The Army is tempering expectations for the first versions of its Integrated Visual Augmentation System, something it heralded in the past as a model for military and industry collaboration.
The $22 billion program is supposed to revolutionize the way soldiers can operate in the field and pair soldiers with much of the work the Defense Department is doing to incorporate data into its weapons systems.
However, despite having a solid partner in Microsoft, the Army ended up needing to delay the program by a year.
Now, Army Secretary Christine Wormuth said even the first round of IVAS will have some kinks in it.
“Remember early satellite phones from the 1980s that wealthy people had in their cars?” Wormuth said during an event for the Center for a New American Security. “They were big and clunky and now we have iPhones. It took us some time to get there. The first iteration of IVAS may not be quite as streamlined as we want it to be ultimately, but it’s the alpha version, and we need to start there.”
Wormuth said despite the delays, IVAS is very much alive and well. She noted that she tried the system a few months ago.
“The challenge we’re facing right now is a little bit in the visualization of the headset and the resolution quality of the imaging,” Wormuth said. “Microsoft has been working very closely with us and I think it’s very committed to seeing if we can work through these problems.”
The Army announced the full year delay of the program last October.
“The Army is fully committed to its partnership with Microsoft to advance specific technologies to meet operational requirements and maximize warfighter impact,” the Army release on the delay states. “The Army conducted an adversarial electronic warfare and cybersecurity test in September 2021, and plans to execute testing regularly throughout 2022. This decision allows the Army and industry team to continue to enhance the IVAS technology platform ensuring soldiers achieve overmatch in multi domain operations.”
The program has some work to do if it wants to continue on its path. The 2022 defense authorization act fences 25% of the program’s funding until the Army can provide a checkup.
The law requires a plan to ensure IVAS’s battery management system meets planned requirements, a strategy including critical milestones for 3D geospatial data and a plan for iterative improvements to sensors and software throughout the procurement of the system. Congress also wants certification that working components of the program are in order.
“The committee recognizes the importance of IVAS and supports expeditious initial fielding of this advanced capability to close combat soldiers, but is concerned about the projected level of system development and ensuring iterative improvements between initial and full fielding,” the Senate Armed Services Committee wrote in its version of the bill, which recommended a nearly $270 million decrease in the program. “The committee believes that completion of robust operational testing and implementation of iterative improvements are warranted before proceeding to the production rate the Army is seeking in fiscal 2022.”