Army moves up fielding of Future Combat Systems

The U.S. Army plans to accelerate the fielding of some Future Combat Systems such as armed robotic vehicles, unattended ground sensors and unattended munitions. The Army is taking advantage of leaps and bounds in wireless technology to ”spiral” FCS development, said Lt. Gen. Joseph L. Yakovac, military deputy to the assistant secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology. He said spiraling allows for a more flexible approach to system development, to add technology as it emerges.

From U.S. DoD:

Army moves up fielding of Future Combat Systems

The Army plans to accelerate the fielding of some Future Combat Systems such as armed robotic vehicles, unattended ground sensors and unattended munitions.

The Army is taking advantage of leaps and bounds in wireless technology to ”spiral” FCS development, said Lt. Gen. Joseph L. Yakovac, military deputy to the assistant secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology. He said spiraling allows for a more flexible approach to system development, to add technology as it emerges.

”The Army evolves by putting future ideas forward as they become available,” Yakovac said.

Army leaders also plan to field sooner, to more of the force, an automation network known as the ”System of Systems Common Operating Environment,” or SOSCOE. Yakovac likened SOSCOE to the ”windows” operating system of a computer, but infinitely larger, and said the network will allow units to ”plug and play” the FCS pieces.

”We are basically building the Internet you use every day and moving it into battle space,” Yakovac said. He added that it’s a big challenge to make that network secure, yet accessible by all Soldiers and integrated with all systems.

Future Combat System technology will be inserted into the brigade-sized units of action the Army is establishing, said Brig. Gen. Charles Cartwright, program manager for the FCS UAs. He said one of the UAs will be selected as an ”experimental unit” to test all the new FCS technology in 2008. A projected 32 of the 43 UAs will be fielded with some FCS capabilities by 2014, he said.

Over the life of the FCS program (2O25 plus), 15 selected UAs will become FCS Units of Action, Cartwright said. These units will be fielded with all 18 of the Future Combat Systems, he said, and they will have extraordinary capabilities.

The rest of the modular UAs are still slated to receive the network and some of the FCS developments. For instance, the Non-Line of Sight Launch System, or ”rockets in a box,” as Yakovac called them, are intended to be fielded widely. This pod of missiles can be aimed and fired from miles away.

The unmanned sensors and robotic vehicles are also intended for wide dissemination, officials said. In fact, they said a small unmanned robotic vehicle is already being used today in Iraq and Afghanistan to detect mines.

Part of this week’s FCS announcement included ”buying back” five of the Future Combat Systems that had been previously deferred. Added back to the FCS list are:
o Armed Robotic Vehicles (ARV Assault and ARV RSTA [Reconnaissance, Surveillance and Target Acquisition])
o Recovery and Maintenance Vehicle
o Intelligent Munitions Systems
o Class II Unmanned Air Vehicles (medium size)
o Class III UAVs (fixed-wing)

In order to fund the development of the five new systems, the rate of purchase for the eight manned FCS vehicles will be slowed down slightly, officials said. But research and development for all the FCS vehicles will continue on schedule, Yakovac said.

A ”demonstrator” version of the first manned FCS vehicle, the Non-Line of Sight Cannon, is now being tested at Yuma Proving Ground, Ariz. The NLOS Cannon vehicle has a 155mm weapon and weighs less than 24 tons.

It’s light, but can handle recoil, said Daniel Pierson, who works for the assistant secretary of the Army (Acquisition, Logistics and Technology).

The current NLOS Cannon vehicle runs on rubber tracks, but Yakovac stressed that the decision has not yet been made whether the manned FCS vehicles will be tracked or wheeled.

”We’re looking to combine the best of both (wheeled and tracked capabilities) in these vehicles,” Yakovac said.

Another change announced this week is that all manned vehicles will receive active protective systems. Yakovac said that decision stems from lessons learned in Iraq.

”In a 360-degree fight, everything needs protection,” Yakovac said, even support vehicles.

”A lot of capability can be brought to a vehicle by software,” Yakovac said. For instance, he said the FCS vehicles will have digital command and control, automatic target acquisition, the Joint Tactical Radio System, and the Warfighter Information System — Tactical, known as WIN-T, and more.

Officials plan to field the first FCS vehicles in 2008 and spiral the development to most of the Army by 2025. In the meantime, however, and for years into the future, the M-1 Abrams tank, Bradley Fighting Vehicle and other current weapons systems will remain important, said Lt. Gen. Benjamin S. Griffin, Army deputy chief of staff for Programs, G8.

Other Future Combat Systems include:
o Infantry Carrier Vehicle
o Command and Control Vehicle
o Mounted Combat System
o Recon and Surveillance Vehicle
o Non-Line of Sight Mortar
o NLOS Cannon
o NLOS Launch System
o Medical Treatment and Evacuation vehicle
o Unattended Ground Sensors
o Class I UAVs (small)
o Class IV UAVs (capable of large payloads and long endurance surveillance and targeting)
o Small Manpackable Unmanned Ground Vehicle Countermine
o MULES — Multifunctional Utility/Logistics and Equipment (Unmanned) Vehicles (transport, countermine, and armed reconnaissance variants)

When talking about FCS, Yakovac often refers to ”18 systems plus one.” The one is the ”network,” he explained.

The Soldier is going to be ”a node in the network,” Yakovac said.

”The guy in the middle is the Soldier?” he said ”and if we don’t do all that we can to make his life better, then we have failed.”

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