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By Scott R. Gourley

As a critical element in ongoing US Army transformation activities, the capstone Future Combat System (FCS) program is shifting into high gear in early 2007 as it begins to place those initial capabilities into the hands of soldiers in the field.

The acceleration of FCS capabilities was first unveiled during a US Army press conference on 22 July 2004. During that event, service representatives announced a program redesign that expanded the scope of the program while also accelerating delivery of available technologies and capabilities to the Current Forces.

Boeing and Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC), serving together as the Lead Systems Integrators (LSI) for the FCS program, welcomed the decision.

“This is a strong endorsement of our partnership with the Army and our performance on FCS,” said Dennis Muilenburg, vice president and general manager of FCS for Boeing. “We stand ready to work with the Army and our industry partners on the FCS One Team to develop and fully implement the Army’s plans.”

Among other things, the Army’s announcement expanded the scope of the program’s System Development and Demonstration (SDD) phase by adding four discrete “spirals” of capabilities for current force structures. It also fully funded the FCS network and its 18 core systems, four of which were previously deferred.

The technology “spirals” were subsequently re-designated as “Spin Outs” with Spin Out 1 slated to begin entering the current force in 2008 and the remaining three Spin Outs slated to follow every two years until the projected fielding of the first “pure” FCS Brigade Combat Team.

Other program terminology changes also took place in the fall of 2005, based on a 23 September 2005 direction from the Chief of Staff of the Army
(CSA) that the term “Unit of Action” – previously used to define the brigade-sized element of FCS, was to be removed from the Army’s Lexicon. The CSA stated that both current and future Army structures would be referred to in terms of four types of Brigade Combat Teams: Heavy, Light, Stryker and Future Combat System (FCS) [“System” being singular and not plural].

In late January 2006, the Army took another important step toward implementing the FCS technology Spin Outs with the designation of a specific combat unit to evaluate and test the emerging technologies.

Called the Evaluation Brigade Combat Team (EBCT), the unit will be based at Fort Bliss, Texas, in close proximity to White Sands Missile Range. Plans call for the EBCT to begin “standing up” in March 2007 with approximately 900 soldiers that will eventually expand to a full BCT size of approximately 3500 soldiers.

The first Spin Out of equipment will be delivered to the EBCT in 2008 for evaluation and testing. The three subsequent technology Spin Outs will occur in two year cycles, with the EBCT eventually slated to transition into the first “pure” FCS BCT in 2016.

The Army announcement was quickly followed by a flurry of additional program actions, ranging from the opening of a regional LSI office in El Paso in February 2006 to the opening of the Army’s Test Operation Complex at White Sands Missile Range in October 2006.

Amidst the flurry of preparations, BATTLESPACE recently spoke to Muilenburg about the status of the initial FCS technology Spin Out and some of the challenges facing the program over the coming year.

“We have three systems that are part of Spin Out 1: the Unattended Ground Sensors; the Non Line of Sight Launch System; and the Intelligent Munition System,” Muilenburg explained. “Those will be provided to the current force heavy brigade as part of FCS Spin Out 1. We will also deliver the network kit that will be installed into Abrams, Bradleys and Humvees. So that combination of capabilities is what we are talking about when we talk about Spin Out 1.”

He added that the first Spin Out is “really targeted towards pr

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