By C. Todd Lopez
WASHINGTON (May 30, 2008) -- The first of the manned ground vehicles in Future Combat Systems will be unveiled in the week leading up to the Army's 233rd birthday, June 14.
Prototype 1 of the Non Line of Sight-Cannon will make its first public appearance on the National Mall directly in front of the U.S. Capitol Building, June 11. A total of eight such prototypes will eventually be delivered to Yuma Proving Grounds, Arizona, by 2009. The first five of those will be delivered by December 2008, the remaining three in early 2009.
At Yuma, Army testers from the Army Test and Evaluation Command, will put the eight prototype NLOS-C vehicles through rigorous, detail-oriented testing, to ensure they meet performance requirements, said Lt. Col. Robert McVay, product manager for the NLOS-C.
"At Yuma they will do mobility, safety, reliability and gun firing," he said. "What the 2008 prototype does for the Army is give us the ability to actually do real platform testing of the new technology -- of the hybrid electric drive, the traction drive subsystem, the hydrauneumatic suspension, the band track and the new 440kW power generator."
The eight prototypes will come in two configurations. The first five are an earlier configuration of the weapons system and chassis. The final three prototypes -- the system development and demonstration design variants. It is that variant that is expected to eventually be produced.
The NLOS-C brings to the battlespace a 155mm, 38-caliber cannon, fully automated armament system. The system is designed to improve the survivability of both itself and its two-man crew and can operate in a range of environmental conditions.
The NLOS-C is also designed to work in concert with other FCS manned ground vehicles to include the XM1204 Non Line of Sight-Mortar; XM1202 Mounted Combat System; XM1208 Medical Vehicle-Treatment and XM1207 Medical Vehicle-Evacuation; XM1205 Recovery and Maintenance Vehicle; XM1201 Reconnaissance and Surveillance Vehicles; XM1206 Infantry Carrier Vehicle; and XM1209 Command and Control Vehicle.
All eight of the FCS manned combat vehicles are mounted on nearly the same chassis -- they share more than 80 percent compatibility across the family of vehicles. They are unique in that they are electrically powered. A diesel engine on board turns a generator, which in turn charges batteries, which in turn powers electric motors that drive the tracks. In fact, the entire vehicle is electrically powered.
While at Yuma, it is primarily the chassis and the relationship between the chassis and mission module that will be evaluated. The mission module for the NLOS-C, a 38-caliber, 155-mm howitzer, has already been tested extensively at Yuma, independent of the chassis.
"That is the end-state gun, it has finished firing over 2,000 rounds since October 2006, as part of the gun development program," McVay said. "The mission module is approaching the 90-plus percent threshold. For the chassis -- this is the first time the Army will take a full hybrid-electric, independent semi-active suspension system and mate it with a mission module and run it into tests."
The testing at Yuma will put two years of testing on the chassis before a critical design review for the MGV family is performed in 2010.
"This will have impact for the other seven vehicles because it allows us to learn what works and what doesn't work before we build the other prototypes that get delivered in 2011," he said.
McVay said by 2010, the Army expects to take delivery of the first six "special interest program platform" NLOS-C vehicles at Fort Bliss, Texas. There, the Army Evaluation Task Force will begin its testing and development of tactics, techniques, procedures and doctrine for the vehicle. The task force is scheduled to receive six vehicles a year, between 2010 and 2012 -- for a total of 18.
The Army expects to see prototype vehicles for other FCS MGVs beginning in 2011. And by 2014, it's likely the NLOS-C will have reached full operational capability, and will be ready for fielding to combat units.