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FUTURE COMBAT SYSTEMS PROJECT OUT OF CONTROL?

IS THE BOEING FUTURE COMBAT SYSTEMS PROJECT SPIRALLING OUT OF CONTROL?

25 Oct 04. Boeing’s Future Combat Systems team and Army team leader General Cartwright, gave a press briefing during AUSA, in an effort to reassure the press that all was well and that milestones were being met. The content of the brief was similar to one given to UK press earlier in the year. The company admitted that the key vehicle requirement had slipped 2-3 years resulting in an in-service date of 2016.

The Editor asked Boeing with regard to the reported discussions of co-operation between the US and the UK on co-operation between the US FCS and UK FRES requirements. Dennis Muillenberg said that a proposal was being out to Congress on October 27th with regard to allowing key technologies of FCS to be transferred to FRES.

However a BAE SYSTEMS spokesman told BATTLESPACE that because of the delays in the FCS project and the urgent desire by the UK to field systems in 2009 that the UK would be wary of entering into formal technology transfer agreements on FCS when BAE could source existing technologies through its won industry sources.

The briefing also gave details of the spiral developments now required to give the Current Force key FCS technologies, bringing them into service before the reported in-service date. These spiral include robotics from iRobot, armouring and C4I systems. It is likely that, given the seriousness of the situation in Iraq, that these spiral procurements will increase making the final structure of FCS uncertain as the ‘Current Force’ may well match the proposed FCS force in terms of technology and efficiency. The spiral development charts shown by Boeing were completely meaningless to anyone but a professor of early Egyptian hieroglyphics! The briefing was also interspersed with videos showing how RPG warheads could be destroyed by vehicles on the move, a useful distraction from the real reason for the Press Conference which was clearly hitting problems!

Muillenberg attempted to deflect these concerns by stating that FCS was a ‘network first’ system, once the network was secured then the systems would be slotted into that network, all equipped with the ability to communicate. The Network may be the sole survivor for the Boeing team in this huge project for which the Wall Street Journal reported that Boeing is receiving $5bn, SAIC $2bn and management charges of $2bn, huge sums.

Certain sectors of industry appear reluctant to wait for the long lead-times for the systems and technology and have branched out on their own offering the DoD systems comparable to those required by FCS and JTRS for immediate availability. On e such company, United Defense which has developed its own tracked vehicle of the future, Thunderbolt with a 120mm gun and electro-reactive armor shown last year. Sources close to BATTLESPACE suggest that the company was dissuaded from showing the latest version of the system this year as it might embarrass the FCS community. REMOTEC, the Northrop Grumman robotic company told BATTLESPCACE that its TAGS, Tactical Amphibious Ground Support System, a family of robots developed from its losing FCS entrant was up and running and ready to go.

Although JTRS is not coming under the same scrutiny a number of briefings reported here at the show from ITT and Raytheon clearly show that the losing teams for JTRS Clusters are not standing still and offering advanced systems now for the Army in Iraq.

These concerns come at a time of a report highlighted in the Wall Street Journal of a new U.S. Army report highlights the risk of giving Boeing Co. a broad, supervisory role over FCS.

But with Boeing embroiled in a widening scandal over tainted Air Force contracts, a recent study commissioned by the Army is said to underscore the risks of giving a single contractor such a broad mandate. The study has not been made public, the newspaper added.

The report from the Institute for Defense Analyses

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