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18 Sep 03. Boeing Co. (NYSE:BA – News) said on Thursday it will meet in about a month with a dozen other military contractors and technology companies to discuss its networked battlefield concept aimed at revolutionizing the way the United States wages war.

The initial meeting will begin assembling partners for the Future Combat System, a $15-billion U.S. Army contract led by Boeing and privately held Science Applications International Corp. to develop a broad set of communications links designed to make U.S. combat forces more lethal and nimble.

The FCS project aims to link troops in the field with surveillance satellites, aircraft, artillery, warships and their commanders with wireless Internet-like connections, making military operations more efficient.

The system would include hand-held devices, similar to personal digital assistants (PDAs), for troops on the ground. Chicago-based Boeing is not disclosing specific participants but plans to include most or all major U.S. defense contractors — a group led by top Pentagon supplier Lockheed Martin Corp (NYSE:LMT – News), as well as Northrop Grumman Corp (NYSE:NOC – News), Raytheon Corp. (NYSE:RTN – News) and General Dynamics Corp. (NYSE:GD – News). Software giant Microsoft Corp. (NasdaqNM:MSFT – News) will also likely be involved, said Carl O’Berry, vice president for strategic architecture in Boeing’s military and space division.

“Microsoft is probably going to be one of those companies,” O’Berry told reporters at a Boeing facility in Anaheim. “We are going to buy a lot of their software.” Network security is a major concern and program officials said they were working to safeguard the system through encryption schemes and internal controls.

In addition, FCS network communications will occur sporadically, minimizing the chance for computer hackers to infiltrate the system, unlike typical home and business use of Internet connections that are left on for hours or days at a time, O’Berry said.

“It’s very difficult to find and exploit those connections,” O’Berry said. O’Berry said he was not concerned about security in Microsoft products, despite repeated breaches of the public Internet by computer viruses and other attacks, often targeting Microsoft software, which is used to run the majority of personal computers in the world. “Microsoft makes some damn good software, despite all the angst” over security issues, O’Berry said.

Comment: The development of FCS continues apace in the US whilst FRES is stranded awaiting the next stage award of a concept development contract now not expected until October at the earliest. Sources close to BATTLESPACE suggest that the MoD is looking closely at FCS developments and may consider using one of the LSI’s Boeing or SAIC to lead the FRES development. Watch this space!

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