USA’s $160+ Billion Future Combat Systems Restructured
The Army’s $160+ billion Future Combat System program has been restructured, with 4 of the 18 systems in the program deferred, one removed from the program, and the fielding rate for the envisioned 15 brigade combat teams was stretched out over 5 more years, from a 2015-2025 period to 2015-2030. Army Maj. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sorenson, deputy for acquisition and systems management, said these changes would eliminate $3.4 billion from its budget over the next 5 fiscal years.
Total cost of the program is currently expected to be $162 billion, with another $2 billion slated for additional construction required. The FY 2008 budget request is $3.66 billion ($100 million procurement, $3.56 billion RDT&E), up from $3.39 awarded in FY 2007 ($0 procurement, all RDT&E). DID has already covered the deferment of the Class II and Class III UAV systems, eliminating the major UAV competitions within the program. Here are the other changes…
- Some of the UAV money will be directed to buy existing types of UAVs, which will assume the medium UAV roles. The soldier-portable Class I MAV survives, as do the Shadow 200 UAVs which step into the Class II battalion level role. The MQ-1 Predator UAV fleet is being expanded, and related MQ-9 Reaper hunter-killers and the derivative Warrior UAV remain on track to fill the brigade-level class III niche. The Class IV division-level category will be filled by the MQ-8B Fire Scout helicopter UAV, which will also operate from many Navy ships.
- The heavy armed robotic vehicle system was deferred to later in the program, but the numbers of some lighter robotic versions (many of which currently perform counter-mine roles) were increased.
- The intelligent munitions system. The central sensor unit scans the battlefield for enemy vehicles et. al., then throws out the appropriate killer projectile that arcs up and attacks from the top where armor is thinnest or bursts overhead with fragmentation. IMS was separated from the FCS program; Textron received a $115 million October 2006 contract for its systems design & development. IMS is a complement to the SPYDER/Matrix systems, but has the ability to engage much larger targets. The Army will not buy any more than what is currently under contract to produce. The numbers of other sensors in the program were increased.
- Earlier Lockheed releases this year said that the NETFIRES loitering attack missile (LAM) that could stay over a battlefield and look for targets has been moved out of NETFIRES, leaving only the fire and hit precision attack missile (PAM).
Other areas of the FCS program remain largely intact. The FY 2008 budget funds the continued development of 8 manned ground vehicles including the NLOS-C light mobile 155mm howitzer, 2 unmanned ground vehicles, 2 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), the NETFIRES missiles non-line of sight launch system (minus the Loitering Attack Munition), unattended ground sensors, and an information network. Meanwhile, there have been a couple of winners in the restructuring:
- Some elements of the FCs network have had their fielding moved ahead up to 2 years.
- Starting in FY 2008, program officials hope to deliver some of the unattended ground sensors to soldiers. There are two categories of the sensors: tactical and urban. The sensors can be used to gather intelligence and conduct surveillance and reconnaissance, as well as provide troops additional security as they clear and secure buildings.
DID covered comments by Gen. Nadeau regarding FCs needing 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 with this and other tasks.
Additional Reading & Sources
- DoD DefenseLINK (Feb 8/07) – Future Combat Systems Restructuring a ‘Balancing Act’
- DID – FCS Rolls on, Boeing Receives Another $219M. Has a number of links and updates since then, and covers both developments and controversies surrounding FCS. Not an official DID FOCUS article, but it has become a sort of aggregation point.