Army to speed up some FCS

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Army officials announced today they will give some Future Combat System (FCS) technologies to soldiers faster than originally planned.

Army officials will create a unit of soldiers who will train with four FCS systems in 2008 including the first manned ground vehicle. The systems include ground sensors, programmable munitions, rockets-in-a-box and a pre-production vehicle equipped with an automated howitzer, said the officials speaking today during a media briefing at the Pentagon.

The Army's top acquisition officer said the experimental unit will work out new communications networking and force structure guidelines. "This is about getting FCS right," said Lt. Gen. Joe Yakovac, military deputy to the assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology.

Army officials announced a restructuring of the multibillion-dollar FCS program yesterday. Testifying to the House Armed Services Committee, Gen. Peter Schoomaker, the Army's chief of staff, said the new schedule will get some FCS technologies faster to soldiers and give the service a better chance of deploying the first fully equipped FCS brigade by 2014.

The Army's top officer said the service expects to deploy three of the 18 FCS systems in 2008, another one — the manned, automated howitzer vehicle — by 2010, three more in 2012 and all 18 and the computer network that ties them together by 2014. The service plans to deploy the second fully equipped FCS brigade in 2015, followed by two more each year thereafter, Schoomaker said.

The program started in 2000 during the leadership of Eric Shinseki, who retired last year as Army chief of staff. Shinseki planned to start deploying FCS technologies in 2008, but he wanted the first FCS brigade ready for combat in 2010. The new schedule delays the program by four years.

FCS consists of 18, lighter manned and robotic air and ground vehicles connected by a fast, secure communications network. FCS will come with new logistics, propulsion, protection, targeting and firing technologies to give commanders improved land warfare capabilities by getting to wars quicker, killing enemy targets faster and staying in battles longer.

In early August, Army officials will send to the Office of the Secretary of Defense funding for FCS from fiscal 2006 to 2011. Service officials want to equip 15 units of action at a cost of about $30 billion including about $9 billion to speed up fielding of FCS technologies to soldiers faster, Yakovac said.

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