Working to save best parts of Future Combat Systems
June 23, 2009
- FCS consists of 14 different combat vehicles, eight of those are manned combat vehicles.
- The philosophy of the program was to get together the entire brigade and then modernize the brigade as a whole. That no longer affordable.
- In network systems, Price said the challenge is to connect the current force and the future force.
- "Products are coming to fruition," she said. "We must do this right for Soldiers...It's vital that we get that right."
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. (June 23, 2009) -- Assigned since July 2008 as deputy program manager for the Future Combat Systems Brigade Combat Team-Network Integration, Brig. Gen. Lee Price has been overseeing a program that is facing its own demise.
"FCS will be terminated," she said, speaking to about 250 business and industry executives at a membership luncheon for the Tennessee Valley Chapter of Women in Defense on June 18 at the Huntsville Marriott.
"FCS consists of 14 different combat vehicles, eight of those are manned combat vehicles. We are trying to figure out how these systems can be worked into the current formation."
Formally launched in 2003, FCS was envisioned to create new brigades equipped with manned and unmanned vehicles linked by a fast and flexible battlefield network. In April and May, Pentagon and Army officials announced that the FCS vehicle-development effort would be canceled and the FCS effort would be swept into a new program called Army Brigade Combat Team Modernization. FCS had completed about one-third of its development before the cancellation.
Original FCS plans included the five-layer software network, unattended ground sensors, unmanned aerial vehicles, unmanned ground vehicles and the eight manned ground vehicles. The FCS Network was to consist of five layers that provide seamless delivery of data to forward-deployed Army units. Network sensors integrated on manned and unmanned ground vehicles and used in unattended ground sensor systems are meant to enhance situational awareness and understanding of the battlefield.
The first combat brigade equipped with FCS was to be rolled out around 2015, followed by full production to equip up to 15 brigades by 2030.
"The philosophy of the program was to get together the entire brigade and then modernize the brigade as a whole," Price said. "That no longer is affordable to taxpayers. Now, we are looking at what pieces of FCS we can take out and work into the brigades."
Those systems include the non-line-of-sight unmanned ground vehicle, tactical unattended ground sensors, urban unattended ground sensors, unmanned aerial vehicles and the network integration kit.
"The feedback from theater is however Soldiers can use it they are going to use it," Price said. "There is some of the goodness of the FCS program that we are trying to take forward as we restructure. These are the things we think can make a difference in the current situation. We are asking 'What technologies are we going to take forward' What can we use for the future''"
One network system that will be used in the modern Army will be the common controller device, she said. This device is one common piece of equipment that will be used to control all types of unmanned systems.
Another system - the Joint Tactical Radio System - is planned to be the next-generation voice-and-data radio used by the Army in field operations after 2010. JTRS is a software-defined radio that will work with many existing military and civilian radios.
"JTRS is getting ready for prime time. It is pretty close," Price said.
In network systems, Price said the challenge is to connect the current force and the future force.
"Products are coming to fruition," she said. "We must do this right for Soldiers. There are always different schools of thought when we talk about where we are going to be in 10 years. We have to be able to refurbish the infrastructure and move forward. It's vital that we get that right."
In the development of Army systems - such as the Army's $23-billion MRAP (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected) vehicle - questions regarding how it will be used by future forces and how it will be integrated into those forces always surface, she said. With new systems, there are challenges regarding power and operating issues regarding the production of heat and too much noise, all which can develop into safety issues.
Similar questions pertain to the use of networks that connect Army systems, and Price said the Pentagon as well as many contractors are addressing those challenges.
Price also commented to her audience about her visit to Alabama. The Birmingham native and former Alabama National Guard Soldier said visiting her home state makes her appreciate what it has to offer its residents today.
"It's just so neat to come back and see how far the state has come along," she said. "I was raised in Birmingham in the 1960s and I've had to defend my home city my entire life. It is known for its race riots, 'good' air and steel mills. Today it has some of the cleanest air anywhere and diversity in its work force. Alabama has come a long way."