ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. – The U.S Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center's Advanced Design and Manufacturing Division (ADM) embarked on a small training project that has since expanded and amounted to dollars saved for the Army. The training program offers the possibility of a new certification for Warfighters using the Husky Mounted Detection System (HMDS), a kit that can detect explosive hazards when attached to the Husky vehicle.
It started when ADM was tasked by the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization’s (JIEDDO) training arm, Joint Center of Excellence (JCOE) in January 2010 to provide a solution to a recurring issue: what is a cost-effective way to train Warfighters on the HMDS and eliminate the risk of damaging the equipment during training while still maintaining optimal education effectiveness?
The HMDS is a kit that attaches to the Husky vehicle, and has four Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) panels, each costing a substantial amount of money. The panels detect metallic and nonmetallic buried explosive hazards. These panels were routinely damaged during training rotations due to inexperienced operators.
“Warfighters would train with these systems and since they were new to them, a lot of damage would occur to the panels in the training process,” said Peter Bryant, a project specialist working in ADM’s Technology and Systems Integration Branch. “Student drivers were doing several million dollars worth of damage per month learning to operate the HMDS. It just was not a reasonable option, so we were tasked to create a training system that would improve the sustainability.”
ADM accelerated the development of the Husky Mounted Detection System Surrogate (HMDSS), a trainer that mimicked the fully-functional HMDS; however, “consumable” panels and a radio-frequency identification (RFID) system replaced the GPR panels. The RFID system offered the Warfighter the tools to simulate the detection of a buried threat using a ‘tag’ indicating a pre-determined threat type. The surrogate system cost is one quarter that of the original. The panels only cost $1,000 for a complete replacement, but generally, only the nose cones suffer damage, which total $100 to replace.
“We were asked to create and test a potential training product. We did and that turned out to be a huge success,” said Kevin Wallace, Technology and Systems Integration Branch Chief. “From there we ended up building 26 systems for JIEDDO. Currently we are building 29 additional systems and we’ve been tasked to build more, so it’s certainly taken off.”
After the initial 26 HMDSS Kits were shipped to JIEDDO in January 2011, the ECBC engineers have continued to work on enhancements to the systems, to include ground tracking and software interface improvements. According to Wallace, as this project started to grow, the initial group needed to enlist the help of all the branches within ADM as well as some from outside the Division. Additional partners for the HMDSS include Letterkenny and Tobyhanna Army Depots. So far, the HMDSS is already fielded at 17 different locations, including three locations outside of the Continental United States, with the current project to go to 11 other CONUS locations.
“This was certainly a collaborative effort not only to create the initial product, but also to improve and sustain it in the future,” Wallace said. “I would call this a Division-wide effort, but we have also had help from others within ECBC, several PMs, ATC, and industry partners."
In addition to creating the physical training detector for the vehicle, the project was taken a step further with the development of an iPad application. The application brings all the same features of driving with the HMDSS to the iPad screen. The user simulates driving a vehicle and receiving alerts of potential threats. From there, the driver must determine a course of action to ensure safety. Additionally, the HMDSS application includes a narrated system overview, and a full user manual for the vehicle.
The iPad application also includes an installation manual as well as simulations that are based on events that could actually happen. The manual allows Warfighters to have something light and easy to carry and refer to for questions while training, as well as having the ability to do refresher training on their own time on an iPad.
Wallace said although the original intent was to create a training possibility, having the capabilities within ECBC allowed the group to explore additional options on the project, ultimately expanding the purpose.