Future Combat SystemsL The Dream of Robo-War

December 20th, 2007 - by admin

Ana Marte & Elise Szabo / Straus Military Reform Project – 2007-12-20 22:41:28


August 7, 2007 Fact Sheet on the Army’s Future Combat Systems
Ana Marte & Elise Szabo /Straus Military Reform Project

Future Combat Systems (FCS)

The Future Combat Systems (FCS) is a family of systems currently being developed to include manned vehicles, unmanned aerial and ground vehicles, unattended sensors, new munitions, launchers and a network for communication and data-sharing between all FCS elements. This “system-of-systems” is the centerpiece of the Army’s attempt to transform itself into what it describes as a lighter, more agile and more capable force.

FCS vehicles will be incorporated into the Army’s brigade-sized modular force structure, and are expected to replace such current systems as the M-1 Abrams tank and the M-2 Bradley infantry fighting vehicle.

Current plans call for 18 individual systems, including the following: unattended ground sensors (UGS); Non-Line-of-Sight Launch System (NLOS-LS) and Intelligent Munitions System (IMS); four classes of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) which will be organic to platoon, company, battalion and other echelons; three classes of unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs): the Armed Robotic Vehicle (ARV), the Small Unmanned Ground Vehicle (SUGV) and the Multifunctional Utility/Logistics and Equipment Vehicle (MULE); eight types of manned ground vehicles; the network; and the individual soldier and his personal equipment and weapons with additional gear to link him to these systems.

The program was initiated as an attempt to find the means for the Army to rapidly deploy overwhelming combat power in response to overseas crises. FCS vehicles were intended to weigh less and require less logistical support than current heavy weapons while retaining the same, or better, levels of lethality and survivability.

The Army’s goals for FCS networking architecture are: to augment connectivity inside Army units and with other services, to increase situational awareness and understanding on the battlefield and to further synchronize operations. The idea is that superior information will allow soldiers to hit their enemy first instead of relying on heavy armor to withstand a hit.

Put another way, the concept assumes lighter armor is an acceptable trade off for more communications and computers because the network will routinely permit soldiers to find, identify and kill enemy anti-armor systems before they have a chance to attack. Based on the deployment of prototypical systems in Iraq since the beginning of the war there, analysts at CDI are unaware that this concept has achieved even rudimentary feasibility. Indeed, the devastating success of enemy IEDs and EFPs in Iraq has led to the deployment of heavier armor, not lighter, and an acknowledgement that the enemy rarely permits itself to be found and identified by sensor hardware.

Reconciliation of requirements with technical feasibility and at least some appreciation of events in the real world have necessitated some FCS modifications, such as significant increases in manned ground vehicle weight to meet survivability requirements. One effect has been to compromise original transportability requirements. The feasibility of other FCS requirements depends on key assumptions about immature technologies, costs and other performance characteristics, most notably the feasibility and reliability of the network.

FCS Has 35 Systems On-track for Development
According to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the FCS program office has reported that 35 of 46 FCS technologies have met or surpassed Technology Readiness Level (TRL) 6, which means that a system model or prototype has been demonstrated in a relevant environment. This assessment exceeded predictions made in 2006 by an independent review team that only 22 of the program’s 49 critical technologies would reach TRL 6 in 2007.

However, some remaining key FCS technologies, including lightweight armor and active protection, have yet to reach TRL 6, and much of the program’s unprecedented software development effort still lies ahead, leaving a fundamental challenge unresolved.

In March 2002, the Army designated both Boeing and Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) as lead systems integrators for the program. Boeing is the main contractor and SAIC is being subcontracted by Boeing. Both companies are acting as program managers and select other subcontractors to supply the program’s technologies and systems.

The employment of a Lead Systems Integrator (LSI) to manage the program reflects the Army’s limited willingness, if not ability, to undertake such an ambitious undertaking itself. While some argue that the LSI approach allows flexibility in responding to shifting priorities, others point out potential risks to the Army’s ability to oversee the program and the failure of the LSI approach in other programs.

Originally administered under an Other Transactions Authority (OTA) arrangement, under the leadership of Senator John McCain, R – Ariz., the Army was encouraged to restructure the FCS program and to put it under a Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR)-based contract. Other objectives of the restructured program include:

Fielding FCS technologies to the current force in discrete “spirals” starting in FY 2008 Addressing congressional language requiring the Army to field the Non Line of Sight Cannon (NLOS-C ) and its resupply vehicle by 2010 as well as deliver eight combat operational preproduction NLOS-C systems by the end of CY 2008 Fielding all 18 systems instead of the 14 which were funded under the previous program Designating an evaluation brigade to test spiraled FCS capabilities

These measures addressed some of the challenges facing the FCS program, but the program is still at risk for significant cost increases, and the fundamental concept continues to attract criticism.

FCS’s Estimated Cost: $160.7 Billion
In 2006, GAO estimated a program cost of about $160.7 billion, a 76 percent increase from the Army’s original $91.4 billion estimate. A 2006 CAIG report estimated the total cost for FCS at between $295 billion and $307.2 billion. Recent news reports indicate that the Institute for Defense Analysis has identified still further cost increases; it is not reasonable to expect this latest one will be the last.

FCS is currently in the System Development and Demonstration (SDD) phase of acquisition, which began in 2003 despite GAO warnings that the program was entering the phase with “more risk than recommended.”

In 2006, Congress mandated that DOD conduct a milestone review of the FCS program after a preliminary design review in 2009. The review is described to assess whether the requirements are valid and can best be met with the FCS program, whether the FCS program can be developed and produced within existing resources and whether the program should continue as currently structured, be restructured or be terminated. Some might argue that these objectives should have been met at the very start of the program.

SDD is currently scheduled to run through 2011. Low-rate initial production is expected to begin in 2012, and the program is expected to reach initial operational capability in 2015.

The FY 2005 budget included $2.8 billion in research and development funds for FCS; the FY budget requested an increase to $3.4 billion. The Army requested $3.6 billion for FY 2008 for the program. The House Appropriations Committee approved only $3.2 billion.

The Problems with FCS
Various critics of the program make a number of fundamental points:

FCS is yet another iteration of attempts since the 1950s, if not earlier, to automate human conflict, which many recognize as not susceptible to mechanistic synchronization. These multiple efforts have resulted in repeated failures and frequent defeats for the side attempting to employ them – the latest being the Israelis in Lebanon in 2006.

The sensors simply do not exist and are not even under development to reliably locate the dimension of threats that FCS would require to be successful, especially on 21st century battlefields that are dominated by 4th Generation Warfare.

FCS, if ever deployed, is more likely to impede U.S. military mental and physical agility on the battlefield, rather than facilitate it.

For more information on the Future Combat Systems (FCS) see the links below. Readers interested in further articulation of the fundamental criticisms of FCS are directed to the Government Executive article in our analysis section below and CDI’s recent analysis of Israel’s Winograd Commission Report addressing the Israel Defense Force failures in Lebanon in 2006.

General Information on Future Combat Systems (FCS):

• Boeing-Integrated Defense Systems http://www.boeing.com/defense-space/ic/fcs/bia/index.html

• General Dynamics

• GlobalSecurity.org http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/systems/ground/fcs-back.htm

• Science Applications International Corporation http://www.saic.com/

• U.S. Army http://www.army.mil/fcs

• Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Future_Combat_Systems


• Congressional Budget Office: “The Army’s Future Combat Systems Program”

• CBO Study: “The Army’s Future Combat Systems Program & Alternatives”

• Congressional Research Service. “The Army’s Future Combat System (FCS): Background and Issues for Congress,” http://www.ndu.edu/library/docs/crs/crs_rl32888_28apr05.pdf

• Government Accountability Office. “Defense Acquisitions: Future Combat System Risks Underscore the Importance of Oversight.”

• “Defense Acquisitions: Future Combat Systems Challenges and Prospects for Success.” http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d05442t.pdf

• “Defense Acquisitions: The Army’s Future Combat System’s Features, Risks, and Alternatives.”

• “Defense Acquisitions: Role of Lead Systems Integrator on Future Combat Systems Program Poses Oversight Challenges.”

• Defense Acquisitions: Analysis of Process Used to Evaluate Active Protection Systems.”

• Center for Defense Information, “The ‘Revolution in Military Affairs’ Shocks but Does Not Awe Israeli Commission.”

• GovernmentExecutive.com

• Inside the Army, “Study: Army FCS Program Will Cost $13 Billion More Than Estimated.”

• Parameters, “An Alternative Future Force: Building a Better Army.”

• Rand Corporation “Exploring Advanced Technologies for the Future Combat Systems Program.”

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