FCS SPINOUTS TAKE SHAPE
By Julian Nettlefold, Editor, BATTLESPACE
28 Mar 08. There is a spring in FCS supreme, General Charles Cartwright’s step. FCs has gone from concept to reality with a feel in the air that systems will soon start to roll off the line.
In previous AUSA FCS Briefs General Cartwright had to intermingle his briefs with videos of specific items such as the APS, when the questioning got difficult! It was not helped by the supporting slides and Power Points with strange Egyptian-style hieroglyphics which confused the audience even more.
But now, General Cartwright has product to discuss and demonstrate ably assisted by General Dan Zinini of SAIC and Dennis Muilenberg’s replacement Gregg Martin. Dennis has been promoted to President Support Systems at Boeing IDS.
At the AUSA briefing, General Cartwright confirmed that in January, the Army accelerated test schedules for two FCS robotic prototypes based on current readiness levels and positive feedback from soldiers who are using early versions of the systems in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In January 25 FCS Small Unmanned Ground Vehicle (SUGV) units, developed jointly with iRobot Corporation and 11 Class I (Block 0) Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) developed jointly with Honeywell will be delivered in increments to Army Evaluation Task Force soldiers at Fort Bliss, Texas. The soldiers will train with the equipment before conducting user testing in the summer. Deliveries will occur between January and June 2008 with testing expected to conclude in September. Based on soldier feedback, a recommendation will be made to senior Army leadership whether to field the platforms or continue with system development under the core FCS program.
“The acceleration of the SUGV and Class I (Block 0) UAV prototypes and testing underscores the Army’s commitment to enhancing soldier survivability and mission effectiveness by getting the capabilities into their hands as soon as possible,” Gregg Martin said. “The decision to accelerate, driven in part by feedback from soldiers in theater, also confirms that we are on the right track to deliver a crucial capability that is needed and desired by our soldiers currently serving in combat operations.”
The 30-pound SUGV is a small, lightweight, soldier-portable unmanned ground vehicle that is capable of conducting military operations in high-risk environments, including urban terrain, tunnels, sewers and caves, without exposing soldiers directly to potential hazards. The Class I (Block 0) UAV, a platoon-level asset and the smaller of the two FCS unmanned vehicle classes, will provide dismounted soldiers with unprecedented reconnaissance, surveillance and target acquisition capabilities on the battlefield. The Class I UAV can operate in complex urban and jungle terrains with vertical takeoff, hover and landing capability, and can be operated autonomously or controlled by dismounted soldiers.
Another development outlined by General Cartwright was the installation of a camera on the SUGV to enable a digital picture to be sent anywhere on the battlefield giving crucial information as to who is in the building and what equipment they have, this forms part of Spinout 2.
In October the Micro UAV is slated to be deployed to Iraq. as is the SUGV. The next stage will be to add the SRW to the waveband suite to enable the bandwidth required to pass large packets of data. A new ‘X-Box-type’ controller will enable EO/IR images to be passed through a video goggle. This system is also being developed for ITT advanced NVGs and the DRS TWS.
ITT is currently developing an enhanced NVG system, ENVG. The company was selected after a competitive process as the sole provider of ENVG in 2005. Developmental and operational testing were completed in the summer of 2007, and the product is currently in low-rate production. The system combines an IR camera with a third generation image tube, which is interchangeable at the flick of a switch d