U.S. Army Lauds Relevance Of Future Weapons For Today

U.S. Army Lauds Relevance Of Future Weapons For Today
June 12th, 2008  
Team Infidel

Topic: U.S. Army Lauds Relevance Of Future Weapons For Today

U.S. Army Lauds Relevance Of Future Weapons For Today
June 11, 2008 By Andrea Shalal-Esa, Reuters
WASHINGTON--The U.S. Army brought a new hybrid electric tank, an unmanned helicopter and other weapons that make up the $160 billion Future Combat Systems (FCS) modernization effort to Washington on Wednesday, lauding their relevance to troops fighting in Iraq now.
"We're finally to a point in this program where the Future Combat System is real," Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey said at a demonstration for lawmakers and the media that was staged on the Mall, with the Capitol as a backdrop.
Casey said he agreed with Defense Secretary Robert Gates that any weapons system developed when the country was at war needed be relevant to the fight at hand. Gates has repeatedly mentioned FCS as one of the big-ticket weapons programs that have to prove their value in battling insurgencies.
Managed by Boeing Co and SAIC Inc, FCS is a system of 14 major weapons linked by computer networks.
The Army has restructured the FCS program twice since its start in 2003 to allow the fielding of individual technologies sooner, to cut four of the initial 18 weapons systems, and to stretch its overall schedule by four more years.
Casey said early versions of systems developed for FCS were already being used by troops in Iraq.
The Army recently accelerated testing of a small unmanned aircraft and a ground-based robot with an eye to fielding them sooner, but Casey said no firm decisions had been made yet.
"We're working on a strategy," he said. "It's on us to demonstrate, one, the relevance and two, the future utility of these systems. That's what we're doing out here today."
Four initial technologies, including a portable missile system. and unattended ground sensors that collect intelligence, are being tested now and are due to be sent into combat with troops in 2011. The bulk of the FCS weapons systems are to be deployed in 2015.
Casey said the new manned "Non Line of Sight Cannon," a large tank operated by just two soldiers, would dramatically reduce fuel use on the battlefield once it was fielded in seven years since it runs on a hybrid electric drive.
FCS program manager Maj. Gen. Charles Cartwright said 30 unmanned Maverick helicopters were being sent to Iraq soon.
He said officials had already demonstrated the ability to relay video images from the Maverick unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVS) to Humvees in the laboratory and would now test that capability at Fort Bliss, Texas.
Casey said he spoke about the FCS program a week ago with Pentagon acquisition chief John Young, who just conducted a comprehensive nine-hour review of the program. Young told reporters last week that he planned to look more carefully at each of the 14 weapons systems within the overall FCS program, a comment that raised concern for some that he could be eyeing moves to separate the program into parts.
He said Young was delving into more detail about the individual weapons that make up FCS, a move he said was "very productive" and not a precursor to a breakup of the program.
"I've not had any discussion with him about that," Casey told Reuters after his remarks.
FCS program officials say splitting up the program could lead to disconnects between the FCS communications network, the various new ground- and air-based weapons that would use it, and current weapons that also need to be linked in.
Gregg Martin, Boeing vice president and FCS program manager, said the program was working to provide details about the separate weapons systems that make up FCS for Young ahead of a Defense Acquisition Board review at the end of July.
He said the program was carefully watching congressional action on the FCS budget, warning that any cuts would result in schedule delays and revamped contracts with suppliers.
The House of Representatives cut the FCS budget by $233 million, while the Senate fully funded it. Additional House and Senate committees must still act on the funding for the program.

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