Army wants FCS tech now

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- The Army and industry must do everything possible to give Future Combat System capabilities for soldiers fighting terrorism now rather than waiting until 2010 when the service will field the first FCS-equipped unit, an Army general said this week.

"The challenge is to bring forward to the future the technologies that soldiers can use to fight the current war," said Brig Gen. Philip Coker, director of capabilities development in the Futures Center at the Army's Training and Doctrine Command. The one-star general, based at Fort Monroe, Va., spoke March 3 at the Association of United States Army's annual winter conference here.

Gen. Peter Schoomaker, the new Army chief of staff, announced in October that he wanted any system or technology almost ready and planned for FCS given to soldiers currently in the field. FCS is the Army's next-generation fighting force of 18 smaller, lighter, rapid-deployable air and ground manned and robotic vehicles connected by a fast, secure communications network.

But Coker cautioned that economic, operational, tactical and cultural factors could affect the fielding and capability of FCS. He said that the service and industry must keep costs under control so FCS does not become too expensive to field, and that generals stay close to soldiers in combat despite technologies that may let them remain in the command centers.

In May, the Army and the team of Boeing Co. and Science Applications International Corp., the FCS lead systems integrator, will hold an industry day to explain the status of the system and where the program will go. Boeing and SAIC help the service manage the program.

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