Army Futures Command 4-Star Details Massive "War on Coronavirus"

Warrior Maven

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By Kris Osborn - Warrior Maven

** Warrior & Gen. John Murray, Commander, Army Futures Command**

---- ARMY WAR ON CORONAVIRUS SERIES --- Gen. John Murray BIO HERE

Warrior: We understand several experimental COVID 19 vaccines are on the fast track. What can you tell us about progress?

Murray: “There are a number of different vaccines being worked on all over the country and really all over the world. One of the vaccines that has a high probability is being worked on in one of the Army labs. We are on track to begin human trials in the September timeframe. I am not promising that the first vaccine delivered will be our vaccine but we think we will get to human trials early this Fall, which puts us on a much faster timeline than previous vaccine work. This is part of a whole of government effort, not just AFC(Army Futures Command).

Warrior: What are some ways the Army is participating in the whole-of-government effort?

Murray: “We are also providing advisors to the White House Task Force, to include Dr. Fauci. We have people on that team providing advice, primarily in the testing arena. So this supports a whole of government effort to establish more reliable, easy to administer tests. There are a lot of people out there saying 'we got this test, we got that test.' In the United Arab Emirates they are testing people before they get on a plane. We are pushing hard in our labs to help the national effort to develop tests.”

Warrior: We understand there are several instances wherein Army doctors, scientists and health care professionals have been able to save the lives of some severely infected COVID patients?

Murray: “We started trials with a drug called Remdesivir. We started a month ago at Landstuhl (Army Medical Center, German) and a few medical centers throughout DoD. I think we are up to 10 medical centers now. It is not a huge sampling or huge testing population, but so far we have seen success with Remdesivir to the point where we have gotten a few service members extubated and actually discharged. It is very early on - but it is showing some promise.”

Warrior: What animals are being used for experiments regarding work to discover a vaccine and research other aspects of the virus?

Murray: “We’ve got the only lab capable in DoD of doing animal testing of the virus. We got strains of the virus very early on, pulled additional strains off of them, and we will be set up in less than a month to the point where we have all the animal strains picked out. The thing that is unique about that lab is that the infection is done the same way that humans get it; it is breathed in as opposed to being injected. We are working with mice, hamsters and a colony of non-human primates or small monkeys.”

Warrior: Has the Army been able to deliver any equipment to the effort?

Murray: “Our Combat Capabilities Development Command(CCDC), Aberdeen Md., went through all of their PPEs, their face masks, their gloves, their gowns because they have a significant number. They figured out what they needed and what they could spare. What they could spare went into a shipment to New York City. We've done some work with 3D printing on nasal swabs. Those are in exceptionally high demand and manufacturers can't keep up with it.

Warrior: We understand there has been a lot of work going on with the discovery and testing on antibodies? Is this showing promise? What about the question of helping to ensure widespread immunity to Coronavirus?

Murray: “We are doing some work with the University of Texas on figuring out what immunity looks like for COVID 19. Army Medical Research Development Command and CCDC are engaged in the national effort to get after this. The ARL submitted a proposal to the National Institute for Innovation in Manufacturing Biopharmaceutical - Manufacturing Innovation Institute for eventual production of COVID-19 antibodies. ARL, in collaboration with University of Texas - Austin, has also identified 18 potential therapeutic / neutralizing monoclonal antibodies and will pass along lead candidates for production. Additionally, discussions with Houston Methodist Medical have progressed and plans for medical evaluation of engineered antibodies are being developed - working towards FDA approval of promising antibodies.”

Gen. John Murray, Commander - Army Futures Command

Warrior: There is some ongoing Army work related to safeguarding air within military vehicles through the use of filters and other technologies? Is this being applied to helicopters and armored vehicles?

Murray: “Our labs in CCDC and ARL came up with an isolation containment system for when you excavate a patient to protect the medical providers. This technology could also relate to a way of filtering air in aircraft. There are all kinds of possibilities for that. This disease itself is transmitted because you are next to somebody.”

Part II ***Murray on Coronavirus Impact Upon Weapons Development***

Warrior: How is the COVID Pandemic impacting weapons development?

Murray: “What I am laser focused on is we have promised these capabilities to soldiers at a certain point in time -- called First Unit Equipped. None of that has slipped, so we are making up schedules and doing many things at a time.”

Warrior: What are some of the challenges to modernization posed by Coronavirus?

Murray: “I’m talking to a lot of CEOs regarding understanding where industry is not only in terms of the primes but also the subs. Some of the issues are supply chain issues and that is where we are seeing them (subs). If you have dual use suppliers, especially in the commercial aviation industry, which is getting crushed right now as you would imagine, there can be challenges. When it comes to these smaller suppliers of a dozen people, or 15 people... if one of them gets infected the company effectively shuts down for 14 days. Industry is doing a phenomenal job keeping their eye on their subs. We have a better sense for all of the critical suppliers throughout the defense industry than we have ever had. This has been very valuable for us to learn.”

Warrior: What, so far, has been the COVID Impact on some of the particular modernization priorities?

Murray: “We have 609 programs in the Army. Dr. Bruce Jette (Assistant Secretary of the Army - Acquisition, Logistics and Technology) is focused on all 609. I focus on key modernization priorities consisting of what we commonly refer to as 31 plus 3 signature systems. Future Vertical Lift is always one of them, Long Range Precision Fires, Next Generation Combat Vehicle, Air and Missile Defense, the Network and Soldier Lethality. In those 6 priorities, we keep an eye on schedules and programs as it changes pretty much every day. In many cases it is easier because almost all of that is still in development. Recovering schedules when you are still in development is easier than a recovery schedule when you are bending metal and in production.”

Warrior: What is an example of one of the many programs you are closely tracking?

Murray: One of a few things we are keeping a close eye on in terms of air and missile defense is IBCS (Integrated Battle Command System) which is in theory the ability to link multiple sensors to an air defense system. Right now, if it is a Patriot, you have a Patriot radar, if it’s a THAAD, it has a TPY-2 THAAD radar and we've got several radars for different systems. IBCS enables an ability to take any sensor and link it to just about any air defense system to include some of our artillery sensors and counterfire sensors. That is the theory behind it. We have been working on this for a long time and we had scheduled a LUT (Limited User Test).”

Warrior: Is there an example of a program that is experiencing a developmental impact?

Murray: “IVAS (Integrated Visual Augmentation System), which is under soldier lethality (Soldier Lethality Cross Functional Team), includes next generation goggles….thermal imagers with the weapons sights. All your blue force trackers are woven intto that augmented reality... you operate with it, you train with it. It is a pretty amazing capability. There is a really unique way we are developing it. It was three week sprints with soldiers and engineers working together. Soldiers mostly from Joint Base Lewis-McChord out in Washington state get together with soldiers for direct soldier feedback to the engineers that are developing it. Soldiers go away for three weeks, come back and offer soldier input then we repeat. That has been going on for a year and a half. It is very difficult when you have to be six feet apart. So that is slipping a little bit.”

Warrior: I understand the Army is already beginning to think about the long-term impact the Pandemic may have upon Army weapons and technology development?

Murray: “Is this a new normal...I don't know. I guess the last major pandemic was 1918. I doubt we are going to make major adjustments based on something that is going to happen once a century, but it is a question of whether you believe that or not.”

--- Army Story of Gen. Murray's Promotion to Lead Army Futures Command Here ---

Special Series: ARMY WAR ON CORONAVIRUS - More from Army & Gen. Murray

War on COVID Part I - Saving Soldiers with Remdesivir HERE

Stay tuned for News About the Army War on COVID… Vaccines, Antibody discovery, Testing Progress, Animal Testing and Weapons Development.

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Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army - Acquisition, Logistics& Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel and The History Channel. He also has a Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.

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