Promoting a shared understanding of the Army’s plans for hypersonics, directed energy and other critical modernization priorities, the Army Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office held an industry open house June 12 at the Jackson Center in Huntsville.
The event, attended by 350 industry and government representatives, provided vendors with information on the RCCTO’s planned timeline, structure and contract opportunities in developing a hypersonics prototype, new directed energy capabilities and other technologies.
“We exist for one purpose and one purpose only: to move things from the science and technology community to an experimental prototype unit of action level with residual combat capabilities,” Lt. Gen. Neil Thurgood, director of hypersonics, Directed Energy, Space and Rapid Acquisition, who oversees the RCCTO, said. “I don’t field to test centers, I don’t field to labs, I field to a combat unit. That is why we exist.”
The RCCTO is charged with delivering a prototype hypersonic weapon to an Army battery by fiscal 2023 and a prototype directed energy weapon to a four-vehicle Stryker platoon by late fiscal 2022.
The one-day open house event brought experts from across the Army modernization community, including several Cross Functional Teams from the Army Futures Command, to discuss the path forward in expediting the delivery of priority capabilities
“The relationship between the RCCTO and the CFTs is great,” said Willie Nelson, director of the Assured Position, Navigation and Timing CFT, who participated in a panel discussion with several other CFT, RCCTO and Program Executive Office representatives. “I think you’ll see a lot of commonality and a lot of teamwork. We are laser focused on the same thing, and that’s delivering capabilities to the warfighter.”
Thurgood kicked off the event with an opening keynote address, in which he discussed the structure and focus of the RCCTO organization, its links with the AFC and the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology, and the way ahead for projects like hypersonics and directed energy. He highlighted the need for industry partnership, communication and support to achieve the Army’s goals.
“We need help in bridging that gap between what the S&T community can do and cannot do, and what the program of record community can do and cannot do,” Thurgood said. “If we are going operate at the speed we need to, we have to put the processes in place for that speed to happen.”
He also explained how the RCCTO will help bridge what is known as the “valley of death” as capabilities try to cross from S&T to a program of record. Part of that will involve aggregating teams and then disaggregating teams as designated technology projects transition from S&T to the RCCTO to a program of record.
“The set of rules a PEO plays by and the set of rules the S&T community plays by are not equal,” Thurgood said. “The exit criteria is not equal to the entrance criteria, (so) the bridge we have is the RCCTO.”
Darryl Colvin, acting deputy PEO for Missiles and Space, agreed, saying that modernization and readiness ultimately will be measured by the capabilities that are delivered to the joint force over time.
“That’s critical, because it’s not just going to happen overnight,” Colvin said during the panel discussion. “It’s going to happen along the lines of what LTG Thurgood presented this morning, where we are going to look at the experimental prototypes, we’re going to get them into the field and into a unit of action, and that residual capability becomes combat capability that we may have to use.”
The RCCTO also announced plans to host quarterly innovation days with industry starting in the fourth quarter of this fiscal year. Announcements for the innovation days will be posted on the Federal Business Opportunities website.