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Remote Breaching of Obstacles

Description:

OUSD (R&E) CRITICAL TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Human-Machine Interfaces, Directed Energy, Integrated Sensing and Cyber, Trusted AI and Autonomy

 

The technology within this topic is restricted under the International Traffic in Arms Regulation (ITAR), 22 CFR Parts 120-130, which controls the export and import of defense-related material and services, including export of sensitive technical data, or the Export Administration Regulation (EAR), 15 CFR Parts 730-774, which controls dual use items. Offerors must disclose any proposed use of foreign nationals (FNs), their country(ies) of origin, the type of visa or work permit possessed, and the statement of work (SOW) tasks intended for accomplishment by the FN(s) in accordance with the Announcement. Offerors are advised foreign nationals proposed to perform on this topic may be restricted due to the technical data under US Export Control Laws.

 

OBJECTIVE:

Develop and demonstrate solutions or components of solutions for remote breaching of obstacles to decrease risk by removing Soldiers from the point of breach.

 

DESCRIPTION:

Breaching is a key task performed by Army forces in order to move through enemy-emplaced obstacles intended to block, disrupt, turn, or fix friendly forces. Mined wire obstacles consist of anti-vehicle and/or anti-personnel mines or other explosive hazards that may be surface-laid or buried, with trigger mechanisms to include pressure plate, magnetic, vibration, radar, and others. Mines and explosive hazards can be manually emplaced or scattered by quick-delivery mechanisms such as aircraft or artillery. Mined obstacles are often accompanied by concertina wire, anti-tank ditches, berms, and physical barriers such as “tetrahedrons” to slow vehicle and personnel movement. Obstacles are usually overwatched by enemy forces to engage friendly forces attempting to breach the obstacle.

 

The Army’s current breaching methods require Soldiers at the point of breach, introducing the possibility of catastrophic loss of personnel and equipment and creating a risk to mission accomplishment. To conduct a breaching operation, Soldiers must locate the obstacle and decide where to breach a lane through the obstacle. Then they use an explosive device such as a Mine Clearing Line Charge (MICLIC) or mechanical means such as a plow or flail to detonate mines or move them out of the breach lane. Soldiers then “proof” the lane to verify that the obstacle has been neutralized, often using a mine roller to detonate any remaining mines. Finally, they mark the breach lane to guide passage of friendly forces through the lane.

 

The Army is seeking solutions for remote breaching to decrease risk by removing Soldiers from the point of breach. We are particularly seeking technologies that contribute to one or more tasks associated with breaching mine and wire obstacles, to include but not limited to:

 

  • Detecting mines and other surface or subsurface explosive hazards and communicating or marking their locations
  • Detecting physical obstacles such as wire, anti-tank ditches, berms, tetrahedrons, or other types of barriers
  • Neutralizing mines, explosive hazards, and physical barriers through explosive, mechanical, kinetic, electromagnetic, directed energy, or other means
  • Verifying (proofing) the breach lane to ensure the obstacle has been neutralized
  • Marking the breach lane to guide safe passage of vehicular or personnel traffic
  • Command and control of the breaching operation

 

Solutions should allow Soldiers to conduct breaching from a safe distance of approximately 1000 meters or more from the point of breach. This may include technologies that can be employed by air or ground uncrewed systems or launched from a safe distance.

 

Solutions should be capable of integrating as part of a larger breaching concept and may be employed alongside other systems either fielded or in development, such as a remotely controlled Assault Breacher Vehicle or other technologies resulting from this solicitation. The Army is open to solutions in the form of modular mission payloads that integrate with existing or planned robotic platforms such as the Robotic Combat Vehicle (RCV) or other ground or air platforms.

 

The Army desires speed and flexibility in remote breaching methods. Solutions should be employable quickly in response to a hastily-employed enemy obstacle, such as air-delivered scatterable mines, or as part of a deliberate breaching operation against a larger, more complex obstacle. Ideally, solutions should be scalable for use against obstacles with greater depth.

 

There is likely to be significant technology overlap with solutions that can be used for non-combat operations such as locating and clearing legacy minefields. However, the focus of this solicitation is on technologies for creating a breach lane in an enemy-emplaced obstacle in the context of a fast-paced, contested combat environment.

 

PHASE I:

Design a proof-of-concept solution or component(s) of a solution for remote breaching of obstacles to remove Soldiers from the point of breach. Solutions may include technologies for detecting or neutralizing mines, explosive hazards, or barriers, verifying that the obstacle has been neutralized, marking the breach lane, controlling the breaching operation, or other components that contribute to a successful breaching operation. Proposals will be evaluated based on the contributions they can provide to the overall breaching effort and the likelihood of the technology providing an effective solution. The objective of Phase I is to establish the technical merit, feasibility, and commercial potential of the proposed effort, and to determine the quality of performance of the awarded companies prior to providing further support in Phase II. Final deliverable will be a concept design presentation, optional proof of technology demonstration, and plans for follow-on Phase II work.

 

Companies selected for a Phase I award may voluntarily participate in the Army Applications Laboratory (AAL) 12-week cohort program. The AAL cohort program is designed to solve specific Army modernization challenges on a compressed timeline. The cohort program matches qualified companies with Army problem owners to speed capability development, accelerate transition, and de-risk or inform requirements. This program is designed for businesses that have unique, applicable technology and are interested in growing a new line of business through the DoD.

 

The cohort program will enhance technology development through rapid exposure to Army stakeholders and the Army maneuver support community. Planned activities include a problem topic deep dive, in-person exposure to current breaching techniques, and stakeholder engagement with requirements writers, acquisitions managers, and end users. An example cohort program for this topic is:

 

Week 1 (15 Jan 2024)                    Orientation and problem deep-dive (in-person: Ft. Stewart, GA)

Week 2 (22 Jan 2024)                    Concept research and planning

Week 3 (29 Jan 2024)                    Concept confirmation brief (virtual)

Week 4-6 5 Feb 2024)                   Concept research and planning

Week 7 (26 Feb 2024)                   Mid-point concept refinement brief (in-person: Ft. Leonard Wood, MO)

Week 8-11 (4 Mar 2024)              Concept design refinement

Week 12 (1 Apr 2024)                   Final concept design brief (in-person: Austin, TX)

 

Cohort programming will be provided free of charge. Proposers who plan to participate in the cohort (if awarded a Phase I) are encouraged to include travel costs for three cohort trips, within the continental US, for five days each (including travel days) for in-person programming. Details will be provided to awardees under this topic at Phase I award.

 

PHASE II:

Develop, build, and demonstrate a prototype of the concept advanced during Phase I. Prototypes should be capable of integration with existing Army systems and/or newly developed systems from other awardees. They should also showcase modularity and prove effective during simulated or operational demonstrations. Phase II deliverables include a demonstration and delivery of a Technology Readiness Level (TRL) 6 prototype for further Army evaluation, as well as quarterly and final reports detailing design and performance analysis of the prototype. Phase II proposals will be evaluated, in part, on cost reasonableness and speed to delivery of a TRL 6 prototype.

 

Awardees may also be eligible for Phase IIb award after completion of Phase II period of performance. Phase IIb can extend the period of performance with additional funding and additional matching opportunities to finish building out solutions with the stakeholders’ discretion.

 

PHASE III:

The objective of Phase III, where appropriate, is for the small business to pursue commercialization objectives through the effort. Companies may develop a manufacturing-ready product design, capable of integration with the existing or future system, and demonstrate technology integration. Low-rate production will occur as required. Companies will engage in laboratory or operational testing as required. Phase III deliverables include system-level integration technical data package, installation documentation, and system-level prototype for demonstration and government-sponsored testing.

 

WEBINAR DATE:

A Webinar will be conducted for this solicitation on Wednesday, October 11, at 10:00am CST. Please register at: https://remotebreachingwebinar.eventbrite.com.

 

KEYWORDS:

Obstacle, Barrier, Mine, Wire, Ditch, Breach, Reduce, Clear, Remote, Robotic, Autonomous, Unmanned, Uncrewed

 

REFERENCES:

  1. Combined Arms Breach. TRADOC G2 G&V. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZZ-sCT_maAQ
  2. US Army digs deep to develop robot minefield ‘breachers’. C4ISRNET. https://www.c4isrnet.com/newsletters/unmanned-systems/2022/11/03/us-army-digs-deep-to-develop-robot-minefield-breachers/
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