Brig. Gen. John Rafferty, director of the Long Range Precision Fires Cross-Functional Team and modernization efforts, explained in an August 25 statement that the effort, carried out via the Army’s Special Program Awards for Required Technology Needs (SPARTN), “is more than just putting rounds in the back of the howitzers.”
“It’s also about asking, ‘where do we spend all of our time?’ We spend a lot of our time handling unpacking, unloading and downloading ammunition. If we can do that more efficiently we will become a more combat effective unit,” he said.
SPARTN, an Army Small Business Innovation Research pilot, seeks to produce a number of modernization solutions from various small tech firms. “The aim is for those commercial solvers to create systems or sub-systems that not only solve Fire Faster, but also become sources of long-term commercial revenue,” the Army Futures Command release clarified.
The service highlighted that in addition to helping out the US Army, companies participating in SPARTN will also be eligible to participate in “a cohort program” granting the tech firms “unparalleled access to the Soldiers who will use their technologies and to Army problem owners.”
While the Army usually gives companies “a piece of paper that says, ‘go build this,” the Field Artillery Autonomous Resupply (FAAR) cohort that the service ran earlier this year was “the first time we provided companies a chance to explore the problem and immerse themselves into the problem,” Rafferty said.
“We had iterations with subject matter experts for meaningful exchanges, so rather than someone just checking to make sure they're making progress on a contractual obligation, there was this opportunity to immerse themselves with this community on a routine basis to bounce ideas off of and to get feedback. It has proven to be [an] effective process.”
Defense News noted that participants in the FAAR program were given $150,000 to complete a 12-week session that ended in a pitch to the service. A total of six companies were selected to continue work on their solutions for the munitions resupply system of the M109 Paladin howitzers.
Tech companies are invited to participate in the “Fire Faster” application period, which runs from September 18 to October 6.