Iterating on the development of the Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS) is not isolated to large Soldier Touchpoint (STP) events such as the high visibility STP 3 held on Fort Pickett, Va in November 2020. Small cross-enterprise groups continuously collaborate on the development of each technical aspect of the IVAS system.
To maximize this collaboration, Program Executive Office Soldier created the Soldier Integration Facility (SIF) as a gathering space for stakeholders from around the enterprise to innovate and integrate equipment. The SIF offers a productive workspace to conduct tactical validation of technical solutions to Soldier Centered Design (SCD) challenges without relying solely on large STPs.
"As we come to grips with the reality of integrating multi-disciplinary systems like IVAS and helmets, the value of having a dedicated collaboration and integration space is apparent,” said MAJ Dan Ferenczy, Deputy Director of the SIF. “We have a dedicated facility and team of experienced project coordinators to assist PMs in doing what they've always done - make great products for Soldiers."
At the last IVAS STP, Soldiers provided feedback on the physical interface between the device hardware and their various operational helmets. Because Soldier acceptance is a priority in every stage of IVAS development, the team leveraged the expertise and resources housed in Fort Belvoir’s SIF using Soldier feedback to identify and assess specific sources that contribute to comfort.
“Capturing Soldier needs and acceptance helps us focus technical developments in the direction that most effectively accommodates the Soldier, ultimately increasing their lethality and situational awareness on the battlefield,” said MSG Marc Krugh, Senior Enlisted Advisor to PM IVAS.
MSG Krugh participated in the SIF event to evaluate the physical interface between IVAS and head protection, along with representatives from Soldier Lethality Cross Functional Team (SL CFT) and PM Soldier Survivability (PM SSV).
The team replicated current fitting procedures and used a crawl, walk, run tactical scenario to identify, verify, and validate DOTmLPF-P solutions. This process consisted of a two day evaluation starting with a discussion on head protection requirements, helmet design methodology, and a tutorial on properly installing helmet pad suspension and chin strap retention systems throughout various helmet types.
Next, the team replicated the problem as described by Soldiers at STP 3, specifically that ill-fitting helmets, either too loose or too tight, resulted in pain points. By taking a holistic SCD approach of addressing the Soldier and squad as an aggregate system, the team determined several ways to improve the form and fit of the overall integrated technology.
The results of the assessment determined that IVAS comfort will improve with proper helmet size, pad placement, and retention strap fitment. The event also highlighted the importance of accurate helmet fitting procedures and informed best practices for both the IVAS test team and larger enterprise moving forward.
The SCD approach to systems and Soldier feedback enabled the holistic view of the physical interface between IVAS and head protection to be evaluated, ultimately improving the Soldier and squad as a system.
“We constantly collect Soldier feedback, but it is priceless to have experts from the different lanes in the room to facilitate a meaningful and constructive conversation,” said Krugh. “We were able to put everything on the table in a way that allowed some of the hurdles that one group faced to be solved with the collective expertise.”
The event was another intentional step towards developing IVAS, which was recently approved to move from rapid prototyping to production and rapid fielding in effort to deliver next generation capabilities to the close combat force at the speed of relevance. The technology is being made by Soldiers for Soldiers, so their feedback is a priority at every decision point.
“Soldier comfort drives Soldier acceptance, which is essential for IVAS to be successful,” said Royce Manis, SL CFT Highly Qualified Expert. “This event was critical because successful integration comes from not only Soldiers wearing it, but getting the engineers to wear it alongside Soldiers so nothing gets lost in translation.”
The cross functional team continuously leverages collective strengths to deliver the high-priority integrated product. The SIF provided a dedicated and professional space for those teammates to collaborate and find technical solution sets for the most relevant operational problems.