Small Wars Journal

Our Future Combat Systems?

Today's Washington Post provides an update on the U.S. Army's Future Combat Systems - The Army's $200 Billion Makeover by Alec Klein.

... In the Army's vision, the war of the future is increasingly combat by mouse clicks. It's as networked as the Internet, as mobile as a cellphone, as intuitive as a video game. The Army has a name for this vision: Future Combat Systems, or FCS. The project involves creating a family of 14 weapons, drones, robots, sensors and hybrid-electric combat vehicles connected by a wireless network. It has turned into the most ambitious modernization of the Army since World War II and the most expensive Army weapons program ever, military officials say.

It's also one of the most controversial. Even as some early versions of these weapons make their way onto the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan, members of Congress, government investigators and military observers question whether the Defense Department has set the stage for one of its biggest and costliest failures. At risk, they say, are billions of taxpayer dollars spent on exotic technology that may never come to fruition, leaving the Army little time and few resources to prepare for new threats...

Future Combat Systems - Official U.S. Army Web Page

Video Analysis of Army's Modernization Program - Washington Post

Future Combat: The Wireless War - Online Discussion with Washington Post's Alec Klein

Discuss - Small Wars Council


GAH (not verified)

Fri, 10/24/2008 - 4:31pm

Army Transformation
It has been stated that our Army has been undergoing its most significant reorganization since World War II. It is transforming the way it does business; how its forces are manned, equipped and trained; and it is transforming the infrastructure of the force. In this endeavor, the Army has set deadlines as to when it should be transformed, 2030-35. Perhaps the Army should think of its transformation as the DoD sees transformation, as a process and not an end state. The DoD explains transformation as an indefinite process of perpetual development and modernization in order to maintain an advantage over our current and future adversaries. The problem with such an idea is that it is hard to put a cost figure on or hold someone accountable; therefore, the Army established timelines and gives names to projects; like the Future Combat Systems (FCS). These timelines and projects are then scrutinized as to their effectiveness in achieving the goals they set. But would the Army be better suited to think of FCS as a means and not an end state?

For example, FCS promises advanced technology to allow our forces greater situational awareness (SA) on the battlefield. Greater SA through sensors, unmanned vehicles, and precision munitions entails better protection for our troops and fewer troops needed in harms way. It also infers technology can substitute manpower. The current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, however, reinforce the need for what have been called strategic corporals, or what Ill call Soldier diplomats. This adaptation to the current wars refocuses our need for manpower. It transforms our doctrine and adds stability operations to be as necessary as combat operations for our ground forces. Therefore, the futuristic end state of decreased manpower through FCS technology has already been modified by the current environments need for increased Soldier presence on the battlefield.

Transformation, then, needs to continue to focus on what is most important, our Soldiers. FCS merely becomes the name for providing research and development of systems to meet current and future threats. And the process, unfortunately for the bean counters, means an indefinite course of perpetually redefining, adapting, and modernizing capabilities to meet enemy threats through continued allocation of resources.


You make some great points. I agree wholeheartedly. I think the FCS concept is a great one, but unrealistic given the issues with management (specifically, the incredibly complex relationship between the Army and Boeing), all the modifications with the systems, and the unrealistic budget forecasts and timeline.

I think the Army should prioritize the 14 equipment systems by most urgent need. Given our experience in Iraq, the Army shouldn't give up its current armor, but invest in the UAVs and other intelligence gathering technologies. Also, the Stryker does provide great capabilities...why should this be only temporary until they get the FCS manned ground vehicles online? I say integrate current hardware with the great network concept already in progress.

The Army has to come to the table ready to answer some hard questions in 2009. Congress mandated a thorough review to assess whether or not the current FCS program will provide Soldiers what it has claimed to, and whether or not the program will continue as is, be revised, or be terminated.

I'll definitely look for the results of that meeting.


bbettey (not verified)

Thu, 10/16/2008 - 6:12pm

Good discussion thus far, but I know I still have some concerns. I also am a mid-grade officer in the US Army and expect to see some of these technologies in the near term.

However, after reading both the <A HREF="">GAO report</A> and the <A HREF="">CRS Report for Congress on the Army's Future Combat System</A> as well as discussing this with Army officers directly involved with the project, I have some serious concerns and would welcome commentary and thoughts on the issue below.

It has been mandated that the FCS brigade must provide greater than or equal capability than the legacy force. The problem that I see stems from the following equation:

*****FCS will provide dramatically increased Situational Awareness = 1st Kill capability = better Force Protection = Less Armor = Lighter Force than Legacy = Greater Mobility than Legacy, i.e. greater capability than Legacy*****

The FCS program's lynch pin is the Network (one of the +1s in the 14+1+1). The Network provides situational awareness to the Warfighter. The equation begs to have the primary assumption challenged: what happens when (not if) the network goes down? The equation does not work and the mandate is not met--the FCS force is not greater than or equal to the Legacy force capability.

The following quote from the Congressional Budget Office referenced in the CRS report clearly states my concern and goes further by relating it to the current fight:

"...the current technology does not permit the construction of light-weight combat vehicles that match or surpass current vehicles in reliability and invulnerability to enemy weapons...To achieve comparable survivability, U.S. combat vehicles would avoid being targeted by exploiting superior knowledge of enemy activities. The threat in Iraq has come primarily in urban settings from individually launched weapons, and the ability to identify attackers' locations may be beyond any technology now envisioned."

The Congressional report discusses limitations on the bandwidth currently available and how FCS will perform if the network is degraded or network failure. Additionally, the GAO report brings up an issue mirrored in the CRS report. Complementary programs outside of FCS but required for full operational capability are not yet synchronized with FCS--the Joint Tactical Radio System and the Warfighter Information Network-Tactical.

The future of FCS is not clear or certain. With known issues in key technologies, the current budgetary environment, two wars and presidential election, the Army may have to look at another approach to FCS.

Personally, I believe that until we have a proven, "bullet proof" network, we should hold off fielding a complete FCS brigade. We should roll out and field working advanced technologies and components of the FCS to the heavy, light and Stryker brigades that meet current operational needs. When currently unproven technologies mature and become viable, particularly the Network, field FCS and retire the Legacy force. Until the issues with the Network and other key technologies are resolved, I cannot see how an FCS brigade will have the capability of the current Legacy force.


Mad Aviator (not verified)

Fri, 03/14/2008 - 4:47pm

Gentlemen, the previous discussion contain some excellent points and concerns towards the FCS. As a midgrade active duty Army officer, who will likely have to work with some of these new FCS systems when they come online, I would like to further the discussion with my personal point of view on the FCS system as a whole.

FCS as it pertains to force transformation is an educated attempt at predicting possible future warfare, given a study of the past and trying to apply identified patterns to the present, in order to influence the future. The FCS in itself is about speed, synchronization, awareness, and responsiveness at the strategic, operational and tactical levels simultaneously in order to increase the overall effectiveness of the fighting force through networking and technology. The effect is precision violence.

FCS is an extrapolation of how we will expect to fight as the world transforms from the industrial age to the information age and the presumed base of power shifts from production to data. FCS is intended to build from, and does not supplant, the current Jominian philosophy of the U.S. Armys principles of war - mass, objective, offensive, security, economy of force, maneuver, unity of command, surprise, and simplicity. Caution though must be taken to guard against creating such a reliance on linked technology that the other principles become compromised. Specifically in the pursuit of efficiency and agility we must not allow our force to become so lean that the redundancy afforded by mass is compromised creating a single point of failure.

The FCS through its systems of systems will provide rapid collection and dissemination of information and the ability to increasingly clarify the fog of war while facilitating increased speed and operations tempo at which military actions are conducted. The difficulty will be in the development of systems (mechanical, automated, and procedural) that can separate and articulate relevant information in a useful format from the mountains of data to the appropriate user.

In the implementation of the FCS the Army must keep in mind that war is infinitely complex and can never be fully understood or rationalized. The Clausewitzian "paradoxical trinity" outlining that war is simultaneously and variously influenced by the people, the governments, and the combatants articulates that FCS will need to be continually refined and adapted over time.

The military must continue its pursuit of networked systems and technology for nothing less than to become more effective in order to outperform forces (conventional and unconventional) that are not. Only the future will determine whether the FCS will become a revolutionary new way of warfare, a more effective way of operating, or irrelevant all together due to something unforeseen or unconsidered. To do nothing though would be to become irrelevant and would allow our enemies to continually exploit our current weaknesses instead of having to react to our advancements.


Sat, 12/15/2007 - 11:24am

I wrote a long feature story about the robotic component of FCS for Harper's Magazine last winter (Feb. 2007).

If anyone's interested, I can provide a free PDF of the article (it's archived online, but only available to Harper's subscribers).

Fellas, thanks for the really informative discussion on FCS. From my perspective, it is very interesting to compare FCS with the British Army's equivalent: FRES.…

My basic conclusion:

"With FRES we have a pretty good idea of what we are getting. When it finally arrives, FRES may not be cutting edge but it does promise a key medium weight capability that the British Army desperately needs. FCS promises to blow the socks off anything else on the battlefield, but god only knows if it will actually work!"

Rob Thornton

Sat, 12/08/2007 - 10:04am

Hey Sam, Ken,

f course I now have almost a couple of year's distance from the FCS program, but I might be able to help answer a couple of the questions you posed - they are good ones and I think underscore what focus FCS may have started with when it went on paper vs. how it evolved through testing with soldiers involved (on different levels) to where it is now with BCT doing the testing (I don't know the %, but I believe its a fair assumption that most of those in the EBCT are have operational experience - and since I know the atmosphere the EBCT CDR will create - I believe they will test it till it breaks, and offer frank assessments about its usefulness.)

1) Why does an infantryman carry as much stuff as he weighs?

Is not always true anymore. Most of what I've seen recently is allowing small unit leaders to tailor the load to the mission at hand. Some of this has to do with operating out of fixed locations, some of this has to do with better LOG TTP and capability - i.e. technology has allowed us to better understand the environment we're operating in, forecast environmental changes, communicate changes and new requirements back to higher echelons, and then figure out ways to get that stuff forward in time to make a difference - ex. there is now a disposable parachute they are using in Afghanistan that combined with things like GPS and better air to ground comms allows better throughput. Another example is the "arms room concept" which is where id the Infantryman is operating out of a vehicle - he stows what he needs and when those needs change he comes back for more. Now you still have some folks who are going to go in "heavy" - a SF buddy of mne told me his team's load when they went into Afghanistan the first time - most of the things that go with operating as they did drove them to bring more stuff. Turns out, the OGA rep and locals they hooked up with were already pretty well resourced - but because of inter-agency comms friction they did not know it. The key I think ultimately in tailoring soldiers' loads is leader appreciation for METT-TC, and an enforcement of unit discipline through the NCOs. I'd have to say we're allot better overall now then we were when I did my first pump in 1986.

2) Why havent we gotten cartridge less bullets yet? I think that is a good question. Speculating, I'd say it has allot to do with coming up with a reliable rifle to fire it, and a ammunition logistics system that could produce it and sustain it and deliver it - the SWC member that has probably thought more on this is 120mm - has that come up on the "Better then your M4, but you can't have it thread"? 210 rounds of 5.56 ways a significant amount, when you add it up with body armor, a couple of smokes and a couple of frags, along with an MBITR and a tricked out M4 - I'd mentioned in another thread I slimmed down allot working with indigenous forces - and went with what I knew I needed after an incident that convinced me that at 40 I was no longer quite the physical guy I was at 20 (or 30 for that matter) - again being conscious of what my role was, and what support I had around me led me to that decision.

3) Ablative and thicker is better armor slows everybody down where are the new materials? That was one of the things that made the original folks believe that you could get the same level of protection with a 17t C-130 transportable platform. There was a sincere belief as I understand it that the RHA (rolled homogenous armor) levels of MBT standards could be reached with light weight materials by 2010ish when they pitched FCS back in 95/96 (I only go back to there because that was the earliest O&O I found for FCS. As the tech to produce light weight armor became more appreciative of reality, the protection pieces were mitigated by other technologies - such as technology to see, understand and shoot first, then the APS (Active Protection System) which is a kinetic projectile and radar based system to defeat RPGs and maybe other kinetic threats. Overtime and experimentation it was realized the 17t was 17t no matter how much SA/SU you had and the any vehicle that worked closely with Infantry might have issues with APS (you won't catch me standing too close when it goes off). At first they tried a ECC (Essential Combat Configuration) vs. a FCC (Full Combat Configuration) load out so that you could get it into a C-130. Again Army experimentation proved that by the time you got the vehicle, its additional armor and the MHE (Material Handling Equipment) needed to bring it up to FCC you lost any advantages of doing so in terms of numbers of turns of the air frames, additional personnel required to go from ECC to FCC, the time required to do it etc. In parallel with this, the technology to produce much of the "innards" of the vehicle had also not allowed for miniaturization and as such to meet other requirements, it meant more weight. Again, I think here is a case where experimentation allowed us green suiter input and saved us from getting something down the road that would be a "SGT YORK".

4) Why do any LAVs still have wheels? Because tracks are not always the answer. What happens when you break track? Its an emotional moment. Banded track technology is progressing, but its not quite there yet in terms of meeting military standards. I think it will get there, just not yet. Second, tire technology has gotten much better - there is actually a honeycombed tire that came out a while back that is more resistant to IEDs- I've lost the bubble on that, but I know its there. LOG and other operating considerations were also a factor in going with wheels over tracks - I was one of the OCs for a buddy CO CDR who did the MAV-CE between the M113(Extended model) and the Stryker - prior to the IOT&E. There were some good things about both platforms. The 113 offered overall better mobility - but not by too much. It was however damned loud, and after long road marches the squad in the back were in worse shape when it came time to get out and go directly into action. Having ridden in both, I like the Stryker better, but you have to plan around mobility limitations - with the amount of dismounted Infantry you get ready to go into action - you can overcome it.

5) Why are most of the materials in a soldiers uniform based on 18th century era materials?

I think they are making good headway here. Check out the Soldier as a System / Land Warrior / whatever we are calling it now - they are looking to develop and implement new materials that better sustain and environmentally protect the soldier - Popular Science and Popular Mechanics do regular updates. The challenges are meeting the rigorous requirements demanded by the environment of sustained combat. What we don't want to do is invest and field uniforms that hinder vs. help. I have a couple of Acquisition Corps buddies who are working hard on this - I'll add that our Acquisition Corps guys are doing good work both here and into the various theaters to test new stuff in the worst conditions - combat. They go over and attach themselves to units in the fight and try all this new stuff out on a smaller scale - then comeback, refine it, and go back - until we get the product to meet the need and the requirements.

6) Why can a low level manager in a multinational call home to his kids from the streets of Baghdad with one touch dialing and a soldier has to be patched in through numerous operators to talk to his battlefield commander?

This is also changing. I had VOIP on a commercial satellite and a Asia Cell phone - I think I spoke to my wife everyday. The Google Talk over a commercial ISP was a bit different since as a TT we had a different set up then the line units working out of the FOBs. The big issue is sustainability and security. Secure comms are a must of mission type traffic, fielding that stuff and sustaining it on the scale needed by deployed BCTs, and higher echelons while maintaining interoperability is hard - we're getting better with the putting up and sustaining various wave forms, and we're getting better at interoperability. MWRs have really changed - when we did go into the big FOB - I no longer had to dial in through a post operator. Bottom line - this is a something we're getting better at, but we have to maintain a level of security for a number of reasons - ex - when a soldier dies their is a commercial comms blackout until that soldiers family has been notified by a leader with the details - this is a good thing given the types of rumors that occur between theater and the community back home - imagine if the news gets ahold of it and the first time a spouse hears of it is via the news, or speculation as to who was injured and how bad changes the truth several times and before the real story makes it back to the family a neighbor's kid tells the soldier's kid that their Daddy is dead - when they might not really be. We want to do everything we can to notify the family with the real story first.

7) Why would anybody compare the volatile insecure Internet with highly available secure communications? I'm not completely sure what you are asking - but it originally the idea of BCOTM (Battle Command on the Move) was done to facilitate the operational concepts and tech required to support a networked force on the offense. Most people have a hard time imagining how much data actually has to flow to support some of this. We looked at building the network (like EPLRs where you seed nodes forward with airborne CRPs on UAVs, lead ground elements extending the network and other ways of making the bubble bigger and stronger), borrowing the network (using Joint and strategic assets to extend and thicken the bubble) and staling the network (subverting existing infrastructure in the operating environment to do the same) - all had pluses and minuses, but all had limitations - I think what has happened (like I said I've been out of the net for a couple of years) is that some of the requirements were scaled back to what was most important.

Bottom line I think is that "soldier" reality has been injected from the start, and continues to be - not just in FCS, but all our acquisition operations. FCS, as Ken has said is not a panacea - nobody realizes that more then the uniformed soldiers and leaders who have been to OIF and OEF - and we are shaping drawing board concepts with operational realities. FCS may be described a system of systems, but its really a way to manage military evolution by allowing soldiers and units to touch and use evolving technologies in an operational context that permits integrating this stuff towards accomplishing missions and tasks - this identifies and fosters interoperability - and makes it easier for us to take advantage of those new techs under the adverse conditions associated with full spectrum operations in foreign lands. It is not a people replacement - no matter how hard civilian leaders might wish to mitigate political risk by replacing soldiers we continue to relearn that ground combat in war is full of fog, friction and chance, and the best weapon in war is the thinking man on the ground with the best "stuff" we can equip them with to better disadvantage the enemy - particularly when operating in his back yard.

The fact that we have integrated leaders and units throughout this process shows the emphasis the Army has placed in getting it right. Taking a BCT offline (and manning it with some of our best leaders) to test this stuff is a huge commitment to getting it right - I think we see it as an investment in our future.

Best, Rob

Ken White

Sat, 12/08/2007 - 2:29am


Excellent points and I wholeheartedly agree with your last paragraph. Our penchant for substituting technology for proper training is wrongheaded. We're still trying to train 2007 Officer and enlisted new entrants and mid grade folks with a World War II mentality little modified

In fairness, while much of that penchant stems from a consistent trend to underestimate the capability of the people who constitute the force (and a lot of that is residual "we've always done it that way" foolishness), Congress and the budget system have an impact.

Big ticket items offer job benefits to many districts, more money spent on training offers little benefit to Congress critters. That IMO is no excuse but is a factor that merits consideration.

Regardless, we need to change that mindset.

When we talk about security we often talk about defense in depth. In computers it is a series of rings which become more robust and also restrictive as you move towards the kernel of the operating system. Armies work on a different model but all the same similar. The outer rings (farthest from the populace) have got to be hard and they have to be powerful. Force projection through big bombs carried by bigger bombers, and rapid response like armor and mechanized infantry. You need the outer ring to be the chainsaw in the forest. As you move closer to the populace you are protecting to step down through infantry and the power requirements finally end up being Officer Barney and one bullet for his well shined never shot gun.

Technology has a tendency to unbalance these characteristics. We use technology to get Barney Fife on the highly mobile battlefield, or use the strategic air-bomber to monitor traffic patterns downtown Mayberry. Much of this has to do with a misunderstanding of what technology is about, or what appropriate technology means. Sure you can do something with technology but should you do something with technology is rarely asked. Whether it is replacing and displacing hundreds of factory workers with automation that results in an economic slump that closes the factory for lack of customers, or it is the infantry man replaced by a wandering robot who becomes the ultimate private snuffy no brain. The relationship between man and technology is fraught with issues.

The act of infantry combat in several thousand years across the world has not significantly changed. Actual ground pounders dont move much faster today then did their Roman forebears. Weve mechanized them and upped the speed to 15 or 18 mph (as long as fuel and mechanical failures are kept to a minimum). The 21 foot active defense radius of the infantry man circa 2000 years ago has been extended to about 250 yards in modern day combat. The technology to reach out that far hasnt really changed that much in the last 50 years since John Browning made the first repeating rifle. The close in weapon of the Marine is still a fighting knife. Strategic air or technological warfare has a place on the modern battlefield much like the archer became the sniper. Each new technology has to be adapted to duty without laying off the infantry. When I look at the combat robots I see technology grasping for purpose and the design is the portent of failure. In many ways UAVs are replacing highly trained redundant on the ground reconnaissance with single points of failure, highly vulnerable, resource intensive and moderately effective drones. Further until the robots take on organic form and dont look like some kids erector set the technology is a failure as function over form is valid but function without form is invalid. Form has a way of telling us that something that has been designed is done.

Technology has a place on the battlefield whether it by the mythical dragon skin armor, truly functional heads up displays, prosthetic breathing apparatus for working in hostile atmospheres, exo-skeletal body support mechanisms, or refined "smart" communications each technology doesnt replace the infantryman but makes the infantryman smarter and better. Like it or not the Air Force role is to prepare a battle field for the infantry as at some point we are going to hold and maintain that ground. Clearing IEDs is part of the EOD job category and using robots to facilitate that mission is perfectly fine, but removing the EOD technician from the task completely creates some concern over losing that specialty and the ability to extend upon the knowledge. Which is a key concern. When you replace individuals and either out source or automate a task you effectively stop the internal process refinement and adaptation elements of that task. A robot is not capable of making refinements outside of the programming it has. An analyst in a vacuum is one person looking at a task not 100s or 1000s of infantryman making lessons learned across the organization. When you replace the "doer" of the task you replace the learning and refinement phase of the process and are stuck on implement.

There is a sincere and substantial risk of technology run amok. Not that I think the robots will go "Terminator" on us, but that cost and return on investment will not be aligned with realizable goals. The technology purchased must meet the needs of the military now and the future soldiers who take the battlefield. There is also the resource and manning issue. With some of these combat system the human capital required to keep a specific technology running can be enormous. When every soldier is an investment the impact of a technology must be substantial or be accused of squandering a resource. We must maintain a fully functional military and not "rob Peter to pay Paul" with technology, COIN or capability. That the United States has the most expensive military is easily proven, but that the United States is the most powerful and no other nation can stand is a bit of a misnomer. Technology does not mean invulnerability and as we see now with the current operational tempo the largest military can rapidly become the tiredest. When you look at the political landscape that was designed by treaty to promote wars of nation-state versus nation-state, and now that battlefield is morphing to non-state actors versus the nation state, the infantry becomes the scalpel of diplomacy.

The budgetary wrangling and gadget envy of the forces is pathetic. A unit commander does not need his own UAV. What he needs in unencumbered access to the ones already in the air. A valid area of study for DARPA is how to make the barriers to the needy and between collection mechanisms gateways to information. Let the Air Force have all the UAVs as long as they provide raw available data and proper support to the military members on the ground as 100 percent available and sustainable. Otherwise they are expensive toys and those who are selfish get no more toys.

DARPA has always been about the absolute future, but there is traction in DARPA and the National Science Foundation, to fund only working near term concepts. That means some of the really cool technologies weve gotten in the past arent replicated in the future pipeline. There is no really cool "gee whiz" technology hiding in a DARPA project. The UAV concept is really nothing more than a highly refined childrens radio control toy. Also, the scope of the implemented technologies seem to mix between some ultra strategic bomber and giving Barney Fife a new way to polish his bullet. There are some neat projects but they seem to be "safe" rather than mind boggling. Toss into this mix of convolutions the political process and what we will accept as risk and you end up with techno-fascism and anarchy.

If we wanted to answer some very specific technology issue questions we could start thinking about these:
1) Why does an infantryman carry as much stuff as he weighs?
2) Why havent we gotten cartridgeless bullets yet?
3) Ablative and thicker is better armor slows everybody down where are the new materials?
4) Why do any LAVs still have wheels?
5) Why are most of the materials in a soldiers uniform based on 18th century era materials?
6) Why can a low level manager in a multinational call home to his kids from the streets of Baghdad with one touch dialing and a soldier has to be patched in through numerous operators to talk to his battlefield commander?
7) Why would anybody compare the volatile insecure Internet with highly available secure communications?

These are all simple questions. When the basic infantryman no longer looks like a two legged pack mule, and the number of support personnel to front line fighters is reversed as a ratio then we can look at gee-whiz gadgets. Then again in COIN everybody is on the front line.

COIN is the interesting intersection of the technologies where more can create a drag. To often technology is a barrier to the "touchy feely" side of COIN. A tablet voice translation system is a great gadget but what does it say about the cultural sensitivities of the soldiers? What is the unintended message when using such a device? When the soldier looks like a walking arsenal and can be identified by the ever-present packhorse gate as they walk how can the true mission objectives be met? I believe that the highly trained, exceptionally educated, superior morality of the volunteer soldier is being ripped off in an effort to create unsustainable technologies at the cost of research into making the infantryman a more effective soldier.

Rob Thornton

Fri, 12/07/2007 - 7:57pm

Its all about evolution and we've been doing that for a long time.

I read the article this morning, and I figured I might comment on it, particularly as someone who worked on FCS from 2004-2006 as the FCS BCT Experimental Element CAB (Combined Arms BN) Ops guy in Mobile Command Group 1 (thats just the name for the Ops guy in the BN CDRs track) and as the same for BDE CDR later on. Given, the tracks were mock ups in a high speed simulations bay, but we nugged out some hard tactical and to a lesser degree operational problems. We did so by a variety of experiments throughout the spectrum of operations, and in varying conditions. Basically the experimental element was a reduced BCT Staff, with very reduced HQs for the CABs and supporting BNs (such as NLOS - or the FA, the FSB, and the RSTA). We were to the point where we had operators/crews for various platforms and UMS (unmanned systems). It was a very ambitious program, and one where we as COL Roy Waggoners (an Infantryman who really has just about done it all & has the T-Shirt) thin green line to inject reality into it - we kept up with ongoing Army operations by bringing in guys from the SBCTs, modular forces, OIF, OEF and SOF, as well as some sharp contractors with Vietnam, ODS, Balkan, and Panama experiences. We also went out with DARPA and Industry as system leads to explain the TTP we were developing (mostly adopting from solid tactics) so the people making the "stuff" would not get "Buck Rogers" syndromes. I was the Unmanned Ground Vehicle guy - but I touched most everything else as we figured out how this stuff would work together and how to keep it focused on the soldier employing it. Ill also say here before I forget that COL Schaill is the right guy to head the EBCT out at Bliss - he stood firm and gave the suits and the geeks the Heisman more then once while being my BN CDR out at 1-24 IN during the SBCT IOT&E - he and COL Bob Brown also underwrote the risks we took to really find out what the organization(s) could do - not the equipment - the unit as outfitted with the equipment! Both went to OIF in 04 (as the DCO and CDR of 1/25th SBCT) and brought back those experiences to shape the way they see the future.

What I thought might be good so that we dont get wrapped around what the press says about FCS, or how Industry thinks they should sell it to politicians is ask a few questions about different systems within FCS - because these systems are going to make it out in the spiral - the end result will be units with real people with better stuff to do the tactical tasks they need to do - technology is at its most useful on the tactical end - regardless of if you are doing COIN or a conventional fight - or something in between:

Would it be good if you could emplace a sensor at a tier 1 IED site that you could leave unattended that would alert you and give you indicators of somebody trying to emplace and IED?

Would it be good if you could then put up a small UAV that could perch or hover with IR capability that could either target that activity with a BLOS round (beyond line of sight as targeted by the operator through the Class One UAV? Or follow that team out back to the house it came out of - the whole time being watched from within the PL or PSGs track - not as its viewed back in the TOC and then relayed to the patrol?

How about for a squad setting in a point ambush as part of a larger platoon area ambush in an urban environment and wants to do a quick R&S but cant move - so they call up the PLT HQs and they do an R&S over the platoon area - then parks it on some piece of high terrain that overwatches where the 2 Opals and Bongo truck have been seen before?
How about the use of the crew of the MGV being able to track the movements of the squad after they dismount? Could this quicken the response for evacuation or for direct fire support? Could it lessen the chances of fratricide?

How about a UGV ARV-Light (Armed Robotic Vehicle) that can be programmed to recon a route through restrictive terrain - and actually think its the same size and weight as a the MGVs (manned ground vehicles) you are going to bring through there and send back updated info on the route and everything about it - how about the information goes directly into your BFT or EPLRS FBCB2 and all you do is notice the new options youve got?

How about that same robot carrying a modular mission payload (might be lethal or non-lethal- but well say lethal) of a M240, or maybe something heavier with over 10,000 rounds - lets say it has articulated suspension that allows it to climb (it exists y the way - thanks to DARPA) and keep up with the dismounted patrol. Lets say it also carries better comms because it has a Power Amp that you can access from your own MBITR sized radio, and has powerful optics on it that you can use and see through something smaller then a lap top?

How about a vehicle that has the capability to tell you when something important might break - and alert the maintenance contact team - or at least tell the Maint Contact team what is broke and what to bring out.

What if you and all the vehicles in your element could rehearse a mission on the digital terrain that except for the friction of real life was almost exactly as it was going to look when you actually drove it? Kind of like a mission fly through - hell just getting people into the right spots and down the right roads is pain in the butt - would if you could make it just a little better?

What if before you took your informant on the raid to nab a tier 1 personality that youd been tracking for weeks, you as the PL or CO CDR could have him look through the robots sensors (optics) and tell you "yes, that is the house" in real time as opposed to hitting the wrong house a block away because the informant pointed to the wrong house picked off the overflight photo of the OH-58D? How about just prior to the assault as the outer cordon went in the 1 or more small UAVs and perched them on various roof tops or high ground overwatching the most likely exfil routes and then you could have somebody move in and either kill them or pick them up - vs. finding an empty hole?

What if you could use a SUGV (Small Unmanned Ground Vehicle to go in a cave or crawl space and check for trip wires or other hazards - and it let you control the tempo better?

What if you could access a HN, OGA or International Data base on the biometrics of a guy at a TCP and then you found out this guy was the no shit baddest MF on the planet - and by nabbing him you just put a major crimp in international terrorist group as well as shutting off support for the local group that has moved into your AO?
How about accessing all the known demographic and infrastructure of a new area for a host of missions? How about the name of a doctor working at a local hospital?

If you like any of that - its all FCS like stuff. FCS, although most often identified with the now 27 ton MGV, is really about stuff that lets us, the soldier - do tasks better and seize faster, then retain initiative longer to let us do unto them before they do unto us.

Ive also included a link from an article I wrote back in 2005 called The Case for Robots in the SBCT Now ( Its a little dated - but it gives you the basics of UMS. What is changed is Ive thought allot about how robotics might have been useful to me in Iraq. I also know that the tech has actually matured allot - Spinner (the DARPA project Mike Perschbacher headed is now Crusher - and it rocks) - BTW anyone having an opportunity to work with DARPA should jump on it - those guys are not afraid to break stuff right in front of you, and they listen better then any Industry guys when you tell them how you are or would tactically employ something.

I had my heartburn with some of the Industry folks as well - but I trust leaders like COL Schaill to provide push back to anyone who'd try to sell us down the river. The important things as I see them are to provide the soldiers the best tools and tech available - we'll put it to good use, we will not be constrained by how the marketing campaign said it'd be used; the second thing is focus on stuff that will help us do the same tasks better - don't try and replace us - people are the decision makers and in the fog, friction and chance of war - good leaders are what make the difference - in other words - focus on effectivness, not efficiency. If FCS continues to do those two things (and I think with leaders like COL Schaill it will) then we'll continue to be the best equipped Army on the battlefied.
Best, Rob

BEst, Rob

jesus reyes (not verified)

Fri, 12/07/2007 - 6:04am

Million dollar robots to take out 200 dollar IED's. Borrow the money from the Chinese. Brilliant.