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Today's Operations Build Future Military

By Capt. Steve Alvarez, USA
American Forces Press Service

ORLANDO, Fla., Nov. 30, 2005 – The military of the future is evolving today, military and defense industry officials said at the opening of the Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation and Education Conference here Nov. 29.

Before a packed audience of attendees from academia, international armed services and the defense industry, speakers expressed the training and simulation community's vision for the future of joint operational training, touching slightly on the challenges that must be navigated to deliver complex systems such as the Army's Future Combat Systems.

"The ideas and collaboration that occur here at I/ITSEC," Dennis Muilenburg said, make an immense difference to those serving abroad in the global war on terrorism. Muilenburg is the Boeing Company's program manager for the Army's FCS project. He called FCS a "system of systems."

The FCS is considered a critical element in the Army's transformation. Officials say FCS integrates the soldier and combat network into one system. It is the core of the Army's efforts to ensure the service, as part of the joint team, will operate better than ever before and better than any opponent it may face in the 21st century. It is designed to deploy forces any time, anywhere.

FCS modernizes the Army using unmanned and manned systems connected by a common network. The system enables the modular force to provide soldiers with leading-edge technologies to operate in complex environments. At the core of the system is embedded training.

Lessons learned in Operation Iraqi Freedom and other facets of the global war on terrorism, FCS officials said, show that joint, combined-arms, network-centric forces can defeat the enemy quickly and then be key to peacekeeping missions. The Army, as the lead military service at this year's conference, is using these lessons to transform into a faster, more agile force, officials said.

The FCS will deploy 3,200 soldiers in an FCS brigade combat team and train them at the soldier and system level. Project officials said that the program will bring 70 to 80 percent commonality between vehicles used for different missions -- such as infantry operations, reconnaissance, maintenance and recovery, and command and control -- and other vehicles.

"The system will improve the ability to insert combat force into the white space, if you will," Muilenburg said.

FCS, officials said, will decrease the logistical "footprint" of the Army on the battlefield by 30 to 50 percent. The project, they said, was about providing an affordable, but lethal, force to the Army. FCS personnel pointed out that the project is no longer just in its "paper stages," but that many project concepts are being tested in the field, around the world.

For example, hundreds of unmanned aerial vehicles are being tested at stateside military installations, and unmanned robots are being used to clear improvised explosive devices, caves and urban terrain obstacles throughout Iraq.

The FCS will enable soldiers to train on their "go-to-war vehicle" prior to deploying and during their deployment, both mounted and unmounted. And officials predict that as the FCS is developed, product designs will reduce the training burden on units and decrease training costs. They predict lowered costs partly due to the commonality between the training and operational systems.

"The joint environment is implicit in how we run this program," Muilenburg said. "Success here is highly dependent on the one-team concept. This is truly the leading edge of training transformation," he said.

More than 360 companies in 35 states are involved in the FCS project. The Army began transforming three years ago with the premise of taking training to the soldier, not the soldier to the training.

Muilenburg showed a video "glimpse of the future" to attendees, titled "Assault on Normandy," in which a small Army unit deploys to secure an objective. The soldiers are tracked on a computer screen by the command element as they make their way to the objective. Overhead, UAVs provide a broad view of the battlefield in real time to the soldiers.

As the soldiers begin to move toward the objective, the enemy repels the assault. Unmanned gun vehicles engage the enemy forces and assist the friendly forces in neutralizing targets. Satellites help identify targets and aid in the launch of missile and artillery fire onto enemy strongholds.

When the soldiers reach their objective, a robotic vehicle enters a room and offers the soldiers a view of what's there before they enter it. Soldiers wounded while breaching the room are monitored as their medical and physiological data is transmitted to personnel watching the force's health.

FCS will begin further field experimentation in 2006 and is scheduled for delivery in 2008. The first functional FCS combat brigade will roll out in 2014.

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Related Sites:
Future Combat Systems
Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation and Education Conference

Related Articles:
Exhibition Focuses on Joint Operations, Disaster Preparation



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