm sorry, who's the manufacturer for that piece?
COL. TUBBS: I would be –
Q: What's it's operating range?
COL. TUBBS: I would say it -- in excess of 30-minute loiter time.
Q: Why are you reluctant to tell us who makes this?
COL. TUBBS: The –
Q: Is it government-made, or do you have a contract up for it?
COL. TUBBS: I can't tell you; I don't know. I could find out for you. I guess that's a better answer.
Q: That would be great.
COL. TUBBS: It's not a secret thing; it's a -- I should have just told you that.
MILITARY BRIEFER: Issue the question to me and I'll make sure you get the answer -- (off mike).
Q: Thank you.
Q: Thank you.
COL. TUBBS: I should have just told you I didn't know.
Q: There's a camera on its belly and where else?
COL. TUBBS: The side and the front. There's one right here and one on the side. So you can see, like, forward as it's flying and then you can see off to the side.
Q: And you said it comes in a three-plane system. Can one soldier run three planes simultaneously? And could you –
COL. TUBBS: No. And so what it does -- it allows you to do is to fly one for, you know, 30 or 40 minutes, 50 minutes, whatever, and then put another one up if you want a continuous coverage.
Q: How far away from the soldier can that plane go before it stops feeding that picture?
COL. TUBBS: I wouldn't want to answer that, for the right reason this time: for an operational reason.
Q: How high does it fly?
COL. TUBBS: Again, I wouldn't want to talk about the specific specifications of the capability of the aircraft.
Q: Was this developed for people doing classified-type work? Is that what you mean by another person -- another group of people as using this? Is that where it comes from?
COL. TUBBS: Yes, ma'am.
Q: So -- but to get -- (inaudible) -- if it's flying at eye level, isn't it going to be kind of obvious if this thing's coming toward you?
COL. TUBBS: Well, it's not trying to do any covert mission. Again, all I want to do with this type of tool is to see over the hill and to see around the corner. Now it sounds sort of overly simplistic, but if you're on the ground and you're worried about the enemy killing you, a lot of times you just want to see around the corner, see what's there before you go around the corner. And there's other applications it could be used for, but it's not -- it's not a rather sophisticated intelligence/surveillance or a reconnaissance tool. We have other tools for that, long loiter time, that have different mission sets.
And I sure want to get off this one, don't I? (Chuckles, laughter.)
But no, as I said, we think this is going to be very promising and really help the soldier.
SpeechGuard, this is what it looks like. And you can -- it's got a charge in it. That's why we keep noncommissioned officers here -- so they can show us how to turn things on. (Soft laughter.)
It can work either of two ways. You can just -- (Arabic is heard from the device) -- you can scroll down and pick something, where you can say, "Do you have drugs?" (Arabic is heard.) So you know -- and then it shows you what you said. So you know, it's a -- you got to get familiar with it. There's a little bit of latency time between word-to-word, but you can learn very quickly how to use it. I've played with them. This isn't the particular one I keep. And it's not really that sophisticated. It has a menu. It is finite. But you can add phrases to it as you're moving down. You can have different applications for either medics or for military police. So again, it's just another tool that helps you communicate with Arabs if you don't have an interpreter. And not everybody has an interpreter.
Q: But when they answer, they speak into that?
COL. TUBBS: No, the two-way one will eventually, but it's -- we're still developing that. But they're -- but most of the phrases are -- "Do you have drugs or no?" You know, you're going to be able to –
COL. TUBBS: -- they're all designed for where you'll get a quick answer. You don't need a -- necessarily need an interpreter.
Q: Does it depend on an individual voice, to recognize an individual voice, or could you pass that from person to person to person and have it recognize you?
COL. TUBBS: You could pass it person to person. Now what it also does -- because if you -- you know, if you say, "Do you have drugs," it -- this is a machine. So it'll see that as one data stream, and it may not separate it into the words. But then you can look on the scroll, and you can see what you just said, and you can go, "No, not that," you know, and rapidly find the one -- but it'll come closest to the phrase that it thinks you're looking at. It's like artificial intelligence.
COL. TUBBS: And then if you're really close to it, you can toggle down, one under or one above, and get really close to what you want, because, again, it's finite, not infinite in options. But it'll get pretty close to what you want, and then you can push the button again. (Arabic is heard.) Oh, I cut it off, but -- (Arabic is heard). So you know -- and that's "Show me what's in your" -- and then you can add a word to it -- so, you know, purse, whatever.
But it's -- again, it's a simple device. It started out as a regular Palm Pilot with a speaker on it. We spiraled that. And this was a civilian off-the-shelf type product. And we're working with other companies to try to make it better, again, because we don't want to stay with just this solution, because, again, compelling logic tells us we can make it a little bit better and help the soldier just a little bit more.
Q: Thank you.
COL. TUBBS: If you can see at the back here, these devices -- these are all training devices, because, you know, we have some of the questions that are pretty close to this. Not all the solutions in the insurgency aren't the actual -- necessarily just the devices, but it's training the soldiers before we deploy them to make sure that they can use these devices. And what we've done is we've developed training devices, and these are all mock ups, if you will, of some of the type of devices we use to mitigate the IED threat. And it's just the training portion of it. If we don't train them here in a realistic environment, they're not as powerful as they can be when they get into the theater.
And somebody asked earlier what else have we done to try to get better in the IED arena. And one thing we've done is look more professionally at how we look at the training piece. And we're doing a much better job at that at the National Training Center, the Joint Training Center, JR2C -- JRTC, you know, all of those; the Combat Maneuver Training Center in USAREUR. We've all -- we have some Improvised Explosive Device task force training systems that we provide there, so the soldiers train before they get into theater.
Q: Can I ask you, what was the impact of Secretary Rumsfeld's April 30th memo to the Army saying rapidly deploy that Scorpion system that's developed by the Navy, because the soldiers are going to hate to carry it. Whatever happened to that?
COL. TUBBS: Sir, I'd defer to the Army Public Affairs Office. I'm not familiar with what you're talking about.
Q: Sir, one of the main problems in Baghdad seems to be -- and maybe all over the country -- the roadside bombs. Is there any way to prevent that, to put -- I don't know -- some type of detector in the vehicles to allow the soldiers to stop before hitting some of these devices?
COL. TUBBS: That's what these devices do.
Q: Can you say how the MACBOT (sic) is different from other robots that came before it that tried to detect Improvised Explosive Devices?
COL. TUBBS: Well some of them -- the PACKBOT, if you will, the EODBOT, they're all related in a family, if you will, and we work in concert with and parallel with the program manager for robotics. There's a joint program office, and they know what we're doing. But we don't compete with the type of robots that they provide, because I like to think that they have a different mission set. And the -- like for EOD robots, they just have a different mission. We don't want soldiers to reduce Improvised Explosive Devices, we want them to find out if they do have one, but we want the trained professionals -- because, obviously, it's a complex task -- for them to reduce the IEDs. But we just want the soldiers to know if something is an IED or not, because then that will determine what he does next.
Q: Can this do something that prototypes before it couldn't do?
COL. TUBBS: It's -- we had a problem -- several problems with the earlier version. They weren't show stoppers, but we -- a little bit better camera. Had a problem with the arm; the arm would break in certain circumstances, so we changed that. They were all engineering solutions to make it a little bit better -- make it more reliable in the field.
Q: Are you working on any technologies, or would any of these be applicable to bomb defusal versus just detecting them? I mean something that would allow investigators to come in and safely, you know, pick the thing apart and find out something about who the bomb- maker was.
COL. TUBBS: I'm not working anything in that area.
Q: What do these lock shims do?
COL. TUBBS: What they do is -- it's another low-tech tool. And what it enabled certain people in Afghanistan, in particular, to -- with training, allow them to open locks. And what that allowed them to do is instead of -- in the Afghan countryside, instead of busting your door down in a search or on a mission, it would allow them, with training, and under control, to enter that facility. And that helps with goodwill in the neighborhood and it helps you accomplish your mission better. Very low-tech device.
Q: Do you have a limited scope in the solutions you're trying to get or you can just look for anything that can be used by the soldiers in the field?
COL. TUBBS: Sir, I'm not constrained in any way. We want to –
Q: I'm sorry. You investigated -- you are also analyzing communications and every other areas that might can be improved?
COL. TUBBS: The best answer to that is, when I hear that a soldier needs something, I dialogue with the acquisition community and I do a quick search on that day of the national labs, whoever may be looking at what that problem is. And I coordinate -- we were talking about the Resource Board. The reason I go to the Resource Board pretty often is to have that common operational picture. And then at that venue, if the soldiers have a problem, if there's already, you know, a room full of folks like you that are already working that solution set, then I don't necessary get involved.
Now, what I may get involved in, if I can help you -- and a lot of times that's what we do. In some of the briefs you may have seen something called a franchise project. What that is, if you're a project manager and you need some help and you can't get it solved, you might come to me and I may be able to provide you some limited- scope help to get you past a problem you can't solve. So we facilitate them. But, you know, we have a rather robust communication capability, and they're pretty good at that. And I work pretty closely with them, and if they need something, we'll help them with it. But that's really in their lane.
STAFF: Sir, this will be the last question. And then I'd like to get all the photographers up here in front.
Any other questions?
COL. TUBBS: Sir?
Q: Is the whole purpose of the Rapid Equipping Force -- did it come into existence because the regular procurement system sometimes can't keep pace with warfighters' needs?
COL. TUBBS: I think that's a fair way to describe it. And the acquisition community knows that. We wanted to -- it was more of a delivered system. Again, I work in very close partnership with the acquisition community, and they really help me out and we facilitate each other's business, if you will.
But the leadership wanted the ability -- for instance, some of the solutions we've provided into the theater within 48 hours. You know, we'll get scientists together. In the case of the cameras, we adapted some off-the-shelf technology, put it on an airplane and deployed it rather quickly.
Same thing with some of the robots, were taken into Afghanistan, into caves early on. People from the Rapid Equipping Force worked with Special Forces and other units and brought them into region, in combat. Several early members of the Rapid Equipping Force received Bronze Stars in action bringing technology to the soldier in limited use.
Frankly, we're working together to adapt to meet the warfighter's needs.
STAFF: Sir, thanks a lot. We appreciate it.
COL. TUBBS: Okay. Thank you very much.
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