Defense

July 12, 2013

U.S. Army aids France with RPG-defense test data

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Dan Lafontaine
Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md.

French soldiers patrol in a VBCI infantry fighting vehicle equipped with a legacy rocket-propelled grenade defense system. Fighting in Mali spurred the need for increased capabilities to protect French soldiers, and the U.S. Army has transferred technical test data on a new rocket-propelled grenade defense system, Q-Nets II, through an international agreement.

The U.S. Army has transferred to France technical test data on a rocket-propelled grenade defense system that is vital to its military operations in Mali, officials announced.

The U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, known as RDECOM, through its International Technology Center-France, helped to facilitate the exchange between the allies, said Lt. Col. Robert Willis, who led the project for RDECOM.

“The French Army wants the best thing out there,” said Willis, commander of ITC-France under RDECOM Forward Element Command-Atlantic. “They are a professional and highly capable Army, and they want to protect their troops. They are determined to rapidly acquire the best technology, based purely on technical performance of the system.”

The French Army had purchased an early version of a rocket-propelled grenade, or RPG, defense system, Q-Nets, from QinetiQ North America, known as QNA, a U.S. company. Fighting in Mali spurred the need for increased capabilities to protect French soldiers.

When the company developed an improved version, Q-Nets II, the French Ministry of Defense wanted to review the test data from the U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command before making a procurement decision. However, QNA could not release the data to France because the exchange must be made under an international agreement from one government entity to another government, Willis said.

Willis and his colleagues at the U.S. European Command’s Office of Defense Cooperation in Paris stepped in to expedite the data transfer under an established agreement, “Survivability Technologies for Land Combat Systems.” RDECOM’s Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center, known as TARDEC, at Detroit Arsenal, Mich., provides technical oversight for the agreement.

TARDEC’s technical project officer for the agreement then verified that the detailed test data could be transferred from the U.S. Army to the French MoD.

Without the international agreement in place, this transfer of data would not have been authorized, Willis said.

Willis is accredited as an attach of defense cooperation for these types of exchanges, and he presented the data to the French MoD, June 10. He used his fluency in French and background in Army test and evaluation to explain the technical and statistical nuances of the report.

In addition to assisting a NATO ally in an area of operations where the United States has national interests but not a desire to intervene with ground troops, the U.S. Department of Commerce had officially granted advocacy to QNA in an otherwise European-only competition, Willis said.

Col. Collier Slade, chief of the ODC in Paris, said the advocacy process allows the U.S. government to promote an American vendor in its efforts in a foreign country. In this case, QNA was the only U.S. company in competition to provide an RPG defense system to the French Army.

“The effectiveness of our advocacy policy in this case was ensured by the unique skill sets and reach-back that the RDECOM international team provided,” Slade said.

RDECOM maintains a robust international footprint to promote cooperation between the United States and foreign partners to advance science, engineering and technical capabilities in areas important to the U.S. Army, Willis said.

RFEC-Atlantic in the United Kingdom has ITCs in France and Germany, RFEC-Pacific in Japan has ITCs in Australia and Singapore, and RFEC-Americas in Chile has ITCs in Canada and Argentina.

“Our NATO partners, including France and others in Europe, are long-standing allies,” Willis said. “They possess the state-of-the-art in many technologies that we do not.”

Maintaining these international relationships allows RDECOM to accelerate requests such as the transfer of RPG test data to France, Willis said. He is responsible for 16 European countries and concentrates primarily on France, Italy and Spain.

“We maintain cognizance of the expertise areas in our countries,” Willis said. “We maintain contacts with the critical government, industry and academia that develop these technologies that we can share.”

“We transfer technologies in both directions,” he continued. “In this case, it was U.S. to France in support of an urgent operational requirement. In many other cases, it is shared foreign know-how that alleviates the need for large technology investments and development on our own.”




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