WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Oct. 1, 2007) - Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr. showed members of Congress equipment now being used in Iraq that incorporates technologies developed under the Future Combat Systems program.
Gen. Casey and Secretary of the Army Pete Geren spoke to the House Armed Services Committee Sept. 26 about the need to reset and modernize the Army to improve its overall readiness.
"We are ultimately working toward an agile, globally responsive Army that is enhanced by modern networks, surveillance sensors, precision weapons and platforms that are lighter, less logistics-dependent and less manpower-intensive," Gen. Casey said.
Research and development of such systems is well underway with the FCS program, Gen. Casey said, but he added that the Army needs the support of Congress to keep up the momentum. While major new FCS systems may not be fielded until 2012 with the new FCS Brigade Combat Teams, Gen. Casey pointed out that a number of new technologies "spun out" of the research are already helping Soldiers today in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"I'd like to give you a quick show and tell here," Gen. Casey said at the end of his opening statement to the committee.
First he pointed to the Micro Air Vehicle or MAV unmanned aerial vehicle, of which 50 are currently in Iraq with the 25th Infantry Division (Light). Soldiers have nicknamed it the "beer keg UAV" or the "scrubbing bubble" because of its appearance, he said. "It's a squad or platoon-level unmanned vehicle that you can run down an alley, look around a corner or look on a roof and see what's up there."
Then he showed the lawmakers a Small Unmanned Ground Vehicle or robot that has already defused about 11,000 improvised explosive devices in theater. Close to 5,000 of these robots are currently fielded in theater, he said. "Sending a robot up to defuse an IED is much safer than having a Soldier do it."
Further demonstrating Soldier safety, Gen. Casey showed the Unattended Ground Sensor that is being used in the Iraq theater to detect enemy activity. "These are critical for us," Gen. Casey said. "A Soldier can take this and put it in a building or along a road and watch it back at his base."
Several variants of the Joint Tactical Radio System, which have not yet been fielded, were also on display, to include the man-pack version that can be carried in a rucksack and a larger Ground Mobile Radio with multiple units designed for vehicles.
The JTRS will use new wave forms and be tied into a wide-band network of surveillance systems that bring unprecedented situational visibility to the battlefield, said Nikolich Graciano, deputy product manager for the Ground Mobile Radio, after the hearing.
Also on display in the hearing room were Rapid Fielding Initiative items such as the Advanced Combat Helmet and RFI clothing being issued to troops deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan. Gen. Casey noted that the one millionth set of RFI equipment had been issued this week to a Soldier at Fort Polk, La.
Sgt. Joshua Cantrell of the U.S. Army Trial Defense Service then demonstrated the rapid-release feature of the new, lighter Interceptor Body Armor. The feature can be used in such emergencies as a vehicle rollover, fire or when a Soldier faces potential drowning.
"This system is now the second generation of individual body armor that we've fielded," Gen. Casey said. "So we're continuing to improve what we're giving to Soldiers over time."