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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

US Army Opens Center To Test Future Combat Tech

The U.S. Army recently opened a new modernization test center at White Sands Missile Range aiming to hasten the delivery of Future Combat Systems (FCS) technologies to current- and future-force soldiers.

"The FCS Test Operations Complex performs a vital role in our Army modernization strategy," says Maj. Gen. Charles Cartwright, FCS program manager. "By this time next year, we will have new FCS equipment in Abrams tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles."

To be a system of systems, FCS is to be made up of futuristic manned and unmanned vehicles and other high-tech components linked via an advanced network. It is the Army's top modernization priority and the second-largest U.S. military acquisition program overall. FCS is to cost as much as $200 billion over many years.

The FCS technologies are being developed through cutting-edge, high-risk research. The program is overseen by an industry team led by Boeing and Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC).

The Army is adopting FCS technologies through incremental "spin-outs" and capability insertions into the current force via an Evaluation Brigade Combat Team (EBCT) . The EBCT is now being stood up at nearby Fort Bliss, in El Paso, Texas, with more than 900 soldiers.

The FCS Test Operations Complex at White Sands Missile Range will support these EBCT soldiers as they test, evaluate and refine new FCS technologies and equipment.

These technologies include crucial new networking capabilities, Unattended Ground Sensors, the Non-Line-of-Sight Launch System, and Intelligent Munitions Systems, all of which address critical Army capability gaps while enhancing the mission effectiveness and survivability of current-force soldiers.

"Our soldiers require these new capabilities now; and the Army is delivering them today," Cartwright says. "The technologies are there to be fielded," he added. "The only thing that can hold us back is funding and resources."

EBCT soldiers and leaders will build on lessons learned during FCS Experiment 1.1, a three-phased event now in its second phase. Experiment 1.1 combines laboratory trials with field exercises. Indeed, as part of Experiment 1.1, Soldiers now are using FCS technologies and equipment while working initial doctrinal concepts.Experiment 1.1, Phase 1, was completed in September at the FCS System of Systems Laboratory in Huntington Beach, Calif.

This laboratory-based phase focused on hardware and software integration and systems interoperability.Phase 2, the Engineering Field Test, is currently underway and scheduled to end in December. Here, Soldiers are assessing FCS systems performance in a realistic operational environment at a combined range complex.

This combined range complex is situated at both Ft. Bliss and White Sands Missile Range.Phase 3, scheduled to take place in January-February 2007, will involve Soldier-testing of key FCS technologies and equipment. These technologies and equipment will be integrated with current-force Army systems. Soldier feedback and analysis will shape and facilitate subsequent FCS technology and program development, the Army says.

"Army modernization truly is about the soldier," Cartwright says. "We see that in both the design and execution of the FCS program."


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