The AUSA Annual Meeting in October provided an exceptional opportunity to highlight the recent accomplishments and current status of the U.S. Army's Future Combat Systems (FCS).
Both service and industry representatives noted several recent milestones while outlining projected activities for the coming year. Significantly, service participation included representatives from the Army Evaluation Task Force (AETF) at Fort Bliss, Texas. As an evolution of the formerly designated experimental brigade combat team, the AETF represents the first true FCS "customers," and their early experiences and feedback will have a direct impact on many aspects of service transformation.
"The key here is that we are focused on the soldiersand soldiers that operate on the tactical edge," explained Dennis Muilenburg, program manager, Future Combat Systems, and vice president and general manager for Combat Systems at Boeing.
The FCS includes a family of manned ground vehicles (MGVs), two unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), two categories of unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs) and unattended ground sensors (UGS).
With a common chassis across all variants, the MGV family consists of the XM1202 mounted combat system, XM1206 infantry carrier vehicle, XM1209 command and control vehicle (C^sup 2^V), XM1201 reconnaissance and surveillance vehicle (RSV), XM1203 non-line-of-sight cannon (NLOS-C), XM1204 non-line-of-sight mortar (NLOS-M), XM1205 field recovery and maintenance vehicle, XM1207 medical vehicle-evacuation, and XM1208 medical vehicle-treatment.
"The manned ground vehicle design concept has gone through a lot of refinement over the year," Muilenburg said. "We have really locked in on a design that we are confident in, that is going to meet all of our survivability and lethality requirements and is strong from an affordability standpoint."
Recent MGV activities have involved assets ranging from the C^sup 2^V/RSV rooftop deconfliction test rig to live firing from both NLOS-C and NLOS-M firing platforms.
UAS platforms include the XM156 Class I and MQ-8B Class IV unmanned aerial vehicles.
The two classes of UGVs range from the manportable small UGV to the multifunctional utility/logistics and equipment, with the latter platform to be fielded in transport, countermine and armed robotic-assault versions.
The UGS category encompasses the AN/GSR-9 (U) and AN/GSR-10 (T) urban and tactical sensors as well as the XM501 non-line-of-sight launch system (NLOS-LS).
Noting that both sensors and NLOS-LS are Spin Out 1 systems, Muilenburg said, "We are in final environmental testing and qualification testing on these [sensor] units right now. These will be fielded to the AETF to start. In fact, we have already initiated new equipment training with those soldiers, and we are getting a lot of good feedback on how to best employ this technology."
Concerning NLOS-LS testing, he added, "Imagine a capability to provide tactical, precision fires that can be remotely dropped on the battlefield. It comes up on the network and is basically under the control of the soldiers, whether they are near the unit or somewhere else on the battlefield. This provides networked precision fires."
Summarizing the status of the FCS hardware components, he said, "This is the first time at one of these [FCS program] reviews that we can tell you that we have a major test article or a prototype that is rolled out on every single one of these systems."
Linking it all together is the critical FCS network, where software, communications pipes like the JTRS (Joint tactical radio system) program and WIN-T (warfighter information network-tactical) all reside.
Muilenburg went on to review FCS program accomplishments for calendar year 2007.
"We conducted our first soldier field exercise early in the year," he said. "That was conducted at Fort Bliss and White Sands, N.M., where we got a lot …