Future Combat nears milestone

Boeing's FCS Site

The Army's Future Combat Systems (FCS) transformation program is poised to reach its second milestone following a recent "capstone demonstration."

In reaching the milestone, the Army would receive approval to move FCS from the concept and technology development phase to the system development and demonstration phase.

The announcement is significant because it would demonstrate the continued interest, support and financial backing of the program by the Army and the Defense Department.

FCS, the Army's transformation program, is a networked family of systems that uses advanced communications and technologies to link soldiers with manned and unmanned air and ground platforms and sensors.

The program recently underwent a capstone demonstration, or proof of concept, in a simulation run simultaneously at Fort Knox, Ky., and Fort Belvoir, Va. The Army, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the lead systems integrator, Boeing Co., brought in soldiers from across the country to run the simulation for a week and then give a frank evaluation of its positive and negative aspects.

The simulation involved integrated systems and both manned and unmanned vehicles against a theoretical enemy in the year 2015. The simulation took place at the Unit of Action Mounted Battle Laboratory at Fort Knox and was transmitted in real time to Fort Belvoir.

The simulation consisted of four exercises, each designed to test a different technology involved in FCS. The scenarios were:

* Maneuver to a position of advantage.

* Carry out long-range and joint operations.

* Perform isolation and reduction of a strong point.

* Perform battle command on the move.

While much of the technology involved remains classified, James Montano, a program director with Boeing's Phantom Works, said the concepts were admirably proven.

"The leaders of the exercise at Fort Knox were very enthused," Montano said. "Through a common operating picture, all of the leaders, from colonel down to lieutenant, understood the graphics and were able to operate within their commander's intent."

Once the project moves into its next developmental phase, the first stages of prototyping will take place, as will the further development of proven concepts.

Felicia Campbell, strategic communications manager for FCS, said the Defense Acquisition Board will meet May 14, and she expects a "rapid report" on the future of FCS. She said the project team fully expects to begin the system development and demonstration phase in June.

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