Training system upgrade improves Soldier readiness

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Story by Anthony Ricchiazzi on 12/07/2017
TOBYHANNA ARMY DEPOT, Pa. Soldiers now have a more dependable training system thanks to Tobyhanna Army Depot.

An engineering solution developed to solve problems with a communications interface has improved the dependability of systems that give feedback in training scenarios. The solution resulted in a cost avoidance of more than $1.2 million for fiscal years 2016 and 2017.

Data Communications Interfaces (DCI) are devices that provide the link between Precision Real Time Location System (PRTLS) radios and Multiple Integrated Laser Engagement System (MILES) Tactical Engagement Simulation System (TESS) devices. The DCIs link with those systems to obtain global positioning system position information and provide a two-way communication link.

"The system is used in training scenarios and provides commanders with Soldier location, direction, who fired a weapon, who was hit and time," said Mechanical Engineer Alan Karpavich, who led the team that improved the DCI. Karpavich works in the Production Engineering Directorate.

The Army requires additional DCIs for the Joint Multinational Readiness Center, a forward deployed, European based Combat Training Center conducting realistic training for U.S. Army and allied military units fighting the Global War on Terrorism.

"We're now in full production of 2,954 DCIs, after which we'll produce a number of spares," Karpavich said.

Several of the DCI boxes were failing environmental tests, resulting in water getting into the box and collecting near the electrical components. It was particularly the rain testing that failed when water seeped in under the lid of the original designed enclosure, Karpavich noted.

The box houses a circuit card, connectors and other electrical components that allow the interface with the PRTLS and MILES/TESS systems.

The original box was machined from a chunk of solid aluminum alloy. Karpavich said the machining takes a considerable amount of time and involved several steps, including a lip for the lid that functioned as a gasket when silicone grease is applied to it.

Karpavich noted that the screws were stripping, therefore several of the boxes were failing the original design intent. These were screws that fastened the circuit card to bosses in the body of the box. Once these the threads on these bosses were stripped the box was basically unusable and discarded.

Matt Check, an electronics engineer, Tom Sweeney, a logistics management specialist, and Joe Stevens, a production controller, partnered with Karpavich to help the customer streamline the system. Check works in the Production Engineering Directorate and Sweeney and Stevens work in the Production Management Directorate.

"The solution we came up with was to purchase new boxes already cast in the shape we want that require less machining at Tobyhanna," Karpavich said. "The modified box includes a silicone gasket for a dependable water seal, eliminates the bosses to get rid of the broken screws and stripped threads problem, and needs less screws to seal the box shut."

Once the specifications were determined by Karpavich and his team, a prototype was built here.

"I redesigned the circuit card due to original design and obsolescence issues," Check said. "After two revisions, I was confident in the new design. We put it through electrical, electromagnetic and radio frequency interference, and functionality tests; the new circuit card assembly passed all tests."

"Matt made sure all the internal electronics worked properly, the prototype was assembled and passed all electrical tests the first time," Karpavich said. "Once we knew it would work, Tom informed the customer (Army Program Executive Office for Simulation, Training and Instrumentation) that we had a superior product and it was adopted."

Other changes were made to make a more durable and reliable product, such as watertight cable connectors and dust caps, which allowed the redesigned cables and assemblies to pass environmental testing.

"Carol's shop did a great job building the prototypes; we had very few issues," Check noted. Carol Kubilus is chief of the Strategic Systems Cable Branch, Systems Integration and Support Directorate.

Tobyhanna Army Depot is a recognized leader in providing world-class logistics support for command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems across the Department of Defense. Tobyhanna's Corporate Philosophy, dedicated work force and electronics expertise ensure the depot is the Joint C4ISR provider of choice for all branches of the Armed Forces and industry partners.

Tobyhanna's unparalleled capabilities include full-spectrum logistics support for sustainment, overhaul and repair, fabrication and manufacturing, engineering design and development, systems integration, post production software support, technology insertion, modification, foreign military sales and global field support to our Joint Warfighters.

About 3,200 personnel are employed at Tobyhanna, which is located in the Pocono Mountains of northeastern Pennsylvania. Tobyhanna Army Depot is part of the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command. Headquartered at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, the command's mission is to research, develop, acquire, field and sustain communications, command, control computer, intelligence, electronic warfare and sensors capabilities for the Armed Forces.

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