Just got word from the folks over at the Program Executive Office for Integration overseeing the remnants of the Army's Future Combat Systems program that the suite of technologies now riding under the "Early Infantry Brigade Combat Team" banner passed a Defense Acquisition Board review, giving the Army the green light to produce a brigade-sized package of the wiz bang gadgets.
As you might remember, I traveled to White Sands last summer to check out the gear, including the unattended ground and urban sensors, the "flying half-keg" drone, SUG-V small unmanned ground vehicle and a mock up of the Non-Line of Sight Launch System.
I'm overall encouraged that the program is moving forward. Some of the systems, particularly the unattended ground sensors, need some more time in development, but show some initial promise. I can see how the Class 1 UAV might become a Soldier's best friend, but more needs to be worked out on range and fuel payload. The ground bot was a bit less impressive to me -- counter IED technology and the spiral of those offshoots mimic or surpass what the SUG-V can offer.
The NLOS-S is an intriguing system, offering portable, precision fires with multiple warhead options and high yield effects. Plopping those things down at FOBs and even COPs will keep forces a lot safer with more responsive fires when they need them in a pinch.
The review formally paved the way for production of one Brigade Combat Team set of equipment, which will be used in Initial Operational Test and Evaluation (IOT&E) in FY2011. Additionally, the Army plans continued testing of all Increment 1 assets over the next two years. The Army is also executing a plan to incrementally grow and demonstrate network maturity and system reliability in order to support continued production and fielding of future Brigades based upon successful testing and evaluation this year and next.
So kudos to the program team leading the EIBCT. I must say, the program folks I traveled with last summer could not have been more accomodating and helpful and the Soldiers testing the gear more honest in their candid assessments. If a huge program such as FCS is forced to disintigrate, let's hope they're all run with at least some of the same deftness as this one is so far.