Army Demonstrates Future Combat Systems
(Source: US Army; issued Sept. 28, 2005)
FORT BELVOIR, Va. --- The Army initiative to transition to a new modular force took a step forward last week with the first comprehensive public demonstration of several Future Combat Systems technologies at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md.
The demonstrations included flights of unmanned aerial vehicles, live firings of the 120mm Breech-Loaded Mortar, 120mm Lightweight Cannon and, via video feed from Yuma Proving Ground, Ariz., the 155mm Non-Line-of-Sight Cannon.
The events also included in-the-field demonstrations of the Stryker Leader-Follower, the Small Unmanned Ground Vehicle and the Manned Ground Vehicle Chassis Testbed.
Reporters, congressional staffers and senior military and industry leaders watched the demonstrations Sept. 21. They also viewed static displays that included the Non-Line-of-Sight Launch System, Intelligent Munitions System and Unattended Ground Sensors, among others.
‘No longer just drawing-board concept’
The systems showed the lethal power, speed and survivability capable of supporting a modular force of 43 brigades, designed to rapidly deploy for any combat operation, officials said.
In his remarks to reporters, Army Secretary Dr. Francis J. Harvey said the presentations of FCS component systems were “a clear demonstration that the Future Combat Systems program is no longer just a drawing-board concept.”
And while Harvey noted that the combination of the Army’s modular-force initiative and the FCS program forms the basis of the service’s future-combat-force strategy, he pointed out that FCS is not being implemented solely to equip a future force.
Army spiraling FCS technologies
“The Army is taking full advantage of FCS technologies as they are developed in the near term, and expeditiously putting them into the hands of Soldiers,” Harvey said. “We are inserting advances in active protection, networking, unattended sensors, precision munitions, and unmanned aerial and ground vehicles into the current force as soon as they are ready.”
One of the most impressive demonstrations at Aberdeen, judging by guests’ enthusiastic response, was that of the unmanned RQ-8 Fire Scout UAV. The diminutive helicopter took off, flew a pre-set search pattern over APG’s Phillips Army Airfield and then landed, all by remote control. Built by Northrop Grumman Corp., the Fire Scout can carry a variety of sensors, and is currently under joint operational testing by both the Army and Navy.
iRobot awes crowd
Equally popular with onlookers was the Packbot Explorer, built by iRobot Corp. of Burlington, Mass. Compact and man-portable, the small tracked vehicle is an outgrowth of earlier variants that are already in service in both Afghanistan and Iraq.
Remotely guided by a technician, the small camera-carrying robot demonstrated its ability to climb stairs, maneuver over and around obstacles, and flip itself back upright after taking a tumble. Company representatives also displayed larger variants capable of carrying a broader range of sensors.
Ground vehicle shows speed, agility
At the other end of the FCS size spectrum is the Manned Ground Vehicle Chassis Testbed, which demonstrated its agility and speed during circuits of a small test track at APG’s Perryman Test Range. A small vehicle with a very low silhouette and an innovative — and quiet — track system, the MGV is the developmental prototype of the common platform for FCS’s eight manned vehicle types, including both the Non-Line-of-Sight Cannon and Non-Line-of-Sight Mortar.
The prototype platform is lighter and faster than vehicles it is meant to replace, giving the modular force the capability to quickly deploy to any trouble spot with equipment that is agile and lethal on the ground.
NLOS Cannon shows firepower
During firepower demonstrations, participants viewed live-firings of the Non-Line-of-Sight Cannon and Non-Line-of-Sight Mortar via a video link.
Mounted in a turret similar to the one intended for the fielded system, the breach-loaded mortar fired several rounds in quick succession. The Non-Line-of-Sight Cannon also fired several times, though from a much greater remove — it was firing at Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona.
Among the static displays drawing the most attention from visitors was the Non-Line-of-Sight Launch System, a joint venture of Lockheed Martin and Raytheon. Essentially a multiple-launch rocket system in a small, portable container, each NLOS-LS contains 15 vertical-launch rounds. The containers also house tactical fire-control electronics and software for remote and unmanned operations.
Sensor network to link battlefield
“What we’ve seen demonstrated here is nothing less than the future of ground combat,” said Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker during a post-demonstration news conference. “These systems, and the technologies they incorporate, will allow the Army to remain the world’s dominant land power well into the 21st century.”
The delivery of the first FCS systems will mark the introduction of the next-generation of combat systems and sensors, and of a network that will for the first time link all the sensor pictures gathered across the modern battlefield, said Brig. Gen. Charles Cartwright, the Army’s unit-of-action program manager.
What that means for Soldiers and joint forces, he said, is that all units and all systems at virtually every level will benefit from vastly greater situational awareness and coordination of operation planning and execution.
FCS purpose: support modular forces
As impressive as the FCS demonstrations were, their demonstrators were quick to point out that the FCS program supports the Army’s larger vision of building modular forces that will play a key role in joint operations.
“The overall purpose of the FCS family of systems is, quite simply, to provide an organization that is mobile, agile and protected, and which provides the joint combatant commander a multitude of options that he doesn’t have today,” said Al Resnick, director of requirements integration at U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command.
“If you go back and look at the Army’s mission-needs statement when it started down the path toward FCS, you see that the Army had — and still has — a critical need to be able to take units, like brigades, anywhere at any time and have them be combat-capable when they get there,” said retired Lt. Gen. Dan Zanini, the FCS deputy program manager for SAIC, Inc., which, with Boeing, is lead FCS system integrator. “The Army also needs the ability to dominate across the full range of military operations, from peacekeeping to full-out combat, and FCS will allow it to do that.”
Team effort keeps FCS on schedule
The 18 platforms that make up the FCS family of systems are the work of some 23 prime and more than 345 other contractors, a communal effort that Cartwright called the basis of the program’s continuing success.
“The best of American industry is involved in this program,” he said. “Every major Department of Defense contractor is part of this program, and they’re all pulling together as a team.”
One of those team members, Boeing Company FCS Program Manager Dennis Muilenburg, noted in remarks to reporters that “the major proof of that teamwork is that we are 27 months into a complex systems-development demonstration phase, and we are right on cost, right on schedule and meeting all the performance requirements.”
Fielding to be staggered
Staying on schedule is important, Cartwright noted, since the Army intends to field each of the FCS constituent systems as it becomes ready.
“The Army is converting all its units to a modular organization,” Cartwright said. “To be complete, that organizational design is waiting for the FCS systems and technologies to be delivered to the warfighters. The Army chief of staff asked us not to wait until the end of the program to deliver all the systems, but to deliver the technologies as they became available because the organizational design was already in place.”
Systems already saving lives
Schoomaker pointed out that FCS-generated technologies — most notably the portable Packbot robot — are already saving Soldiers lives in Afghanistan and Iraq. “Spinning out” other technologies as they mature will both enhance current-force units’ combat capabilities and reduce Soldiers’ risks, he said.
Harvey said the insertion of selected FCS technologies into the current force, coupled with the ongoing development and fielding of FCS’s range of constituent systems, will allow the Army to confront and defeat a learning, adaptive enemy across the entire range of military operations.
“Our modular formations, continuously enhanced by the insertion of FCS technologies, will ensure our Soldiers and leaders have the capabilities they need to win decisively when and where the nation calls,” he said.
Harvey: FCS funding vital
Given the vital importance of FCS to the Army’s current and future capabilities, Harvey said, “it is critical that we keep the FCS program intact, and that it is not fragmented with the associated changes in funding.”
Reductions in FCS funding could jeopardize the Army’s combat capabilities, he said.
“Modernizing without the complete FCS program complicates management, could sacrifice capabilities, decreases integration and increases costs,” Harvey said. “Ultimately, changes to the program will cause greater development and life-cycle costs, and will push full fielding of the FCS further down the road at a time when our Soldiers need it most.”
Restructuring reduces costs
Schoomaker added that a restructuring of FCS last year reduced the program’s cost from $34 billion to $25 billion, and that over the past several years the Army has terminated some 120 other programs to free up funding for FCS and help move the current force into brigade-based modular units.
“The fact of the matter is the nation’s got to invest in its Army and it’s got to do it on the strategic timelines that are required to develop and present these capabilities,” Schoomaker said. “Can we afford not to do it?”
The FCS is the wrong solution to the answer of forcec mobility. We want to be able to get a batallian of armor anywhere in the world in a week, okay. The FCS goes about doing that by adopting a family of light weight, not very survivable vehicles that can be air lifted. You can't tell me that any FCS varient is as survivable as an Abrams, I know we've come along way in ceramics and composites, but when it comes to stoping a high energy explosive round or an armor peircing discarding sabot round, physics is physics, and depleted uranium is the best game in town.
The beter solution would be to pursue high speed ocean going transports or ground effects craft like the Boeing Pelican. That way we could develop a next generation, hyper survivable platform to replace the M-1, idealy with a high degree of automation to allow for a crew of two, or prehaps even unihabitated opperation.
1. Are those band tracks?
2. Getting there quickly isn't shit if you don't get there with enough. GW1 wasn't started until there was enough ARMY heavy armor and artillery in place. Same for OIF. Heavy works nearly everywhere and every time, and you better not come to the game with too little.
3. As already posted, we're better off getting more deployment assets (planes and boats), especially heavy and "outsize" lift assets like the C-17. The M1 Abrams, the Bradley and the M109A5 have already proven themselves considerable. Improve on that and try to get them there quicker. But don't leave your A-game at home because "lighter and faster "is sexier.
4. You want them there when? When you need FedEx killing, continue to focus on the Marines and the Airborne units. Why fuck with success? I thought we learned our lessons with the "Light" and "Motorized" experiments.
IIRC the mandate that FCS fit into a C-130 has been dropped and it is now required to fit in a C-17, thus you should prolly' see a more capable vehicle weight/size wise. I'm not sure the Army plans to drop heavy armor entirely either, it seems there is a lot of talk about heavy armor having a place on the battlefield from Iraq lessons-learned. FCS will be a very capable medium quick strike force...if they can get all the pieces to work as advertised and get everything to talk to each other. Let's just wait and see how this plays out before we proclaim it a bust. It is very ambitious and definitely pushing the envelope, I like to see more risk taking instead of going with the same-ol-same-ol with marginal upgrades, at the very least it keeps our enemies further behind the tech curve and no matter what a lot of this tech in some way, shape, or form will find its way into service.
Here we go with more systems we'll fund right up to the brink of maturity and production then cancel.
How should we use FCS? Imagine a quick strike into the capital of the enemy. Stealth bombers/fighters, cruise missiles, and drones clear the path. Then C-17's land the small force in their airport! They do a Thunder Run for a half hour blasting everything in range. Then they load back up and leave. Now that's really giving them the finger!
Yeah those're band tracks.
The PackBot kicks ass, very fun little toy to play with.
I have a friend working on the NLOS 155mm, she says its just a Crusader scaled down to the FCS chassis, and I cant wait to see the breech-loaded 120mm mortar in action.
I like the idea of the mega-plane / blimp to carry massive amounts of troops / vehicles but on the flip side if that bird gets shot down or crashes, that is a lot of equipment and lives lost in one fell swoop. Devil's advocate mode off.
'Strykerized' armor & artillery...
This ligth/fast/cheap BS is going to cost us in the long run, when we finally have to fight an opponent armed with more than small arms & 70's era rocket-launchers....
The infantry-uber-allis folks in the Army are rolling back to the WWII-vintage thought that armor exists to provide fire-support for foot infantry, not to fight armor - ergo every 'future armor' concept is 'not designed to go toe to toe with tanks, but instead is intended for bunker-busting, etc...' So we get the modern day version of the Sherman (cheap, lightweight, expendable)...
While there is a need for a 'light tank' to give extra firepower to the 82nd, 101st, and similar, this does NOT mean that the 'future of the force' should be in tin-can vehicles with whiz-bang computer commo, and a design that emphasizes keeping the vehicle from taking fire rather than taking fire and surviving (ala Abrams)...
Oh, and while a 155 howitzer and a mounted 120mm mortar MAY do well on the same chassis, that chassis is TOO NARROW and most definately the wrong shape for a tank... One size fits all, cheap-as-possible , that's all...
Provided they don't get shot up so badly that they have to turn around and limp home.
Nothing that defies gravity will EVER be as sure a bet against a tank as another big, bad-ass tank.