By C. Todd Lopez
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (Feb. 28, 2008) -- The firing platform for the Army's first new vehicle type in decades will start rolling off the production line this winter, under the service's modernization program: Future Combat Systems.
The firing platform that is now being produced is for the Mounted Combat System 120mm cannon. The Mounted Combat System is one of eight new Manned Ground Vehicle types. Like the other seven MGV types, the cannon is a hybrid-electric powered vehicle.
"The first cannon that rolls out, and every Manned Ground Vehicle, is going to be hybrid electric," said FCS Program Manager Maj. Gen. Charles Cartwright, during a session at the Association of the U.S. Army's Institute of Land Warfare Winter Symposium and Exposition here. "Coming off the engine is about 420 kilowatts of power, which means now, for the first time, you are looking at all-electric vehicles. We'll have fiber optics inside vehicles, and the capability of bringing sensor communications -- which all use electrical power -- inside these platforms for the very first time."
The other seven FCS Manned Ground Vehicles are:
• command and control vehicle,
• reconnaissance and surveillance vehicle
• infantry carrier vehicle
• non-line-of-sight cannon (NLOS-C)
• non-line-of-sight mortar (NLOS-M)
• medical vehicle-evacuation and medical vehicle-treatment
• recovery and maintenance vehicle
All eight MGV types will be powered by electric motors. The electric motors, in turn, will be powered by batteries, which are charged by diesel motors and generators. As technology matures, the engine will rely solely on fuel cells for power, Cartwright said.
"The engine's on the side," he noted. "So we start out fully hybrid electric. Then one day, when they say fuel cells are ready, we pull out the engine, and in that place goes the fuel cell capability to produce the energy to power the battery that now propels the vehicle."
Army officials said the high level of electrical power generated by the MGVs is necessary to provide advanced capabilities to Soldiers. Current Army vehicle types lack sufficient power output because they are not electrically powered.
Cartwright also briefed session attendees on the remarkable progress made to date with other key FCS technologies, including the Non-Line-Of-Sight Launch System.
"Two weeks ago we got our non-live-round, C-130 airdrop certification from the Air Force," he said. "In about a year ... we'll go back and get our live round [certification], and it will give us the capability to airdrop a complete 15-round missile pod from a C-130 Hercules."
The NLOS-LS is a deployable launch system, capable of launching 15 precision attack missiles The NLOS-LS is self-contained, highly deployable and remotely controlled. Because it can be quickly deployed with minimal logistical support, the NLOS-LS is ideally suited for operations in distant and austere 21st-Century environments, Army officials said.
Cartwright said both urban unmanned ground sensors and tactical unmanned ground sensors have been delivered to the Army Evaluation Task Force at Ft. Bliss for Soldier evaluation.
The urban UGS is designed to be a "left behind" asset for constant, 24-7 surveillance. Soldiers could leave an urban UGS in a house that they cleared, and thereby eliminate the need for a Soldier to stay behind and monitor that structure. The UGS would alert the Soldiers to the re-emergence of enemy combatants or insurgents.
Tactical UGS includes specialty classifications for conducting intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance operations and chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear testing. Both classes of UGS are designed to be carried by Soldiers on their person.
Conference attendees were also briefed about recent Soldier exercises involving the FCS Small Unmanned Ground Vehicle, or SUGV, and the FCS Class I Unmanned Aerial System, known as UAS.
Gregg Martin, vice president and program manager, FCS, the Boeing Company, also discussed advances in Future Combat Systems. He told conference attendees the small unmanned ground vehicle has already been involved in several Soldier exercises.
"We actually went through (with Army guidance) an acceleration of both the lighter-weight (roughly 30-pound) SUGV and the Class 1 UAS, [which] we call Block 0," said Greg Martin, the Boeing Company's FCS vice president and general manager. "We've accelerated those capabilities... for a closer evaluation by the AETF."
Eleven Class-1, Block-0 Unmanned Aerial Systems have been built, and five have been delivered. Moreover, three of 25 SUGVs, have been delivered, Martin said. They are going through Soldier training now," he added. "We'll deliver the rest of those new FCS systems in the April timeframe; they will then go though a Soldier evaluation around July."
When the Army adjusted the FCS program, it dropped the Class 2 UAS from the lineup. The laser designator capabilities from that vehicle were then added to the Class 1 UAS. The addition of that capability required redesign of the Class 1 UAS engine to account for the additional weight of the laser designator. The Class IV UAV, a joint Army-Navy program, will take delivery of its sensor package within the next two years, Martin said.
The FCS network also is coming along nicely, Army and industry officials said. The network has five layers: sensors, applications, services, transport and standards. Ground mobile radios are part of the transport layer and are being used by Soldiers in the field today.
"On radio side we have GMRs out in the field, working well," Martin said. "Those radios are pre-engineering developmental models; we get PDMs in the late 2009 time frame."
"We also have handheld, manpack, and small form-fit radios that are going through their paces. We are actually starting integration of HMS radio with our Class 1 vehicle in anticipation of ... testing this summer."
The System of Systems Common Operating Environment (SOSCOE), an operating system for FCS, is part of the network service layer.
"We're at roughly 70 percent complete on the application build of SoSCOE," Martin said. SOSCOE is "performing very well on the application side. We're about 40 percent through our software development, so we just completed integration of Build 1, which accounts for about a third of the software.
"Build 2 is about another third of the software," Martin said. "We've broken that up into Build 2-early and Build 2-final. Build 2-early will start to drop in the April timeframe, and start the integration process throughout the summer. So, great progress on the application side."
Army officials said they have adopted a phased development approach for FCS. This allows for the resolution of problems and technical challenges well before these problems and challenges can disrupt the Army's entire FCS modernization effort.