Bolton: FCS network will deploy in 2012

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- The network for the Army’s Future Combat System will be deployed in 2012, two years ahead of schedule, because of simplification of the FCS design, according to Claude Bolton, assistant secretary of the Army for acquisitions, logistics and technology.

The FCS network is an amalgamation of information technology architecture, hardware and software, including the Joint Tactical Radio System, the Warfighter Information Network-Tactical system and intelligence sensors.

Four of the 18 systems originally envisioned for FCS were eliminated in President Bush’s fiscal 2008 Army budget request. “This was driven strictly by budget constraints,” Bolton said here today at the Association of the U.S. Army Winter Conference.

“Because we reduced the number of technologies in FCS, we’re going to accelerate the network,” Bolton said. “That should compensate for the things we had to give up.”

The Army removed from FCS the heavy robotic vehicle and Class 2 and Class 3 unmanned aerial vehicles. To offset the robot losses, the Army will upgrade the Class 1 UAV with a laser designator and add more Class 4 UAVs and Tactical Unmanned Ground Vehicles to the FCS design, Bolton said.

The next challenge will be figuring out how to manage the development of the more than 1 billion lines of software code that FCS will need, he said. In 2004 he commissioned Carnegie Mellon University to study the issue. The school completed a report describing Ultra-Large-Scale systems, which are designed to support massive amounts of code. That report is now being circulated through the government and industry, he said.

Using the funding to pay the bills for other more urgent needs, Congress and the administration have trimmed the FCS budget repeatedly in the past few years. FCS will claim $3.6 billion of the Army’s research and development budget in 2008 and drop to $3.2 billion in 2009 as the program shifts toward the procurement phase.

Meanwhile, the Army has been recasting FCS as a system suited for the global war on terror. Three spirals of FCS technology will be incorporated into the fight every two years until the system reaches its initial operating capability in 2014, according to the most recent schedule.

In related news, General Dynamics C4 Systems announced March 6 the delivery of the first Integrated Computer Systems (ICS) to the FCS program. “ICS is the common computing environment for 13 of the 14 platforms in the FCS family of systems.…ICS is embedded in mobile platforms and provides users with a common operating picture for faster decision-making,” the company’s press release states.

The Army will incorporate ICS into several existing platforms with the first spin-out of FCS technologies in 2008, including Bradley fighting vehicles, Abrams tanks and Command Variant High-Mobility Multi-purpose Wheeled Vehicles, according to General Dynamics.

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