Accomplishments and New Milestones
Gourley, Scott R., Army
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 of excellent soldier feedback on some of the Spin Out 1 capabilities, as well as some initial thoughts on the networking aspects of what we're trying to deliver. Again, a key part is getting soldiers in the loop on the design process."
"[The program] also made a lot of major deliveries throughout the year," Muilenburg continued. "We delivered more than five mission lines of software this year. That's about a third of the total software to be delivered on the program. That amount of software is more than most DoD programs deliver in their lifetime."
The software is feeding into both the core program and Spin Out 1 capabilities. About the Spin Out 1 package, Muilenburg explained, "We also completed the critical design review on Spin Out 1; that includes all of the networking components that are going on the current force vehicles, as well as the non-line-of-sight launch system and the unattended ground sensors. We also delivered the first 18 network kits for Spin Out 1. Those have now been installed on Abrams, Bradleys and Humvees, and are currently going through integration testing and some of the early soldier training."
Other hardware highlights for the first half of 2007 include live firing from prototype platforms or test rigs for the non-line-of-sight cannon, non-line-of-sight mortar and 120 mm cannon for the mounted combat system.
"In the middle of the year, the Army completed the Defense Acquisition Board in process review with the Office of the Secretary of Defense to confirm that the program is on track," Mulienburg continued.
In addition to expanding program communications outreach through television coverage and an FCS mobile demonstration trailer, the program also completed its engineering Maturity 1 milestone at the beginning of October.
"That was our number one technical milestone for the year," Muilenburg explained. "Every year we have a system of systems-level review. This is an annual checkpoint that looks at the progress on the program and confirms that at the system of systems level, or the brigade level, everything is on track. And that determines our next wave of activities."
He added that the successful completion of engineering Maturity 1 opened the way to the next milestone, the system of systems preliminary design review.
"It's been an exciting year for us," Muilenburg summarized. "There's a lot of momentum in the program now that the first wave of hardware and software is rolling out. And we've got a lot of great feedback from our soldiers as we head towards Spin Out 1 fielding."
Maj. Gen. Charles Cartwright, program manager, FCS (Brigade Combat Team) elaborated on the underlying concept and philosophies behind FCS.
Citing the example of how FCS relies on automation and machinery to perform the historical tasks of moving and loading heavy ammunition, he noted that the soldiers displaced from those manual duties could now be converted to infantrymen, thereby enhancing combat power without increasing unit size.
"So what you really do is let autoloaders do what we've been doing [by hand] for a long time; we can say, 'It's really now about the soldier.' It's no longer about loading a bullet. It's how you focus on and design things like crew cockpits for the soldier," he said.
Cartwright then shifted to the FCS (BCT) system of systems schedule, highlighting the correlation between the four sequential increments of software, the expanding capabilities of the spin-out technologies and the resulting enhancement of U.S. Army warfighter capabilities.
Further enhancing these capabilities in the near term, the Army's close combat tactical trainer has now been modified with FCS Spin Out 1 and Joint tactical radio system software.
"If you look at it, the tasks you will perform for Spin Out 1 are about cognitive decision making," Cartwright said. "To employ the non-line-of-sight launch system they log onto the network, and the missile launches when you tell it to launch. You emplace UGS, they tie into the network and display on FBCB2 [Force XXI battle command-brigade and below]. Commands go from an Abrams or Bradley to an Abrams or Bradley. It's about decision making. So we can start on a close combat tactical trainer to start training these tasks for Spin Out 1, We're going to start soon at Fort Bliss. As we go into the soldier-safety testing at Aberdeen Proving Ground [Md.] to get these platforms soldier-safety-certified, I'm already training the software down at Fort Bliss."
"This is a change in the way we start doing things," he added. "In the past, it's always been that someone gives you the platform and then you start training. But as we get more and more networked, I can train you well before that platform starts showing up."
The "customer" perspective was provided by Brig. Gen. James Terry, director, Future Force Integration Directorate, Army Capabilities Integration Center at U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command. Based at Fort Hood, Terry oversees the activities of the AETF.
"The primary mission and task that I have in the Future Force Integration Directorate is to integrate those capabilities in support of modernization," Terry said. "There are two lines of operation: The first line of operation is the Future Combat System, with a system of systems approach, which starts to reach full operational capability in the 2016/2017 time frame. But as we move along that pathway and are informed by the current force in the current fight, we also understand that we can bring some of these capabilities forward to mitigate operational risk to our soldiers who are downrange now. And that's the second line of operations.
"In light of this new way of doing business, how do you integrate those capabilities? You've got to ensure that you have the right balance of doctrine, organization, training, leader development and materiel out there. We do that by being informed about the Future Combat Systems, bringing those pieces of materiel that are ready into the Army Evaluation Task Force and letting soldiers get a look at it in an evaluation environment, critique it and provide us feedback through spin outs," he said.
Introducing the AETF leadership (Col. Emmett Schaill and CSM David Davenport), Terry expressed the belief that the AETF currently contains the correct mix of people, including those with operational combat experience as well as some new privates just entering the service, to accomplish the critical task.
With its official stand-up in March 2007, the AETF currently consists of 969 soldiers designed to replicate a heavy brigade combat team while conducting integrated training; evaluating materiel; helping to develop new doctrine and tactics, techniques and procedures; and executing network-enabled operations. The goal of all AETF activities is the integration of capabilities for both the current and future modular force.
Significant events that the AETF will be conducting in fiscal year (FY) 2008 began in the fourth quarter of calendar year 2007, with familiarization and training on Spin Out 1 systems like NLOS-LS, UGS (U and T) and initial B-kit training on Humvees equipped with initial FCS capabilities.
During the second quarter of FY 2008, Spin Out 1 B-kit training will be expanded to include both Abrams and Bradley platforms.
Third quarter FY 2008 activities will focus on force development test and evaluation along with limited user testing. In addition, AETF members will begin preparing for the integrated mission test that will focus on the FCS core; it will serve as a critical program milestone during the fourth quarter.
Reiterating the FCS program milestone accomplishments for 2007, Muilenburg pointed to a small number of remaining near-term targets.
"Gen. Terry has already talked about the stand-up of the AETF," he said. "That is coming along right on track, and we will continue to push that forward and get ready for Spin Out 1 testing next year. Prototype deliveries and testing are also right on track. We expect to close out the year with delivery of all of the scheduled prototypes."
"One more key item is that, as we close out calendar year 2007, we are now moving the program into initial production," Muilenburg added. "Fiscal year 2008 is the first year of production for the program and will include ramp-up of Spin Out 1 long lead [items] as well as the long lead [items] for the first 18 manned ground vehicles that will come out in the non-line-of-sight cannon variant. So as we continue to execute the development program, 2008 also represents the year that we will ramp up initial production."
The non-line-of-sight cannon, part of the Future Combat Systems (FCS), fires its first round at an Army testing facility. The event was the debut of a U.S. howitzer discharging its first live-fired round using tactical software.
The first manned ground vehicle (MGV) chassis, "P1", will be used for the non-line-of-sight cannon. The chassis is currently being provided with necessary electronics and will represent the first driveable FCS chassis in early 2008. It will be delivered to the Army as the first full up MGV prototype around June 2008.
A soldier, at left, from the FCS evaluation brigade combat team, checks his screen for unexpected obstacles during an exercise and demonstration at Fort Bliss, Texas.
A non-line-of-sight FCS weapon destroys an enemy tank in a simulator that was part of a demonstration of FCS last May at the Pentagon.
SCOTT R. GOURLEY, a freelance writer, is a contributing editor to ARMY Magazine.…
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Article title: Accomplishments and New Milestones. Contributors: Gourley, Scott R. - Author. Magazine title: Army. Volume: 57. Issue: 12 Publication date: December 2007. Page number: 39+. © Association of the United States Army Feb 2009. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.