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A Microsoft Corp.-led program to develop a heads-up display and night vision for ground forces is “alive and well,” despite its slow progress, Army Secretary Christine Wormuth said Tuesday.
The Army announced in October a delay in fielding the Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS) to allow more time to prepare for the intense combat testing needed for full-rate production. The test, previously scheduled for last September, is now tentatively scheduled for May.
IVAS —a customized version of Microsoft’s HoloLens goggles—would enable commanders to project information onto a visor in front of a soldier’s face, and would include other features such as night vision.
“Microsoft has worked extremely well and very closely with us,” Wormuth said at an event hosted by the Center for a New American Security. “The challenge we are facing right now is a bit in the visualization of the headset and kind of the resolution quality of the imaging,” Wormuth said offering the latest public assessment of the program.
The new multifunction goggle system for the Army shows promise, but the potential $22 billion program over 10 years that includes hardware, spares, and logistics support, isn’t yet ready for combat deployment, the Pentagon’s test office said.
Even with progress since the contract was awarded in 2018, the system “has not yet demonstrated the capability to serve as a fighting goggle,” the Pentagon’s director of operational testing said in a non-public assessment sent to the Army for review and obtained by Bloomberg News.
“Our close collaboration with the Army has enabled us to quickly build and iterate on IVAS to develop a transformational platform that will deliver enhanced soldier safety and effectiveness,” David Marra, Microsoft’s program director, said in a statement. “We continue to test and refine IVAS through soldier engagements, ensuring this state-of-the-art mixed-reality platform is effective, reliable, and exceeds the Army’s objectives.”
The Army in March 2021 placed an order of $373 million for an initial 5,000 goggles, with the potential to buy as many as 121,500 goggles over 10 years. Only $40 million has been paid to date, said Army spokeswoman Courtney Bacon.
The Army isn’t yet accepting delivery of the first 5,000 systems and final payment for them is on hold “until the system passes validation and verification events,” she said. The remaining $333 million will be disbursed once the government completes acceptance of the systems, which is expected by Sept. 30, she added.