BCTM/E-IBCT: FCS Spinout Ramps up, Then Breaks Up
Instead of a single FCS contract, the Pentagon directed the Army to set up a number of separate programs to undertake parts of the FCS program. One of those programs is the Brigade Combat Team Modernization (BCTM) Increment 1. The BCTM Increment 1 capabilities – which include ground robots, UAVs, ground sensors, and vehicle (B-Kit) network integration kits – were planned to be fielded to up to 9 Infantry Brigade Combat Teams beginning in 2011. Now it’s more like 2015 for the 1st brigade, and it will happen without most of the original components.
BCTM/ E-IBCT Increment 1
Under the contract, the Boeing/SAIC team would equip an Infantry Brigade Combat Team with networked capabilities, along with associated system engineering and program management support.
As the prime contractor, the Boeing/SAIC team was responsible for the development and production of BCTM Increment 1. Low-rate initial production would allow for the capabilities to be fielded to the 3rd Brigade Combat Team of the 1st Armored Division for initial operational test and evaluation beginning in 2011. The contract award followed a production review of the BCTM Increment 1 program by the Defense Acquisition Board in December 2009… but by January 2011, there wasn’t much left.
The capabilities that were slated to be produced under BCTM Increment 1 [PDF] included:
- Network Integration Kit (B-Kit): provides initial network connectivity to transfer sensor and communication data to and from existing tactical wheeled vehicles. The kit consists of an integrated computer system hosting communications and radio systems, limited battle command and Systems of Systems Common Operating Environment software that will be initially integrated onto the High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV) platform, and also some blast-resistant vehicles like MRAPs and M-ATVs.
AN/GSR-9/10 Unattended Urban and Tactical Ground Sensors(U/T-UGS): performs mission tasks such as perimeter defense, surveillance, target acquisition, and situational awareness, including chemical, radiological, nuclear and early warning; includes multi-mode sensors for target detection, location and classification and an imaging capability for target identification. Stop work issued January 2011, formal termination February 2011.
- XM1216 Small Unmanned Ground Vehicle (SUGV): used to conduct extended reconnaissance of urban and complex terrain and subterranean areas to gain reconnaissance information; provides information regarding buildings, field fortifications, tunnels, sewers, subways, bunkers, facilities, and other structures in support of military operations. Lead System Integrators Boeing & SAIC picked iRobot to develop this component in 2003, and the design is derived from the firm’s popular PackBot. In September 2011, however, iRobot received a partial termination order from Boeing.
XM156 Class I Block 0 Unmanned Aerial System(CL I UAS, RQ-16A T-Hawk, initially block 0): provides the infantry with reconnaissance and surveillance and target acquisition; uses autonomous flight and navigation but will interact with the network and soldier to dynamically update routes and target information; provides dedicated reconnaissance support and early warning to the squad and platoon level. Stop work issued January 2011, formal termination February 2011.
XM501 Non-Line of Sight Launch System(NLOS-LS/ NETFIRES). Would have provided soldiers with a networked unmanned launch missile system capable of extended range targeting and precision attack; consists of deployable, platform-independent Container Launch Unit, which consists of a computer and communication system and 15 Precision Attack Missiles (PAM). System slated for termination by the Army in April 2010.
Eventually, a total of 9 BCTs were expected to see the Increment 1 set equipment, provided it was deemed ready. That has been an issue with many of the items in this set, and the Army switched its focus to testing what’s left, before moving ahead with plans to equip a 2nd and 3rd Brigade Combat Team with the equipment.
After NLOS-LS was canceled, each brigade set was to include 81 Network Integration Kits, 29 sets of Urban Unattended Ground Sensors, 13 sets of Tactical Unattended Ground Sensors, 23 Class 1 Unmanned Aircraft Systems and 38 Small Unmanned Ground Vehicle robots. The Army had requested $683 million for 2 E-IBCT brigade sets in FY 2011, on top of $1.568 billion for development and testing. That declined to a de facto procurement request for $332 million after NLOS-LS was canceled, and might decline further.
In the wake of further stop-work orders and testing issues with other components, it remained to be seen whether and how the Army went ahead with E-IBCT. The final answer was to move SUGV into the army as its own program, wrap up E-IBCT, and let Army networking evolve on its own. All that’s left now is the near-term budget and funding questions.
Contracts and Key Events
Note that some items, like the RQ-16 T-Hawk Class I UAV, and NLOS-LS/NETFIRES missiles, have their own dedicated articles. Their contracts will not be repeated here. The SUGV sub-program will have its contracts listed here. All coverage for this article will end at the end of FY 2011.
Sept 14/11: Boeing in St. Louis, MO receives a $17.2 million cost-no-fee contract. The award will provide long lead-time items for SUGV sets 2 & 3, which will, of course, be manufactured by iRobot.
Work will be performed in St. Louis, MO (Boeing), and Bedford, MA (iRobot), with an estimated completion date of Dec 31/11. One bid was solicited, with one bid received by U.S. Army Contracting Command in Warren, MI (“W56HZV-09-C-0425” – perhaps they transposed the “52” at the end?).
Sept 7/11: Boeing in St. Louis, MO receives a $181.7 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for E-IBCT Low Rate Initial Production system engineering support and field service representatives. Work will be performed in St. Louis, MO; Bedford, MA; Bloomington, MN; and Vienna, VA, with an estimated completion date of Dec 31/13. One bid was solicited, with one bid received by U.S. Army Contracting Command in Warren, MI (W56HZV-09-C-0452).
Fielding new equipment, especially networking equipment, certainly demands a fair bit of support for installation, etc. On the other hand, the networking B-kit seems to be about all that’s left of BCTM 1/E-IBCT, as we approach the end of FY 2011.
Sept 07/11: iRobot Corp. announces that it had received a partial termination for convenience notification from The Boeing Company of the contract for the design and development of the 320 SUGV robot, effective as of the end of FY 2011: Sept 30/11. iRobot developed the technology as a subcontractor to Future Combat Systems’ Leads Integrators. iRobot’s Government and Industrial Robots division President, Robert Moses said that they expected this development, adding that:
“Given current budget pressures, the Department of Defense is pursuing more cost-effective contractual arrangements. iRobot is in continuing discussions directly with the Army to help it reduce costs for the development and acquisition of SUGVs in 2011 and 2012.”
One obvious approach would be to just extend the existing MTRS contract.
June 1/11: Boeing in Saint Louis, MO receives a NIK-related $14 million firm-fixed-price contract modification, with some cost-plus-fixed-fee efforts in it. Boeing will provide software maintenance of the Network Integration Kit’s Ground Mobile Radio, and associated waveforms.
Work will be performed in Saint Louis, MO, with an estimated completion date of Jan 31/12. One bid was solicited, with one bid received by the U.S. Army Contracting Command in Warren, MI (W56HZV-09-C-0452).
April 8/11: iRobot Corp. in Bedford, MA wins a $12 million firm-fixed-fee contract for 50 SUGV robots; 30 operator control units; 20 spares kits; 10 line replacement units; and repair and maintenance services.
Work will be performed in Bedford, MA, with an estimated completion date of July 30/13. Two bids were solicited with one received by US Army Contracting Command in Warren, MI (W5GHZV-11-D-0092).
March 31/11: iRobot Corp. announces that the U.S. Army plans to buy 76 more low-rate initial production model 320 SUGVs for infantry operations, making up 2 brigade sets. The Pentagon’s Defense Acquisition Board formalized its approval to purchase the additional SUGVs under the Brigade Combat Team Modernization (BCTM) program in February 2011.
To date, iRobot has already delivered 45 SUGVs as part of the Army’s low-rate initial production contract for the 1st BCTM Increment 1 brigade set. iRobot also continues to develop the follow-on variant of the SUGV for the BCTM program, which is expected to be available in the 2012 timeframe.
March 17/11: Boeing in Saint Louis, MO receives a $36.6 million cost-no-fee contract to buy long lead-time materials for EIBCT low rate initial production set 2. Work will be performed in Saint Louis, MO, with an estimated completion date of July 31/11. One bid was solicited with one bid received by U.S. Army Contracting Command in Warren, MI (W56HZV-09-C-0452).
Feb 14/11: The Pentagon releases its FY 2012 budget request, which includes $749 million for E-IBCT: $506 million for development and testing, and $243 million for Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP).
After the LRIP orders are done, the E-IBCT program will be wrapped up, and further SUGV acquisition delegated to the Army. Networking development will also move into its own process. The FY 2012 program aims to buy 1 more Network Integration Kit (NIK) brigade set (quantity of 100, with E-IBCT capable JTRS Ground Mobile Radios as subcomponents) and 2 more SUGV brigade sets (78 units). The Class I UAV, and the Tactical and Urban Unattended Ground Sensors (T/U-UGS) are canceled.
Feb 11/11: Boeing in Saint Louis, MO receive a $38.2 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for up to 200,000 labor hours of systems engineering support and field service representatives, covering the Early-Infantry Brigade Combat Team Low Rate Initial Production contract.
Work will be performed in Saint Louis, MO, with an estimated completion date of Dec. 31/11. One bid was solicited with one bid received by the U.S. Army Contracting Command in Warren, MI (W56HZV-09-C-0452).
Feb 3/11: Pentagon undersecretary for acquisition, technology and logistics Ashton Carter signs an acquisition decision memorandum that officially terminates E-IBCT’s Class 1 UAV and the U/T-UGS. It continues the network kits and SUGV robots, but the Pentagon will move them into departments as it breaks up the E-IBCT structure. The ADM also pushes fielding of the first fully integrated and tested set of capabilities from 2013, out to 2013-14 for the first capability set, and 2015-16 for a set that’s fully tested and integrated into a brigade.
The Army does plan 2 more brigade sets of the SUGV (Small Unmanned Ground Vehicle), and will reportedly issue requests for new systems and concepts, but has no firm date. The Army Evaluation Task Force’s 4,000-man brigade will continue to test these systems, and work on how to best use them. US DoD | Military.com’s DoD Buzz.
Jan 12/11: Reports from Pentagon testers, and releases from the House and Senate Armed Services Committees, leave the NIK network B-Kit’s future in some doubt. The system’s power, space and cooling demands, $450,000 cost, and security and performance issues fund in testing are calling this cornerstone of the E-IBCT program into question.
At 81 systems per brigade, and a combined cost of $970,000 per kit when combined with the new JTRS radio, the House and Senate committees are worried that it “may be unaffordable to procure and deploy” to the Army’s 45 active duty brigades ($970k x 81 x 45 = $3.536 billion), and urges the Army to re-evaluate its requirements.
To make matters worse, a Dec 16/10 report from Pentagon Director of Operational Test and Evaluation Michael Gilmore reportedly said that “overall, the test unit expressed little confidence in NIK performance” due to “significant information assurance vulnerabilities” from simulated cyber-attacks, frequent degradation in audio volume and quality that forced units to use older radios or even runners to convey battlefield messages, long re-boot and start-up periods, complex trouble-shooting procedures, and a reliability mean time of only 79 hours between aborted missions instead of the required 112 hours. Bloomberg.
Jan 6/11: The US Army issues a stop-work order on the Class I Unmanned Aerial System (RQ-16 T-Hawk) and the Tactical and Urban Unattended Ground Sensors (UGS). A Jan 12/11 Defense Acquisition Board review is expected to terminate these E-IBCT items, bu formal termination and the payment of appropriate termination fees may take a while to negotiate.
The ground sensors couldn’t provide images that were clear enough for soldiers to act on during a set of 2009 tests, and the RQ-16 drew complaints for its noise. The UAV has found a niche with Explosive Ordnance Disposal Teams in the USA and Britain, however, and it remains to be seen whether it will hang on to that ancillary role, or end up supplanted by the hand-launched Puma AE. See Defense News.
Jan 4/11: iRobot in Bedford, MA announces that it received a $13.9 million low-rate initial production (LRIP) contract to provide 45 small unmanned ground vehicles (SUGVs) for the BCTM Increment 1 program. To date, 30 SUGVs have been delivered, with the remaining to be delivered this month. The contract also includes training, field service support, and spares. iRobot and Boeing developed the SUGV, which is based on iRobot’s PackBot, under a strategic alliance that began in 2007.
Oct 12/10: Boeing and iRobot Corp. announce an initial $3.84 million contract with the U.S. Air Force to provide up to 70 SUGV model 310 robots to its Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) teams. As a USAF contract, this is outside the Army’s BCTM Increment 1. Boeing.
Aug 24/10: Honeywell announces an $11 million contract for low-rate initial production of the RQ-16 T-Hawk for the US Army, as part of the Brigade Combat Team Modernization (BCTM) Increment 1 programs initial brigade set. They will provide RQ-16 UAV systems, training and logistics support.
LRIP production will allow for the capabilities to be fielded to the 3rd Brigade Combat Team of the 1st Armored Division, for initial operational test and evaluation beginning in 2011. Honeywell.
Aug 12/10: After sharp criticism of BCTM-I equipment performance in previous tests, Boeing announces improved results during July 2010 tests at White Sands Missile Range, NM, intended to simulate conditions in Afghanistan. Testing included the Network Integration Kits (NIKs), Tactical and Urban Unattended Ground Sensors (UGS), the Small Unmanned Ground Vehicle (SUGV) and the Class 1 Unmanned Air Vehicle (RQ-16 T-Hawk). BCTM Increment 1 capabilities also took part in the Army Brigade Combat Team Integration Exercise conducted there from July 12-16.
The NIKs (Integrated Computer System, JTRS Ground Mobile Radios, battle command software, uses most modern versions of Wideband Networking Waveform (WNW) and Soldier Radio Waveform (SRW)) are described as having “improved reliability,” without saying that they met all testing requirements. They were fielded on MRAP vehicles to form a network across 900 square kilometers, and demonstrated WNW communications at over 28 km, as well as on the move. The SRW also exceeded the threshold requirement for both connection and transmission distance.
The Tactical-Unmanned Ground Sensors exceeded the image transfer time objective for the test, while the Urban-UGS exceeded both the connection time and distance requirements to the NIKs.
The SUGV ground robot reportedly exceeded the image transfer requirement, increased the distance it can recognize personnel in daylight by almost 700%, and met the distance recognition requirement at twilight.
The RQ-16 T-Hawk UAV completed 250 successful flights without a hard landing, while exceeding the test’s image transfer requirement and meeting the requirement for operating distance from the NIK.
Since the end of the 2009 testing cycle, the program has implemented more than 160 hardware and software improvements, including 86 design changes, as part of its design-for-reliability efforts. These appear set to continue. Paul Geery, Boeing VP and BCTM program manager:
“The results demonstrate substantial improvement across the board in terms of system performance, usability, and most importantly, reliability… we were able to meet or exceed test requirements in numerous areas. We will now focus our efforts on the Limited User Test and delivering the best possible product to the U.S. Army.”
July 2/10: Boeing and iRobot announce a new $14.6 million task order to provide 94 SUGV model 310 robots, plus spares, to the U.S. Army.
This is the contract’s 5th order, bringing total units ordered by the U.S. government to 323. The existing Indefinite Delivery, Indefinite Quantity contract will run through February 2011. Boeing.
June 21-25/10: The Boeing-led BTCM industry team holds a System of Systems Common Operating Environment (SOSCOE) demonstration at Boeing’s Huntington Beach, CA facility. SOSCOE is the BTCM network’s tactical middleware, connecting programmed command and control systems to other services, legacy IT systems, and operating system software. It forms the backbone that helps the Network Integration Kits to connect to the different sensor platforms. The demonstration also featured a SOSCOE-enabled smartphone. Boeing.
April 25/10: Army cancellation? The US Army has made their decision. Following testing failures, and costs that would be $200,000 per missile in an optimistic scenario, the Army wants to cancel NLOS-LS, rather than pay for additional fixes.
Regardless of the final program decision by Aston Carter, the missiles won’t make it into BCTM Increment 1. Read “Cheap, Fast, Deadly: NETFIRES “Missiles in a Box” (NLOS-LS)” for more background.
“The U.S. Army has outfitted a handful of Mine Resistant Ambush Protected, more commonly referred to as MRAP, vehicles with Network Integration Kits designed to give the bomb-defeating vehicles the ability to share real-time information such as sensor data from robots and UAVs while on-the-move in combat… To date, five M-ATVs, and six MRAPs have been outfitted with NIKs, Army officials said; The MRAPs with NIKs will deploy to Afghanistan with the first unit equipped with Increment 1 technologies… The NIKs, now being built onto MRAPs and M-ATVs at Fort Bliss, Texas, are engineered with technology that can receive and distribute data, voice, video and images across the force using multiple high bandwidth waveforms; they consist of software-programmable Joint Tactical Radio Systems (JTRS) such as the Ground Mobile Radios (GMR), a”dual-enclave” Integrated Computer System (ICS) built to handle classified and unclassified information, and a Blue Force Tracking display screen. The software and operating systems are connected through use of a middle ware called System of Systems Common Operating Environment (SOSCOE)… The networked MRAPs and M-ATVs will particpate in a large scale test later this year.”
March 10/10: The GAO testifies before a House Armed Services Committee panel that the technologies for the Brigade Combat Modernization Increment 1 are “immature” and “unreliable.” Michael J. Sullivan, GAO director of acquisition and sourcing management, says that:
“DOD recently approved the first of several planned low-rate initial production lots of Increment 1 despite having acknowledged that the systems and network were immature, unreliable, and not performing as required. That decision reflects DOD’s emphasis on providing new capabilities quickly to combat units. This decision did not follow knowledge-based acquisition practices and runs the risk of delivering unacceptable equipment to the warfighter and trading off acquisition principles whose validity has been so recently underscored.”
The GAO recommends that the Secretary of Defense direct the Army to correct the maturity and reliability issues with the Increment 1 systems and network prior to approving any additional production lots. The GAO expects to issue an in-depth report on the Army’s Ground Force Modernization effort on March 15/10, pending DoD review of the report.
The GAO are not the only people to testify. Lt. Gen. William N. Phillips, military deputy to the assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology, said that:
“We are not going to field anything that is not suitable, effective, on the field of battle for our Soldiers… Some of [the sensors] are about almost twice the weight they should be… [and the Class I UAV is] “a noisy system that we need to reduce the decibels on the field of battle [but]… Soldiers like this system”
See also: US Army release.
Feb 25/10: Boeing announces that a Boeing/SAIC team received a $138 million contract to equip the 1st Infantry Brigade Combat Team with brigade sets under BCTM Increment 1.
Dec 29/09: Boeing announces that the BCTM program completed its Milestone C production review by the Defense Acquisition Board, clearing the way for low-rate initial production of Increment 1.
Nov 5/09: Boeing announces that the BCTM program completed its Production Readiness Review, which was conducted Oct 27-29/09 at the company’s facility in Huntington Beach, CA.
Oct 22/09: The Boeing/SAIC team completed the critical design review of the BCTM Increment 1 capabilities, also known as the Early-Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Boeing announces. The CDR reviewed more than 120 design criteria for unmanned ground and air vehicles, sensors, precision launch systems and network integration kits.
Oct 1/09: Boeing announces that Early-Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Increment 1) capabilities, including unmanned ground and air vehicles, sensors, precision launch systems and network integration kits, completed a limited user test on Sept 12/09 at Fort Bliss, TX. The test was a 3-week independent review of the maturity, readiness, and functionality of E-IBCT capabilities that was developed and overseen by the Army Test and Evaluation Command.
July 22/09: While announcing its Q2 2009 financial results, iRobot Corp. mentions that “The first ten small unmanned ground vehicles, SUGV 310’s (mini-EOD), were also delivered to the Army.”
June 23/09: The US Department of Defense (DoD) announces the cancellation of the Future Combat System (FCS) program. The Pentagon directs the Army to set up a number of separate programs to undertake parts of the FCS program. One of those programs is the BCTM Increment 1.
Nov 17/08: iRobot Corp.announces 6 new Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) Phase II grants, worth a total of $4.4 million, to develop technology related to human-robot interaction, unmanned ground and air vehicle coordination, semi-autonomous unmanned ground vehicle tele-operation and navigation, and electronics diagnostics and health monitoring. iRobot sees the awards as steps toward improving PackBot, SUGV and Warrior by making them smarter, easier to use, and integrated with unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).
These projects are to be funded by the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC), the U.S. Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center (ARDEC), the Office of Naval Research (ONR) and the U.S. Army Research Office (ARO).
April 21/08: iRobot Corp. reaches a $6 million funding agreement with FCS Lead Systems Integrators Boeing and SAIC team, to cover SUGV acceleration plans and delivery of 25 FCS SUGV near-term robots for testing. iRobot’s FCS Program contract now totals approximately $63 million. iRobot.
Jan 17/08: The U.S. Army accelerates its testing schedules for iRobot’s Future Combat Systems Small Unmanned Ground Vehicle (SUGV) robot, and Honeywell’s Class I UAV. From January to June 2008, 25 FCS SUGV units and 11 Class I (Block 0) Micro-Air Vehicles will be delivered to Army Evaluation Task Force soldiers at Fort Bliss, TX. The soldiers will train with the equipment before conducting user testing in summer 2008. Based on soldier feedback, a recommendation will be made to senior Army leadership. A production decision is expected in September 2008.
Meanwhile, the SUGV Systems Development and Demonstration program will continue to mature the SUGV with its full network capability. FCS will procure a select number of early SUGV units, and then transition to the full network-capable SUGV as scheduled by the FCS program. Boeing | iRobot Corp.
June 14/07: Future Controller Systems. iRobot Corp. announces it has been selected by Lockheed Martin to be a key supplier of design and development for the US Army’s $160+ billion Future Combat Systems’ “Centralized Controller Device” for all robots and UAVs in an FCS brigade. At present, each system comes with its own controls and display, which makes managing multiple unmanned vehicles difficult. iRobot’s role will be to develop controls and display designs for the Centralized Controller, through its estimated delivery in 2015.
The Future Combat Systems meta-program is managed by a corporate Lead Systems Integrator team of Boeing and partner Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC), with US Army supervision. The Lead Systems Integrators had contracted Lockheed Martin to develop the Centralized Controller Device, who subcontracted in turn with iRobot. iRobot has already developed a control system based on a Logitech device that is very similar to the Sony Playstation’s controls; they are also developing the SUGV as Future Combat Systems’ ground reconnaissance/ EOD/ light utility platform. iRobot release.
April 23/07: iRobot Corp. and Boeing announce a teaming agreement to develop and deliver SUGV Early, a new, next-generation robot for military, civil and commercial users. Weighing less than 30 pounds, SUGV Early will be a smaller, lighter version of the popular iRobot PackBot.
The goal is to be in production and ready for delivery in 2008, so it will use Commercial Off-The-Shelf (COTS) technology to the greatest extent possible. Boeing will also contribute expertise in systems integration, large-volume production and global marketing, while iRobot will design, develop and manufacture the robot. Boeing and iRobot will jointly market the new SUGV Early. iRobot | Boeing.
- US Army – Army Brigade Combat Team Modernization
- Boeing – Brigade Combat Team Modernization
- Wikipedia.org – BCT Modernization
- iRobot/Boeing – SUGV
- US Congressional Research Service (update Jan 18/11) on the Army’s Ground Combat Vehicle (GCV) and Early Infantry Brigade Combat Team (E-IBCT) Programs: Background and Issues for Congress [PDF]
- HASC (March 10/10) – Hearing on Army Acquisition and Modernization Programs for FY 2011 Video webcast and Part II | Army statement [PDF] | OSD testimony [PDF].
- US GAO (March 10/10, #GAO-10-493T) – Opportunities for the Army to Position Its Ground Force Modernization Efforts for Success. Testimony to HASC.
- Army News Service (June 24/09) – Network-based field tests underway for BCT modernization
- DoD (June 23/09) – Future Combat System (FCS) Program Transitions to Army Brigade Combat Team Modernization
- Defense News (May 18/09) – FCS Is Dead; Programs Live On