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Army Reaches Out on FCS

I've written a fair number of stories about weapons tests, but they were all based on tests and reports that had usually been completed weeks or months earlier.

Boeing and the Army are so eager (or desperate) to build support for what remains of the Future Combat System that they invited reporters to watch last week as they put the elements of the spin-out technologies through a series of field tests designed to develop a data baseline for the upcoming Limited User Test. With the impending demise of the Manned Ground Vehicle, FCS is pretty much reduced, for the time being at least, to the network and the spin-out sensors that we saw being tested.

Army officials were extremely concerned lest something fall out of the sky or visibly fail to work. There weren't any catastrophic failures that we saw. There were, as one of the officials on the scene conceded at the end of the day, numerous "anomalies" which this person said were a reasonable result of the testing process. From quick snatches of radio chatter during the testing I believe most of the problems involved network or communication dropouts.

Among the most interesting tidbits I picked up during a day at the White Sands testing range:

The Unattended Ground Sensors not only sense vibration and noise but they can also cue a camera that includes infrared capabilities;

The Small Unmanned Ground Vehicle has a manipulator arm that can be installed pretty quickly. It has a limited capability to grab and twist objects. Maybe most importantly for the troops on the ground, the SUGV can be dropped or thrown two stories and keep on moving. So if you need to look inside a building you can toss it from an adjacent rooftop through a window and it will sniff around with its various cameras once it's inside.

Full disclosure: Boeing paid for our airfare to and from El Paso as they did for at least one other reporter.

Here are some videos from our visit.

What unattended ground sensors can do.

Here's a short summary of the unmanned aerial vehicle, class 1. The Army MUST come up with a more sonorous name...

A short shot of the current UAS in flight. The new one, already in development, should be much quieter the Army testers told us.

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