(Participants included Colonel Tom Begines, chief, media relations division, Army Public Affairs, and from Natick Labs, Dutch DeGay, project manager, for the Objective Force Warrior Program and Jerry Darsch, director, DoD Combat Feeding Program.)
Begines: Good morning. I'm Colonel Tom Begines, chief, Media Relations Division, Army Public Affairs. Thanks for attending this presentation today. I think you'll find it very interesting. We have representatives here from Natick Labs in Massachusetts, who will provide an overview of the latest developments in individual soldier equipment and of the Department of Defense Combat Feeding Program.
Now Army experts are making this presentation because the Army is the Department of Defense executive agent for the Combat Feeding Program. Mr. Dutch DeGay will discuss individual equipment for the Objective Force Warrior. Mr. DeGay is a project engineer for the Objective Force Warrior program. He will be followed by Mr. Jerry Darsch, director, DOD Combat Feeding Program, who will talk about the latest in combat rations for our soldiers. Please direct your questions about Objective Force Warrior to Mr. DeGay and questions about combat rations to Mr. Darsch.
Afterwards we invite you to sample some of the Army food that is entering the system, so to speak -- that's a pun -- (laughter) -- okay -- and some of the food that will be sustaining our soldiers in the future.
Degay: Thank you, sir. As Colonel Begines said, my name is Dutch DeGay, and I'm one of the project engineers on the Objective Force Warrior program. For those of you that are not familiar with the Objective Force and our transition to it, it is the new force and formation that will be brought on line in conjunction with General Shinseki's vision of transforming our Army to a lighter, lethal and faster deliverable overall Army into theater.
I specifically work on the individual soldier system -- and I have to thank Mr. Darsch for allowing me to bring this down -- actually, the latest and greatest prototype is what -- the gentleman off to my right-hand side. Essentially what General Shinseki said was, historically we have taken soldiers and we give them equipment and we continue to give them equipment and evolve their equipment; what I want you to do is stop, do the mental analysis up front, and start skin-out and completely rebuild the soldier as we know it.
So have an integrated, holistic design system for the individual soldier, which is something that we have not done in our Army in the past. And I will briefly run through him head to toe, talk about a couple of the items and talk about my little mule friend off to the left-hand side, and then I'll turn the briefing over to Mr. Darsch.
The primary driver for the Objective Force -- and I will move away from the microphones, but I'm an ex-Ranger, so I guarantee my command voice will carry. One of the primary drivers is weight. Historically right now, to include the soldiers that we have in Afghanistan, they're carrying anywhere from 92 to 105 pounds of external load. That external load is other mission essential items, whether that be cold-weather gear, whether it be nuclear-biological- chemical gear or other gear associated with that soldier to allow him to accomplish his mission. What we are trying to do at the very fabric uniform level is consolidate all those systems into one so we lessen the overall bulk and weight of the individual soldier. And that's throughout the system from head to toe.
So, briefly, starting with the head, a completely redesigned helmet system that includes all the training devices that we currently use inside the Army system, except we've integrated into that helmet system, so he has sensor fusion, infrared thermal, day/night video cameras, chem-bio sensors, as well as ballistic protection, in a helmet with broadcast heads-up display.
Working down the uniform system, it's a multi-function garment, working from the inside out, that incorporates a suite of physiological status monitors that allows the medics on the battlefield to know exactly what the individual soldier is so we can take care of him medically before an injury happens as well as after an injury occurs. This system is microclimate conditioned, which means we have the ability to heat him and cool him in this individual system, which allows us to shorten or make smaller the overall logistics footprint. And on the exterior, we also have built- in chemical-biological layers in the actual uniform system. This is a training and combat uniform system, this is not a garrison system. That's one of the other leeways that the chief of staff gave us, in that he wants a combat-specific uniform.
Working on the -- (inaudible) -- revolutionary -- and revolutionary is the key -- we have continued to evolve the soldier; General Shinseki has allowed us to revolutionize the soldier. He has a completely different set of load-carriage body-armor system that allows him to carry more weight, but to the individual soldier, his overall load is lessened. And I know that doesn't make a lot of sense. The overall system as you look at it right now looks very weighty and bulky, and the comments have already been made this morning. Actually, that system weighs less than the current system we have on the legacy soldier in the field right now. It's just very ominous looking, which helps us even better when we deploy in-theater and we deploy overseas; that our enemies and our potential friends realize that we are very ominous on the battlefield.
The other piece is -- briefly I'll talk about the two helmets in front of you. These are completely adaptable and adjustable and are completely upgradeable as well as downgradeable. So we can rip the complete helmet apart with an open architecture. We can upgrade it with interior Global Positioning Systems radios. And as that technology increases, which it ever presently always does in the commercial sector, we can have the ability to keep up with what's going on in the commercial sector: smaller antennas, smaller processors, new wiring, and those kind of things.
The entire system, from head to toe, has what we call "open architecture." Historically, that's something that we've only done with platforms -- tanks, Bradleys, Crusaders, those kind of things. We are now treating the individual soldier with that kind of care and that kind of investment.
And speaking of platforms, one of the other pieces of the Objective Force, is the gentleman off to my left, which is the robotic mule, which is how we will assist in not only taking some of the load carriage off the individual soldier, but he also provides a host of other functions -- primarily water generation, water purification. He's a recharging battery station for all of the individual Objective Force Warriors in the squad. He acts as a weapons platform. He has day and night thermal infrared and forward-looking imaging systems inside the nose of the system -- excuse me, inside the nose of the mule; as well as chemical/biological sensors. So we have the ability to use him as a sensor platform.
In the top of this gentleman we have a one-third scale model of the unmanned aerial vehicle that's being tested right now at Fort Benning. What this does is this allows the individuals to go out and get a true, 360-degree picture of the battlefield. Historically, right now that's only at brigade level. In the Objective Force, it will be at squad level; so every 10 men will have a picture of what's in front of them, around them, and behind them. As well as the robotic mule, which is semiautonomous in that it's a follower, and it can be manipulated, brought forward by any member of the squad. It is an asset that is essentially a mini load-carrying system that's there for them all the time, which allows us to lighten the load for the individual soldier, but he has the resupply at a moment's notice and on call.
I will be available to answer any -- few questions briefly, and then --
Begines: Why don't we take questions about the Objective Force Warrior now?
Degay: Certainly. Sure.
Q: How much does that system weigh?
Degay: Right now, the guidance is with the Objective Force is it has to weigh lighter than our current legacy systems. Overall right now, specifically for like the land warrior system that's out there, it's a 14-pound electronic suite, and that is going to be fielded in the next two years. The requirement for the Objective Force to come on in 2008, and we're already at half that weight for the overall electronic system alone. And so we will see the overall system -- from skin out, the requirement is the individual soldier can't weigh more than 45 pounds.
Q: Could you expand, sir, on the medical sensors?
Degay: Certainly. One of the biggest requirements that we found specifically for taking care of and preventing injuries for the individual soldier, historically our biggest foes are cold weather injuries and hot weather injuries. And we found that if we have a physiological status monitor suite on the individual soldier, not only can we take care of him when he's hurt, we can help prevent those. So it gives us things like diastolic/systolic heart rate, core body temperature, skin body temperature. Those particular things it gives us indicators as to the overall health of the individual. We've even gone so far as we have caloric monitors, as well as overall body heat monitors that allow us to know roughly how much energy he's expended, so we know whether he's dehydrated, whether he needs to fill the body with calories or with the food that you're going to see shortly.
Q: They're not invasive, are they? Are --
Degay: Not at all. Absolutely not at all. As a matter of fact, Natick was one of the first centers that had a core body temperature pill that we fielded and brought on line after the accident that happened -- actually the class right before mine in Ranger school, where we lost some soldiers due to cold weather injury. We have taken that technology and we have advanced it, though, so that it is not invasive. And we can do that now from having an average of overall skin temperature (inaudible) throughout the body.
Q: Where is that monitored from?
Degay: Commercially right now that is actually being competed as to which --
Q: No, no. I mean, you say that it's monitored. I mean, who has access to that information? Is --
Degay: It's multi-tiered. The individual soldier has the ability to access that data, as well as -- the primary concern is the medics on the battlefield. What we need to be able to do is give the medic the kind of information that he has to have so that he knows what to do before he actually gets on the soldier, where historically he doesn't know what injury the soldier has until he gets on him and he has to make an assessment of what he needs to do. And that takes time on the battlefield.
Q: Can it be monitored remotely?
Degay: Yes, sir. That is how it is monitored -- excuse me. That is how it is monitored by the medics on the battlefield. All that physiological status monitor is uploaded to a tactical local area network that allows commanders and medics to have access to that data.
Q: Do you have cost target for this, how much this outfit would cost compared to the current outfit that's being deployed?
Degay: We -- right now there is not a cost bogey in that the requirement is -- we have never had this kind of time and taken this kind of focus toward technology for the individual soldier. Historically we have spent millions of dollars on platforms. That is not to say -- or, excuse me, that's not to take away from the soldier is the centerpiece of our Army. And we are finally making that investment for him individually. So we need to find out what technologies are available and scale that back and go out and compete that to find out what our overall price range will be.
Q: So it may be that you'll end up with elements of that rather than the whole outfit, if --
Degay: Hopefully it will be the entire outfit. We have the Land Warrior system, which is -- which will be fielded in 2004, which is roughly about $25,000-$30,000. We hope to be consider -- either equal to or less than that, based on the maturation of technology in that time frame.
Q: Could you explain what some of those pouches are, and the black thing on the chest, and -- I mean, just sort of give a guided tour?
Degay: Sure. The overall -- the exterior package historically load carriage that we've had -- or, excuse me, body armor that we had is what you've seen on soldiers all over the post. It's essentially a vest that goes on that has Kevlar inside of it and plates. What this system does is it incorporates that body armor vest with the load carriage system and it's suspended off the body by about 2-1/2 inches, for a couple reasons. One, it minimizes weight strain on the individual soldier, and two, it helps the backside deformation when body armor is struck by an incoming round. So if you'll notice, there are gaps throughout the individual system, and those are actually attachment points for modular pieces of equipment. And it's similar to the one I have in my hand in that the system actually weaves into the overall piece of load carriage, which allows you snap on pockets that are mission-specific. What that allows you to do is, we have a base -- essentially a base chassis that allows us to modify and put on pockets, either from the individual soldier or for the individual mission, specific on what that is. And historically we have not done that. We fielded a vest that has X amount of pockets that fit X amount of things.
The box -- actually, the place holder on the front of -- on the body armor is for his individually worn personal data system, which is a hand-held computer device, which you can't see, but he's actually wearing it on the inside of his left arm. That gives him things like where he is on local air network, where he is on the map, where friendlies are, where friendly vehicles are, for friend or foe identification.
Q: What happens to it when he has to dive to the ground?
Degay: The individual system on the front side is completely hardened. This is merely a place folder, and this is ruggedized, and the current Land Warrior System that we use -- (inaudible) -- excuse me -- exit that aircraft, that Cherokee C. So they are ruggedized for military use, so it doesn't fall on it and break it. It has to be ruggedized for military use.
Sir. I'm sorry --
Q: Can you talk about how this will interface with Land Warrior?
Q: Does it replace Land Warrior?
Degay: It is not. It is a -- it is used in conjunction with Land Warrior. Land Warrior -- actually, this could be considered Land Warrior Block Mod 3. Land Warrior will be fielding a force in 2004, and it is our first step toward integrating our Army into a more technologically savvy individual warrior system. This will follow on. So in the Objective Force, which is roughly the end of this decade, 2010 to 2015 time frame, we will have a composite of Objective Force Warriors and Land Warriors on the battlefield. The Objective Force Warriors will take advantage of the Future Combat System, which is the new platform that the Army is just now under contract and starting to develop, whereas the Land Warrior System will use our legacy platforms, and there will be a mixture of those two forces on the battlefield.
Q: What's to become of this in terms of contracting? You mention that some parts of it you were still in the process of looking for a --
Degay: Correct. We actually -- the request for a proposal to industry went out in March of this year. We have just recently reviewed all those proposals, and an award will be made no later than July 4th of this year, to what's called an LTI, lead technology integrator.
Q: Who were some of the players? Can you tell us that?
Degay: Unfortunately that's sensitive until the award is made public.
Q: Are you saying that this will be -- will we see variations of this in 2004 in the field, or sooner or later?
Degay: Sir, you will see the Land Warrior System, which is currently our first step, in 2004 will be fielded to the Army. As a matter of fact, it'll be fielded to the Special Operations community first. We will see this system in its entirety fielded no later than 2008.
Q: I'd like to go back to the weight question.
Degay: Yes, sir.
Q: At the beginning, you mentioned an Afghanistan soldier, if they're taking anywhere between 92 --
Degay: A hundred -- roughly 105 pounds. Yes, sir.
Q: Compare that to if he was -- the soldier was wearing this. How much would he be carrying in amount? Is that the 45 pounds --
Degay: That -- this is roughly 50 pounds, sir --
Degay: -- which is roughly half of that.
Q: And did you say heating and cooling is inside the system ?
Degay: Yes, sir. On-board -- (inaudible.) What we have is, is -- actually the Natick Soldier Center is the lead in microclimate conditioning systems in the commercial, as well as in the military market. There is a three-dimensional spacer fabric on the interior of this garment. It's a little bit thicker than a regular standard cotton T-shirt. What that allows us to do -- it has capillaries inside of it that allows us to blow hot or cold air over the interior of the system.
Historically, we've done the exo-atmosphereic system for NASA, which are water-based tubules, where we have the ability to heat or cool water. That's very power-intensive. What we've done is use air, so that we can blow hot or cold air over the individual in the interior of the system. What that allows us to do is, specifically in cold environments, where the individual has to carry so much weight, because those are cold-mission-specific items -- you have to carry long underwear and fleece and those kind of things. We can cut back on that bulk, and we can provide him that warmth via a microclimate conditioning system that's worn on the body.
Q: (Inaudible) -- power source?
Degay: Yes, sir, it is.
Now we are leveraging fuel-cell technology that's being developed by DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) right now.
Q: And that's something's that will be carried also as part of the suit.
Q: And that can be recharged --
Degay: That can be recharged -- (inaudible). Absolutely.
Q: What's the difference between Land Warrior and this?
Degay: Land Warrior is essentially a modification of our Legacy systems. If you see a Land Warrior -- matter of fact, there are Land Warriors in Mr. Darsch's cover slide -- Land Warrior essentially is a Legacy soldier, and he has regular standard battle dress uniform (BDUs), load carriage, and he has an electronics package that's given to him as a component.
The difference is, this -- we had the ability via General Shinseki's vision to start with skin -- start with a naked soldier and integrate all those systems on our way out. So historically, we have evolved the soldier. We've had "Band-Aid" fixes. We've changed uniforms. We've added cold weather, those kind of things.
The helmet, for example, is completely integrated. If you see the helmet that the soldier's wearing right now, it's big and bulky, and it's actually missing some of the electronics on it that he would use for night vision. Those are completely integrated in this system for the individual soldier. So the (Inaudible) was that that's building on what we already have and this has -- coughs -- excuse me -- the ability to completely revolutionize the system.
Q: What's become of this DARPA (Defense Research Projects Agency) project in getting powered movement --
Degay: Actually, it was --
Q: Armor-type stuff for --
Degay: That's the exoskeleton program that's being worked at DARPA. It is currently still under development. And one of the biggest concerns is -- and by no means am I a spokesman for DARPA -- one of the biggest concerns is the power issue, which is all of our concern, really -- because it is a power-intensive system. And for the individual soldier, like our soldiers who deploy in Afghanistan, they cannot rely or have to rely on resupply for a power system. So we need to be able to sustain them for a minimum of 72 hours. And that's one of our biggest constrictors right now.
Q: The fuel cells on this setup are being developed with an eye towards giving them -- every three days they would have --
Degay: Correct. Roughly 72 hours. The mission profile for the Objective Force is 72-hour deployment. So at a minimum, we have to be able to power him for 72 hours. And because he has no specifically intensive powered system like an exoskeleton, we have the ability to do that over that 72-hour time frame.
Q: How is that applicable, then, to Special Operations Forces that may have to be deployed for a long period of time, well behind some sort of hostile boundary, with no access to external supply or support at all?
Degay: Some of it will be required by the individual soldiers. So, say, for example, if I have one fuel cell that I would deploy with this system for a 72-hour timeframe, if it's going to be longer than that, they would have to carry extra fuel cells. We are not only changing the individual soldier, but we're changing the overall doctrine of how we will fight the Objective Force. So the SOF-specific missions, SOF operations mission is taken into account, specifically for the fantastic work that they've done in Afghanistan right now. So we need to be able to continue to harness their ability, as well as provide them long-term supply and support when they're deployed.
Q: What's going to be the speed of that? And what sort of weapons do they have?
Degay: Right now, the onboard system for the mule, he has no specific defense weapon. There is a program right now to give him a defensive-styled weapon. The requirement is that he needs to be able to do a minimum of 50 miles an hour in order to keep up with the individual soldiers. And he will be a follower; he will not walk specifically with the squad unless the squad brings him forward. So he would follow anywhere from 30 to 300 meters behind and be on call at a moment's notice.
Q: Did you say 50 or 15?
Degay: I'm sorry, sir?
Q: Did you say 15 miles an hour or 50?
Degay: Fifty miles an hour, sir. Five-zero.
Q: What does it weigh?
Degay: This is a one-third-scale model, obviously. What we are looking at with the -- and taking what -- with the Army Research Lab (ARL), the system will be probably about half that size larger, and it will weigh less than a thousand pounds. The target bogey is about 500 pounds.
Q: What runs it? Is it --
Degay: It will be a hybrid fuel cell; it will be electricity and JP8, which is jet fuel, the main fuel that we use inside the military right now.
Q: What sort of defensive weapons, what sort of guns would be on --
Degay: It would either be a gun or some type of white phosphorous defensive weapon that is just now being looked into, in that it's a last-ditch effort to secure that individual system.
Q: White phosphorous, what's that?
Degay: Currently we use white phosphorous on our Bradley fighting vehicles and our tank fighting vehicles. It is a highly concentrated burning smoke that's used in defense of that individual platform.
Q: Is there an issue around noise emissions from this sort of thing, if you're trying to do a stealthy operation?
Degay: That would be the advantage of having a hybrid system, and they could run on electricity and be extremely quiet, and then when it turns into JP8, it would be loud. Needless to say, as soon as the first round is fired, stealth is no longer an issue. The biggest requirement is to get what -- the assets that this individual robot has to the squad as fast as possible. So that would be to change back and forth between electricity and standard fuel.
Q: Who's building that robot?
Degay: That is actually part of the Objective Force Warrior contract. That was bid in the Request for Proposal. So who is awarded the lead technology integrator for the individual unit system will also be awarded the contract to leverage the ARL technology for the next-generation robot.
Q: What's the fuel for the fuel cells for the individual soldier?
Degay: Right now it's nickel metal hydride, which is about what we've found the best for overall batteries. There are other fuel -- excuse me -- there are solid-state hydrogen fuel cells that we are looking at, as well as other fuel-cell sources that are being looked at.
Q: Nickel metal hydride, isn't that just a battery?
Degay: Essentially it is a cell-phone battery on steroids, for lack of a better term.
Q: But you are looking at things that would actually be fueled by --
Degay: Absolutely. Absolutely.
Q: Is "mule" an acronym for something?
Degay: No. Actually, mule is purely what that is. I mean, he is literally a mule.
Q: Back to this guy. What substance provides ballistic protection? Is there Kevlar in that helmet?
Degay: There is a modification of Kevlar, as well as other fibers that are being used inside that helmet system.
Q: And the same in the --
Degay: The same thing inside the body armor. The requirement is, is we have to provide at least the same protection that's currently used inside the legacy force right now.
Begines: Let's take a few more questions on this and then move on to the combat rations.
QAre you working on an advanced communication system beyond Land Warrior?
Degay: Absolutely. This is being developed in --
Q: What all are you looking at? Are you looking a squad level or what?
Degay: Actually, the radio system that we currently have is being replaced with what's called JTRS, the Joint Tactical Radio System. And what that JTRS system allows us to do is, every individual -- currently right now inside the force, we have individuals that operate on one frequency, vehicles that operate on another, and fast-movers and aircraft that work on another frequency. What that will do is, that will tie all those assets together in what's called a netted communications package that allows the individual soldier on the battlefield to talk to literally everyone else on the battlefield with one radio system, which historically we have not been able to do. And that is part of the transformation in the Objective Force.
Q: Okay. Well, has does it break down? The individual grunt doesn't care, you know, what the airplanes and tanks are doing, he wants to know what his squad leader wants him to do.
Degay: That's correct, sir. But that individual grunt, sir, if left alone on the battlefield, has to be able to defend (sic) for himself, so he has to have the ability to come up on all those other nets in order to talk to all those other assets.
Q: But the thing is nettable so, you know, that you can have a squad leader --
Degay: Absolutely, sir. Absolutely. Yes, sir. There will be tiered communications very similar to what we have right now. The difference is, the individual has the ability to access and run up and down that tier if emergency requires it.
Q: Is that both going to be audio and digital?
Degay: Yes, sir. Audio for your radio, and then a tactical local area network.
Q: Okay. And the digital is available what, you looked at, he'll end up with something on his armband?
Degay: There's actually two things, sir. Inside the visor that's down on his face, he has what's called stereophonic -- excuse me -- he has two stereo-pictured monitors that allows him to see roughly two 17-inch monitors over his left and right eye, which gives him what we call collaborative situational awareness. All that's pumped into his head, and if for some reason that display is to fail, he has a backup display in order to look at that.
Begines: And how about -- last question on this from Mr. Reich.
Q: Gentlemen, I came in late, but there won't be a pack? This will be -- this chassis that he's in is the pack?
Degay: That is correct. You mean "pack" as in "rucksack."
Degay: Historically, the reason why we have the rucksack is because we give the individual soldier so much stuff that he has to carry, we have to use that -- or, excuse me -- he or she has to carry it. The requirement for the Objective Force is 45 to 50 pounds for he -- the individual soldier to have to carry. So we can do that without the requirement of a standard pack-style item. And anything above and beyond that would be co-located inside the mule.
Q: Okay. Thank you.
Degay: Thank you very much. I'll be available afterwards. I have no place else to go except back home after this.
And now I'd like to turn it over to Mr. Darsch.
Darsch: Thank you, Dutch.
Degay: My pleasure.
Darsch: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. If I may, I'd like to begin with a quote: "The commander who fails to provide his army with necessary food and other supplies is making arrangements for his own defeat, even with no enemy present." Now that quote is as true today as it was in 600 A.D., when it was made by the Emperor Maurice.
So what I'd like to do for you is cover a little bit about the Combat Feeding Program: Who are we? What do we do? And why do we add value to the Department of Defense warfighter?
Clearly, the Department of Defense has the most effective weapon systems in the global arsenal. However, those systems are only as good as the individual war fighter who operates them. Our mission is to fuel that individual warfighter through revolutionary combat feeding technology. We view the war fighter as the Defense Department's most flexible and adaptable weapons platform. And therefore, we also look at our combat ration program as both a force multiplier and a force protector.
Now we have to maintain a balanced program. There's no question about that. We have to be certain we take care of today's war fighter while we invest in the science and technology to provide the war fighter of tomorrow revolutionary capabilities. Folks often ask me and members of what I consider to be the best team in the Department of Defense, the Combat Feeding Team, why can't we just buy equipment and food off the local market, out of supermarkets and from Hobart and Vulcan, et cetera?
We do when it meets the requirements of our military customers. So that's a no-brainer. Like the commercial sector in the food arena, we do share a lot of similar constraints. For example, if we're going to develop a product, and we're going to turn to the commercial industry, we're looking for it to be nutritious. We want it to be wholesome. We want it to be safe. And we want it to be affordable.
However, we have a couple of constraints in the Department of Defense that really provide quite a challenge to us in the team. For example, for the local supermarkets and food service establishments, most of those folks will rely on the delivery of their products by refrigerated truck. We throw stuff out of aircraft to get it to our customers.
Most products, for example, are turned around in a commercial marketplace in days or, maximum, weeks. Our shelf-life requirements are a minimum of three years at 80 degrees Fahrenheit and six months at 100 (degrees).
The commercial sector will prepare and serve foods in the comfort of their own home or the comfort of the institution, whatever it may be -- a restaurant, Applebee's. We will prepare, serve and distribute food in temperatures as low as minus 60 degrees Fahrenheit and as high as 120 degrees Fahrenheit. So that's quite a challenge.
Weight and cube are particularly critical to us. We have to cram or stuff as many nutrients and as many calories into the smallest possible package that we can, for obvious reasons. Airplane sorties are expensive, and if we're going to use them, we've got to be able to get the biggest bang for the buck.
Another key is our requirement for universal acceptance. We have to be sure that whatever we provide the warfighter is going to be acceptable by the majority of the warfighters that will consume the product. For example, if we're at home and we don't like what we have, we can run out to the local convenience store to grab it. If our warfighter doesn't like what we provided him and will not eat it, the chances of him jumping up out of the foxhole -- or her -- and running to a local convenience store is probably not a good thing.
Restaurants, for example, rarely, if ever, haul their equipment over mud, ice, rivers, rocks and mountains. We have to do that.
Further, the Army in particular is in the process of increasing their tooth-to-tail ratio. And if we take a look at Army cooks -- and I think it's a good thing we have them on the battlefield -- they represent tails with teeth. What do I mean by that? They can shoot back. So they also provide a dual role for the Army.
Do we do this alone? Absolutely not. We do this in what I consider to be a very valuable partnership with other government agencies, like the Defense Supply Center Philadelphia, with academia, and most importantly, with our industrial partners, because we have to get it right the first time.
I mentioned earlier about a balanced program. The balance has to involve, what have we done for the warfighter lately? Well, let me kind of hone in on the most significant effort that we've achieved over the last several years, and that is a very robust product improvement program for the Meal Ready to Eat, or MRE. What we have done -- and this is based on feedback from our customers -- is we have eliminated all the mystery meats. All the no-name casseroles are gone. We now have a customer-driven, customer-focused product improvement program. We've doubled the number of Meals Ready to Eat (MREs) and this happens to be a recent MRE -- from what used to be 12 menus, based on components that most soldiers didn't recognize, to 24 menus where warfighters now understand what they're getting, identify what they're getting, and find what they're getting to be familiar and traditional.
The important point is, with our group ration program -- that's called the Unitized Group Ration -- we have an A Ration, which is fresh-prepared food requiring refrigeration, and a UGR Heat and Serve, which is basically a prepared meal on a poly tray. And you're going to get an opportunity to try these in a moment.
The bottom line for all of our combat ration improvements is they are warrior recommended, warrior tested, and warrior approved. Those are the items that go in, and based on feedback from warfighters in the field, they identify items that get the hook. So I think it's clear we have a vision, and that vision is the vision of the individual warfighter who consumes our productions.
Now, similar improvements have been made in combat feeding equipment as well, and I'll allude to those in a moment. What you see here on the tables in front of you are samples of some of the newest MREs and the newest Unitized Group Ration Heat and Serve entrees and starches, and they will be available for your dining pleasure in about four or five minutes.
What about tomorrow's warfighter? What are we doing to ensure we invest appropriately to provide that future warfighter revolutionary capabilities for operations on the battlefield? What drives that is a technology pull by Joint Vision 2020 and the Objective Force Warfighter, basically the brain child of the chief of staff of the Army, General Shinseki, who Dutch alluded to.
What is driving what we develop and how we develop it are the following: a reduction in logistics footprint -- that's absolutely essential; a further reduction in weight and cube -- and you'll see an example of that in a moment; a reduction in terms of resupply requirement -- absolutely essential, particularly for the first 72 hours of battlefield operation by the Objective Force Warfighter. While we are pursuing those, we have to maintain high quality and increase consumption rate by the warfighter on the battlefield.
The other key element, and Dutch alluded to that, is the reduction of the combustion of JP8 or diesel on the battlefield. That holds true for tanks, for the Future Combat Vehicle, which I know we've all read about, and combat feeding equipment as well.
We've got several revolutionary combat feeding concepts that I'm going to just very briefly touch upon, and then we'll have an opportunity to come up. The proof is in the pudding, as we say in the combat feeding program. We get away with a lot of food puns. I think it's kind of cool.
But what we're going to see for the Objective Force Warfighter and for Joint Vision 2020 is a dramatic change in terms of how we feed that warfighter and what we feed the warfighter. Specifically, we're developing something called a first-strike ration. The first-strike ration is intended to provide the Objective Force warfighter the ration he or she will rely on for the first 72 hours of operation. The intent is to provide that single ration -- there's an example on the table -- and that will replace three MREs, reducing the weight and cube by 55 and 53 percent, respectively.
The future combat vehicle combat service support system -- the intent here is -- obviously, at a 20-ton limit for the future combat vehicle, there is not a lot of room left inside that vehicle. Once you put in the electronics and all of the other stuff that those vehicle crewmen need so desperately, there's not a lot of room for combat feeding systems.
So what we're developing in concert with the Tank Automotive Research and Development Command is something called a future combat feeding systems vehicle. It consists of a compressed entree. You'll have an example of that, and Jens is holding that up as you see it. Not a pretty sight. However, after we reconstitute that, it will taste almost identical to a product you would prepare in your own kitchen. Again, you'll have an opportunity to try it for yourself.
The real technology that we're applying here is water reclamation from the combustion of diesel fuel. We will actually extract water from diesel fuel as it's combusted, filter it and then provide water to the combat vehicle crewmen. Water 200 years ago weighed 8.2 pounds a gallon. In Star Wars, it'll probably weigh 8.2 pounds a gallon. It is a logistical nightmare. So if we can generate water on the battlefield, it's a good thing in terms of reducing the logistics pipeline. I suppose we could call it a "high octane meal," but I'll leave that to your writing skill.
The next thing we're going to take a look at is called a remote- unit self-heating meal. Now this particular device -- and that's shown right here -- we refer to that affectionately as a "kitchen in a carton." This provides a high-quality group meal for warfighters, and there is no equipment required, and there's no cook required, because there won't be any available when the Objective Force warfighter originally deploys. What that provides us is a 90-percent reduction in footprint when we compare it to the current system that provides equipment necessary for the heat-and-serve meal.
A new refrigeration and freezer concept is also being explored by the Army. It's called MTRCS. We love acronyms. What does it stand for? Multi-temp refrigeration container system. What MTRCS does -- this is kind of a no-brainier; common sense -- is, it combines both a frozen storage and refrigeration storage in the same iso-container, and that partition can be moved back and forth to accommodate the subsistence requirements for units far forward. So instead of sending two forward, which may be half-full, or a third full, we can now send one forward and adjust the position to accommodate what's required.
A revolutionary global tracking system is also being evaluated by us. And this is absolutely revolutionary in terms of how do we track product. It can apply to any class of product in the Army. But with food it's incredibly important that we be able to tell where it is, what we've got, what the on-ground inventory is without a stubby pencil and the back of an envelope, and also store the temperature that that product was exposed to, the relative humidity it was exposed to, and any rough handling it was exposed to. Now, based on MIT -- Massachusetts Institute of Technology -- and a group called Alien Technologies, we have what appears to be a system that will do that in terms of a small tag that will cost less than a dollar. And we have some videos that I'll be happy to show folks who are interested in that in a moment.
The other key element is something called a battlefield kitchen (BK). The battlefield kitchen is again a revolutionary package of feeding technologies in terms of field feeding mechanical concepts. Right now we have a system called the Mobile Kitchen Trailer. That has been in the inventory since 1975. The BK is designed -- the battlefield kitchen is designed to replace that. What the BK will do, using thermal fluid heat transfer and co-generation, is reduce the fuel and water requirements by 75 percent and reduce the footprint, both deployed and in transit, in comparison to the current system by 50 percent.
Finally, for the more adventurous folks in the room and in the Department of Defense, particularly warfighters, we're exploring the concept called Trans-Dermal Nutrient Delivery System. (Light laughter.) I get that reaction a lot. (Laughter.) What we're looking at here is a system about the size of a Band-Aid, possibly three times as thick. It would have its own CPU infrared sensing system. It would determine what micro-nutrients are becoming low in the warfighter. And then it would automatically administer selected micro-nutrients, meaning vitamins and minerals, and certain nutro-ceuticals that prove themselves to be effective in terms of maintaining high levels of cognitive and physical performance. Is it designed and is it intended to replace a turkey dinner? No. What it's designed to do is ensure that warfighter returns from harm's way and has that turkey dinner.
We take our mission very seriously. We're very passionate about it. When we invite 1.5 million warfighters a day to breakfast, lunch and dinner every day of their career, I can honestly tell you it is a significant challenge to please all of them all the time.
I appreciate the opportunity to speak with you today. And I'd like to invite you to take and sample some of our concepts, some of the things we're fielding now and some of the things we will be fielding for the Objective Force warfighter.
Any questions, please?
Darsch: Yes, sir?
Q: As a Frenchman, you might say I'm biased, but -- (laughter) -- I find that most of my American colleagues find the MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) fairly revolting. So can you tell me something about the tasting test you had and about the calories intakes you're looking at?
Darsch: Yes. I will always acknowledge that novelty on the battlefield is a welcome change. Anyone who consumes a particular ration for extended periods of time will find menu monotony, menu fatigue to come into play. I could eat baked stuffed lobster three times a day for 45 days, and if I see another one, I'll probably strangle someone.
But to get to your point, we do extensive field testing with our warfighters. We have three or four visits during any given fiscal year where get up at 0 dark 30, the mud, the sleet, the rain, the snow, whatever it is. We do focus groups with the warfighters in the field, and then we actually do surveys using a nine-point hedonic scale to evaluate the current MRE that's in the system, where everything is rated, and then we have another group that will rate the prototypes. Those prototypes are driven by warfighters in terms of what they would like to see in them.
Based on those ratings, and they have to be statistically significantly different, we will then put that data together. We go to what's called the Joint Services Operational Ration Forum, action officer level, and decisions are made in terms of what goes in the next procurement and what comes out of the next procurement.
The bottom line is, it is no more than 18 months from the time a warfighter makes a recommendation and, should it make it through those wickets to include all the operational characteristics I talked about earlier, it's in the procurement pipeline.
Q: And about calories?
Darsch: Every MRE provides approximately 1,300 calories, and we're providing warfighters three MREs a day. The Office of the Surgeon General has determined that a requirement of 3,600 calories per warfighter per day is required. It is designed for extended and very high levels of energy expenditure.
Q: One question related to that is, how many calories do soldiers consume, on average, of those 1,300, do studies show?
Darsch: Let's look at roughly 3,900. Okay? That's what they would be given. Now, if they licked every package clean, they would consume 3,900. On the average, they consume about 70 to 73 percent of what's provided. And what drives that is individual warfighter preference and the mission that warfighter is going to be conducting. And they'll field-strip things. I mean, that's obvious. I know the Surgeon General rolls over and has all sorts of consternations about it, but that's a real-world scenario.
Q: But my real question was this: You know that a certain number just -- even if there was no combat involved in a given year, that field exercises alone are going to consume a certain amount of this. Why is the shelf stability requirement three years? Because I know a lot of the chemicals that make this stuff taste funny are preservatives.
Darsch: We have no preservatives and no chemicals in Meal Ready to Eat or Unitized Group Ration. Even monosodium glutamate, which might have been used at one time, is no longer used. We like to look at it as a good computer model -- quality in, quality out. The package has a lot to do with maintaining shelf life.
To answer your question, the reason that MREs have a shelf life requirement of a minimum of three years at 80 (degrees) and six months at 100 (degrees) is because they are pre-positioned all over the globe. And because of the time it takes to rotate those pre- positioned rations through the system and ultimately get them to the warfighter, it's about a three-year time frame.
Q: So all of the -- the way that you keep this stuff is fresh is all in the packaging?
Darsch: It's basically the packaging and the processing.
Q: What percentage of people who are served these need special diets -- vegetarian, kosher, that kind of stuff?
Darsch: Good question.
Q: How do you deal with that?
Darsch: That's a good question. We do surveys and to try to determine -- we constantly look at the demographics of the warfighter. It does change. I can tell you some stories off-line, which is -- there's no such thing as off-line with the media, but I'll be happy to chat after I get off the podium. But we do surveys. We try to determine, are there -- is there a sufficient demand for a particular dietary restriction that we can afford to provide the warfighter?
For example, vegetarian meals are very, very popular, so consequently, out of the 24 MREs we have available in the repertoire, if you will, four of them are vegetarian meals.
We also know that there is a -- has been an increasing demand for halal and kosher meals. But because the demand is relatively low -- it's about -- it was about 1.2 percent. In the military, quite frankly, if you go to the field and you do have dietary restrictions, most religions will allow that individual to consume what's available. But nevertheless, there are some that really want to stick with it. So there are halal and there are kosher meals available through the chaplains' logistics system, and they can be ordered. They don't have a shelf life of three years, but it's basically a hand-to-mouth operation. So that should address that.
Q: Do you use GMOs in --
Darsch: Absolutely not.
Q: What's a GMO?
Q: What's GMOs?
Q: What's a GMO?
Darsch: You're talking about genetically modified organisms --
Q: Genetically -- yes, yeah.
Degay: Yes. No, no.
Q: Okay, one of the standard -- you know, back in my days, we were still eating out of cans, you know, and it was basically they threw it out of a case and then you took whatever, or whoever came first -- the bigwigs --
Darsch: Got the best stuff.
Q: And everybody else got the sausage and, you know, the stuff that no one --
Darsch: Or the ham and lima beans, whichever the case may be.
Q: Okay. How do you determine who gets what in these things? Where is the distribution and the selection process?
Darsch: The selection process, quite frankly, doesn't differ a whole heck of a lot from the way it used to be. (Laughter.) Certain traditions we carry forward. The warfighter that runs the quickest -- (laughter) -- the warfighter that has memorized the components within a particular menu and has got sharp elbows will likely get what he wants, or she wants. But they're all nutritionally complete. So even if you get something that isn't exactly on the top of your hit list, rest assured, it's everything you need! (Laughter.)
Q: Just for purposes of getting it on the record and on tape, what are some of the 24 main courses that you have now that are the main MRE meals?
Darsch: We have a handout over there. Let me try to -- I will quickly try to recap as many as I recall. Seafood jambalaya, Jamaican pork chop, beef teriyaki, we have Country Captain chicken, we have -- let me think. The number one staple, quite frankly, in the MRE is still spaghetti and meat sauce. We have pasta with vegetables and tomato, we have a bean and rice burrito. We have -- I think I mentioned that. Beef enchiladas, a pasta with vegetarian, a pasta with Alfredo sauce, beef ravioli, oriental chicken with Thai sauce.
Is that -- should I keep going?
Q: No, that's great. (Laughter.)
Q: Unit Group Rations --
Darsch: Unitized Group Rations. This is the self-heating meal for remote sites.
Q: How many though, is that one meal or how many?
Darsch: This can be tailored. This is a concept. This can be tailored for a group of soldiers ranging anywhere from 18 to 28. All it requires is you pull a tab and there's a liquid, that's appropriately packaged, that would then -- it would be metered to the electro-chemical heating devices that are underneath the poly trays, and then it will raise the temperature of the food in those poly trays to about 140 degrees Fahrenheit in approximately 20 minutes. So all you do is just pull the trays out, you peel back the lid, and then you can serve your warfighter.
Q: And when can we expect to see some of these things and, you know, the --
Darsch: The first-strike ration will -- assuming everything goes well -- and again, all of these things are real high speed. I mean, they sound cool. The real bottom line is the warfighter must accept the concept and find what's in those rations acceptable. If we make that assumption, and I feel we can, the first-strike ration should be available in the procurement system by fiscal year '06. The remote-unit self-heating meal should be in the procurement system by the end of 2006. The compressed meal with the reclaimed water from combusted diesel fuel will be available probably. Again, the TARDEC -- the Tanks Research and Automotive Command (sic) -- they have the tougher part of that. That's the water-purification piece although I did drink some. I did along with Major General Yakovac. Last week we were at what's called Regimental Week at Ft. Lee. And there were approximately 23 general officers in attendance and lots of junior officers, enlisteds, et cetera. We were encouraged to consume the reclaimed water from the HUMVEE (High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle), which is where it's mounted. I drank some last year, and I haven't developed any odd twitches or anything.
Q: What's it taste like?
Darsch: It tastes like potable, purified water. It works.
Now just because it works doesn't mean it's ready to be fielded. I mean, there's a lot of technology that still has to be applied. It has to be ruggedized. We have to be sure that it's portable, that the filters can be easily changed out, this sort of thing. So there's still work to be done, but is doable, and it is feasible.
In fact, Janice Rosato, who's sitting over there -- she has the distinct pleasure of having the compressed-meal part of the system, (inaudible) -- looks pretty sharp -- they have the water-reclamation piece. So we're working together as a team to try to get this accomplished.
Q: What about the transdermal system you were talking about? How far in the future is that?
Darsch: The colonel will likely be a general officer. (Murmurs from reporters.) I'll be retired. (Laughs; laughter.)
Q: (Off mike) -- maybe 10 years, 20 years?
Darsch: I would say in eight -- eight to 10 years if it's feasible. Right now we have two contracts that we've awarded to two world-class academic institutions. And they're looking at feasibility. They're looking at bioavailability. They're looking at the physics of transdermally delivery things (sic). What or whether or not we continue to invest in this will have a lot to do with the outcome of those broad agency announcements which we awarded to those two universities.
Q: What about the -- (inaudible) -- the meal-in-a-pill concept? (Inaudible) -- that's been researched.
Q: Is that -- has that been looked at?
Darsch: Let me try to answer that. If we try to provide in a pill form all of the calories, the protein, the fat, the vitamins and the minerals that a warfighter needs, I believe, based on available technology today, that soldier would be taking somewhere between 65 and 90 pills an hour.
Q: So what they were talking about was something like -- the Ranger-alert thing, where it's a caffeine stimulant -- just basically enough to keep the guy driving extended periods of time.
Darsch: Yes. Right. That's still not a pill. It isn't possible at the moment. I mean, based on the molecular size of proteins and carbohydrates and fats and the volume required to bring in those calories -- I mean -- four calories per gram for protein, four calories per gram for carbohydrates and nine calories per gram for fats.
And now, if we can get folks to work in the laboratory to design a new fat molecule that can provide 20 grams -- 20 calories, rather, per gram, well, maybe. But --
Q: Just give him the Tabasco pack. (Laughter.)
Begines: I can tell the Pentagon press corps looks especially hungry today.
Darsch: Yeah. Please, please.
Begines: It is lunchtime. And so we can continue the questions as you sample some of this food.
Darsch: Thank you all very much, by the way.
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