FCS Phase 1 Spinouts Prepare for Production
“FCS Spin-Out Plans Detailed” has covered the US Army’s revised approach to the $160+ billion Future Combat Systems program, which would deliver a number of elements for use by non-FCS units in up to 4 spin out phases. The FCS program received some minor restructuring in February 2007, and 3 spin out phases are currently planned from 2008-2015.
Field testing of Spin Out 1 technologies went well during “Experiment 1.1” in July 2006 – February 2007, and a recent Critical Design Review of confirmed that they meet design requirements and are ready for integration. Now the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology has approved sole source justification for Future Combat System technology Spin Out Low-Rate Initial Production effort, and for the Non-Line of Sight Cannon (NLOS-C).
In English, the Army has authorized future contracts and planning for FCS low-rate initial production by the Boeing/SAIC Lead Systems Integrator team, who have been managing many of the selection and testing elements of the program and issuing contracts. This will include…
The first recipients of FCS spin out technology will be soldiers of the Army Evaluation Task Force in in Fort Bliss, TX, to be followed by selected Army units if the test go well. Low-rate initial production for Spin Out 1 could include up to 17 Brigade Combat Team sets, to be fielded in stages from FY 2008 – FY 2014.
The key Spin Out 1 element is the Network Integration “B” kit consisting of an Integrated Computer System and System-of-Systems Common Operating Environment that will be the foundation of FCS computing applications, plus network management software, updated battle command software, and communications systems including the Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS) Ground Mobile Radio. These items will be installed as appropriate in M1 Abrams tanks, M2/M3 Bradley fighting vehicles, and Hummers or similar vehicles.
This isn’t the full FCS network by any means – just the initial components that will allow future compatibility.
The 2nd inclusion in Spin Out 1 is the Non Line of Sight Launch System, aka. NLOS-LS or NETFIRES. These “missiles in a box” will serve with the US Army and Navy, and in all likelihood will eventually be provided to the Marines as well. DID’s NETFIRES FOCUS Article covers all aspects of this program, which appears to be one of the FCS program’s early successes.
The 3rd inclusion in Spin Out 1 is “Unattended Ground Sensors,” small sensor devices designed to pick up information like noise, heat signatures, motion, et. al. They will come in a standard tactical version, and an urban version designed to deal with communications line-of-sight, interference, and other challenges unique to that terrain.
DID has covered comments by Gen. Nadeau concerning FCS’ need to be relevant in the urban battlefield. During a conversation with Gen. Nadeau during the 2006 TFD Group conference, he noted that one of the problems soldiers had been bringing back from the front was the difficulty in securing a building, for instance, and knowing that it remained secure. Throw-away ground sensors are no miracle cure by any means, but they will help the current force meet this challenge.
FCS vehicles must still be able to survive surprise situations and the urban battlefield, however, if the program intends to avoid the “expensive failure” label. Which brings us to the 4th element of Spin Out 1, the Non-Line-of-Sight Cannon (NLOS-C) 155mm mobile howitzer.
The program had been sold on the basis that the tracked MGV (Manned Ground Vehicle) family of vehicles could be carried by C-130 Hercules transports, but this has proven to be a mirage. Based on a common chassis developed by BAE Systems and General Dynamics, FCS MGVs will be more than 70% common, a move aimed at reducing spare parts and logistics costs. This has arguably penalized the NLOS-C; unlike Nexter’s Caesar, or Soltam’s tracked Rascal that stripped away all non-essential weight, NLOS-C will require larger aircraft like an A400M or C-17 for deployable airlift.
The NLOS-C will be the first of the 8 tracked MG variants (Ambulance, C2 command, Infantry carrier, MCS with 120mm cannon, NLOS-C howitzer, NLOS-M 120mm mortar, Recon, Recovery & maintenance vehicle) to be developed and fielded as part of the Future Combat Systems program. A Congressional mandate separated it from other MGV elements and moved its initial fielding date up to 2010, in order to ensure timely replacement of the USA’s aging mobile howitzer fleet. Prototypes have been testing since 2005, and have fired over 2,000 rounds.
Current plans call for 18 initial production NLOS-C howitzers to be delivered between FY 2010 – 2012 at a rate of 6 per year, with the Milestone C and larger-scale production decisions coming in 2013. The LSI team of Boeing and SAIC, in partnership with BAE Systems and General Dynamics, plans to employ various sites for component subassembly, final vehicle integration & assembly, and test activities. Planned locations include Elgin, OK; Lima, OH; and York, PA Once integration and assembly are complete, the NLOS-C vehicles will undergo cannon verification testing at Fort Sill, OK, then be transferred to Fort Bliss, TX, and White Sands Missile Range, NM, for testing by the Army Evaluation Task Force to ensure that they perform as required in other dimensions as well.
Additional Readings & Sources
- Boeing (Oct 1/09) – Early-Infantry Brigade Combat Team Capabilities Complete Key Test. FCS Spinout 1 is now known as E-IBCT. It includes iRobot’s SUGV robots, RQ-16 T-Hawk Class I UAVs, unattended ground sensors, NETFIRES/ NLOS-LS, and a Network Integration Kit. The goal is to field E-IBCT on 7 Infantry Brigade Combat Teams, beginning in 2011.
- US Army (Oct 1/07) – Army Shows Congress FCS ‘Spin-out’ Technologies
- US Army (July 18/07) – U.S. Army to Acquire Future Combat Systems Spin Out and Manned Ground Vehicle Technology
- Boeing (July 18/07) – FCS Industry Team to Initiate Production Planning