Future Combat Systems will undergo its first major field test beginning in October:
Experiment 1.1 will run through calendar year '06, and will feature prototypes and "the first slice of the network," leading into the first spin off of FCS technologies into the current force, Dennis Muilenburg, Boeing FCS vice president-general manager/program manager, told reporters in a program update last week.Boeing and Science Applications International Corp. are the Lead System Integrator for FCS.Software and the network have been identified by various reports, including one done by the Institute for Defense Analyses, as areas that could become strategic risks without risk mitigation efforts that the LSI is undertaking.The field experiment will "allow us to look at the network inside of the formation down to the soldier level, and begin to link sensors in a direct way to soldiers," Dan Zanini, SAIC senior vice president and FCS deputy program manager, said.FCS is under fire from a lot of directions, as many of the various systems seem to be coming in overpriced, overweight, and under performance specs.
The October field exercise will follow a series of experiments in the system of systems integration lab that opened this year.A series of stretched Humvees will be used as surrogate vehicles. "Those vehicles will be equipped with elements of the network, so they will include JTRS (Joint Tactical Radio System) radios," Muilenburg said. Other network elements will include early System of System Common Operating Environment (SOSCOE) software and early elements of battle command software.FCS is closely tied to JTRS Cluster 1, led by a separate area of Boeing, and Cluster 5, managed by General Dynamics. Cluster 1 is being restructured after a series of problems and show cause letter.Defense Tech has been watching the Joint Tactical Radio for some time. See articles here, here, and here.
The field exercise will also include early prototype hardware for the unattended ground sensors (UGV) and potentially an early prototype launch system for the intelligent munition system. iRobot's PackBot will also take part. Another potential participant is the largest FCS unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), Northrop Grumman's Fire Scout. The smallest UAV, the Micro Air Vehicle, under development by Honeywell and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, a candidate FCS program, is also expected to take part in the tests.Critics, no doubt, will get good mileage out of the Humvee-based FCS vehicle stand-ins. While the FCS vehicles certainly have a long way to go, detractors would also do well to remember that the German army began practicing blitzkrieg tactics with cardboard tank cut-outs mounted on cars. And one FCS vehicle, the NLOS-C self-propelled artillery, is getting fast-tracked.So, while problems abound, the FCS program rolls onward.--posted by Murdoc