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Progress for Future Combat Systems?

This article first appeared in Aviation Week's Ares weblog.

At the Joint Expeditionary Force Experiment (JEFX) in Nevada this past April, run by the Air Force Global Cyberspace Integration Center, some critical technologies for the Army's Future Combat Systems program were put to the test. According to Army FCS spokesman Paul Mehney, the initial tests -- which sought to put FCS's networking technologies through their paces, proved successful overall.

"Our role was to provide the ground maneuver network portion," Mehney says, noting that the Army was able to take its "Build 1" software -- which is part of the communications software that will allow FCS to communicate across the network -- and use it to move images and data from sensors, whether they were unmanned aerial vehicles or ground sensors, to Air Force assets, which then allowed the Air Force to conduct fire missions based on near real-time intelligence from Unattended Ground Sensors operated by the Army.

(The Build 1 software is scheduled to go live during FCS's Spinout 1 in the 2011 time frame.)

While the Army and Air Force can obviously already communicate with one another, historically there has been no real way to move images over networks between the two services, or if it is done in special circumstances it is not necessarily in real time. But the tests in April allowed the Army's network and combat developers to take a look at how the FCS network can be used in future applications where there's a call for a joint fire mission. According to Mehney, "it also allowed our combat developers and engineers to take a look at that Build 1 network and limited Build 2 which is ongoing right now, to take lessons learned at JEFX to say "OK, how can we better manipulate development of the network for joint missions?"

Crucially, not only was the Army a participant in the JEFX tests, but the Marine Corps and the British were there as well, acting as ground observers. Plus, Marines manned a networked Humvee so they could see the network in action.

Read more of this story, how other jets are going to kick the JSF's butt in 2015, frustrated bleeding hearts in the US mil and Estonia's play for cyber dominance from our friends at Aviation Week on Military.com.

-- Christian

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