BOWMAN – THE FINAL (EXPENSIVE) SOLUTION
By Julian Nettlefold, Editor, BATTLESPACE
10 Mar 07. It is very often the case that news breaks on the last day of any show. This may be because exhibitors are tired and want to go home so talk more openly as their eye is really on their flight home.
As the AUSA Winter Symposium drew to a close, news came to BATTLESPACE that the U.K. MoD was preparing the ground for a ‘Final Solution’ to the troubled BOWMAN Programme. This comes at the same time as a damning report from the Public Accounts Committee, of which more later.
At the recent IDEX Press Conference, Clifford Dewell of General Dynamics U.K. gave an update on the BOWMAN Combat Infrastructure Platform (CIP) Programme, the process by which the Command Systems software controlling the system was upgraded using a number of ‘Software Drops’ to enable the system to cope with the extra requirements placed by the Customer for new systems and BISAs.
GD told the audience at IDEX that BCIP 6 the last and most powerful upgrade was not funded and would not be functional until the end of the decade. BCIP 6 is the fundamental software brain of the system which enables the large data packages such as those from Watchkeeper to be distributed on the system.
A source close to BATTLESPACE said that GD (UK) issued an RFI to various companies including a number of key software companies for Expressions of Interest (EOIs) to supply GD (UK) and the MoD with a solution to make the BOWMAN system 100% functional. One company told BATTLESPACE that they would not respond until the question as who would be the Prime had been settled. They were not happy that GD (UK) would be Prime for their solution. Another source told BATTLSPACE that General Dynamics had spent a considerable sum of its own money plus the MoD money to upgrade the Command Systems software to the required level and that GD appeared satisfied that they could provide the bulk of the requirement in-house.
However this problem was foreseen by many outside the MoD and GD many years before as they saw the Command Systems software as not robust enough. We will not rehearse the history of the Command Systems choice but in short, the software is designed, as a safety feature, to transmit voice and data to every recipient, which is ok for a Battalion but not for the British Army and certainly not for an Army which has new requirements for data and image distribution, such as Watchkeeper.
This new requirement is of coursed all related to the seventh exam question on the original BOWMAN Requirement. All the bidders were asked how much it would costs to fund CIP, the operating system for the BISAs. Whilst we appreciate that such requirements as Watchkeeper were not included in the final question, one bidder, TRW, using its extensive U.S. Force XXI expertise and knowledge offered a solution that would give free access to any upgrades required for a down payment.
TRW had said that CIP would cost $400m but they would do it for $200m and give free software upgrades, Thales said they could not do it whilst CDC said they could do it but would name a price! Hence TRW was deemed to be $200m over the CDC bid! The fact that the actual bill has been well over £600m is your answer, with more to come.
General Charles Cartwright, FCS Supremo and General Dan Zinini of SAIC gave an update to the Press on Thursday for FCS.
One part of the presentation revolved around the use of data and voice on the battlefield using the FCS software, of which 5 million lines of code have been delivered and being actively trialled at Fort Bliss and at Boeing’s Huntingdon Beach facility.
The key feature as stated by both parties was that the FCS software had gateways and a distribution system which allowed voice and data to be distributed to the required soldiers. Thus each soldier has his own IP address which identifies him and thus the level of information which he is required to receive, in stark contrast