Boeing Future Combat System shows maturity in joint experiment

By John McHale

NELLIS AFB, Nev. - The U.S. Army’s Future Combat System (FCS) program, managed by the Lead Systems Integrator team of Boeing and partner Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC), demonstrated networking and systems capabilities in the first of two major field experiments scheduled for 2006.

FCS represented the U.S. Army’s main effort in the Joint Expeditionary Force Experiment 2006 (JEFX ’06), conducted last month at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. The U.S. Air Force-led exercise involved elements from all services and several allied nations in a joint environment.

JEFX ’06 is intended to accelerate the research, development, and fielding of new combat systems. It provided one of the first opportunities to test the functionality and applicability of FCS technologies designated for the first “spin out” of capabilities to the current force in 2008, as well as network systems maturity, in a realistic environment, Boeing officials say.

“JEFX ’06 provided an ideal opportunity to demonstrate and assess technology maturity and program progress in real terrain in a real operational venue,” says Dennis Muilenburg, Boeing vice president-general manager and FCS program manager. “It also provided a first look at the network-centric capabilities FCS can bring to the warfighter and joint operations.”

FCS is designed to link soldiers to a wide range of weapons, sensors, and information systems through a mobile network that will enable unprecedented levels of joint interoperability, shared situational awareness and the ability to execute highly synchronized operations.

FCS technologies demonstrated at JEFX ’06 included prototypes of Tactical-Unattended Ground Sensors and seven stretch High-Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles, or HMMWVs, operating as FCS command and control vehicle surrogates. These HMMWVs, each with three operator workstations, featured the latest versions of System of Systems Common Operating Environment (SOSCOE), Sensor Data Management, Level One Fusion, and Battle Command/Mission Execution software.

During the experiment, Tactical-Unattended Ground Sensors, equipped with seismic and acoustic capabilities, detected enemy, or “red,” threats and relayed the information to the surrogate command and control vehicles where the data was fused with other intelligence from soldiers on the ground, including locations of friendly, or “blue,” forces.

The command and control vehicles then relayed threat and high-priority target information to the Combined Air & Space Operations Center, which fed the information to strike aircraft. Simultaneously, information from the Combined Air & Space Operations Center collected from joint air assets, such as threat images, location of friendly aircraft and weather data, passed through the FCS command and control vehicles to soldiers in the field.

The team demonstrated real operational value when, for the first time, the network provided near real-time threat data, with shared situational awareness between ground and air assets, Boeing officials say.

A concurrent modeling and simulation exercise at Ft. Monmouth, N.J., added more FCS systems to the mix, including the Intelligent Munitions System and Non-Line-of-Sight Launch System.

The data and information obtained during JEFX ’06 will form the groundwork for the FCS program’s Experiment 1.1-a three-phase risk mitigation exercise beginning in late summer 2006. This experiment also will provide early hands-on feedback from soldiers as the program continues on pace to deliver the first FCS capabilities to current force soldiers in 2008.

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