With FCS in the crosshairs, the Army has scurried to publicize progress -- hence my invitation for a daylong show-and-tell at Ft. Bliss -- and accelerate the schedule. The deployments of the SUGV, the missile launcher, an unmanned aerial vehicle and the first phase of the network have been moved up to 2011. Whether this is enough to save the program remains to be seen. This summer, the Defense Acquisition Board will complete a critical review, deciding whether FCS will move forward in its entirety, in a scaled-down version, or at all.
Intent on success, the military has assigned a 1,000-member brigade, the Army Evaluation Task Force, to test prototypes, provide feedback, and develop new strategies for network-enabled combat. Stationed at Ft. Bliss, more than 90 percent of the task-force members previously served in Afghanistan, Iraq or both. After the SUGV mock assault, I went down to the street and approached the robot's driver, Tony Salinero. "In Iraq, how often do you get a house with no door that you could drive a robot right through?" I asked. Salinero laughed, and then there was an awkward pause. "Occasionally," he finally said. Inside the building I met the soldiers who had been cast as insurgents in the SUGV drill. They seemed to lack the moxie that one would expect from dangerous rebels. One said, "We're two guys, and they had like six of them coming in. What you gonna do? Die in place."
Reinventing the Radio
To achieve the kind of interconnectedness on which FCS relies, the Army needs a portable computer that allows soldiers to wirelessly share intelligence through voice, text, pictures or video; initiate commands in remote computers; access informational servers; and use satellites to determine their location and the locations of others. A cynical take on FCS is that the Army is spending $200 billion and waiting until 2015 to invent a cellphone no more sophisticated than that carried by the average American teenager today.
"Every other day, somebody jabs me about cellular -- you know: 'It's so prevalent and available,' " says Col. Michael Williamson, the project manager for FCS network integration. But the infrastructure that allows you to wirelessly call and Web-surf while sipping a Frappuccino at Starbucks has been built up over the course of decades at a cost of hundreds of billions of dollars, he says. In war zones, modern communications are often limited or nonexistent. Even when robust commercial Internet and cellular technologies are in place, for security reasons the military can't rely on them. Communicating over widely known standards would enable an enemy to easily intercept information, like the coordinates for an upcoming missile strike. Worse yet, even encrypted transmissions could allow foes to pinpoint soldiers' locations and to launch counterattacks. When the Army shows up to fight, it must therefore build a network from scratch, says Paul Geery, the director of network development at Boeing, the lead systems integrator for FCS. "Our constraint is to be able to take a fighting force, roll off a C-17 [cargo plane] or boat with nothing in place, and within a short period of time start operating in a network fashion."
The military has made considerable progress in the past decade at linking commanders at the battalion level and above. Leaders at war-zone bases have hardwired or satellite-enabled connections to a protected version of the Web. They can share intelligence data, reconnaissance imagery, logistics reports and battle plans. Rank-and-file warriors, however, are mostly cut off. The soldiers' networks that do exist are isolated, small and slow, with data-transmission rates measured in kilobits, not megabits, per second.
Lots of gee whiz tech here, but the comm system is really an issue. Expecting to have nearly universal availability of secure, reliable, and high tech comm seems an unrealistic expectation.
If the enemy finds a way to jam the net, system effectiveness plummets
Individual radios will be subject to breakdown, batteries, and any comm obstacles (metal walls, etc)
The enemy could capture one or more radios and get an immediate intelligence boost. Worst case scenario, they might figure the system out.
The pentagon has historically been in love with tech as a solution to all of our problems. I'm all for saving as many soldiers lives as possible. But, this system looks as if it might be compromised too easily -- with disastrous reults.
All our military personal are giving up their home lives, and/or their LIVES in war. You'd think the RICH would take interest in this and get on board in some way. Like maybe Bill Gates, whose life revolves around tech.
Most of this just seems too horizontal for my taste. American war should be verticle. We have unquestioned air superiority, so our assits should be airborn. Why put a cannon on the ground to be a target, when you can just arm your UAV?
When the enemy has nothing to shoot, what will he shoot?
American war should look like this:
1) Unmanned high altitude recon of anti-air and communications tech. (if necessary)
2) Coordinated long-range fire on anti-air and communications tech. (if necessary)
3) Cargo UAV deposites armed UAVs to warzone.
4) Using a high altitude communication UAV, guys in Nowheretown Nebraska, command the weapon systems on these UAV drones to eliminate targets (using onboard weapons or relaying coordinates for long range fire)
5) UAVs settle in stategic spots (sniping, survealance, etc) when flight time diminishes to continue to police the contained area.
24 control of any area with the only risk being money and carpel tunnel syndrom for our soldier-techies. End a riot or fight a war with no assets on the ground. That alone takes away any incintive for retaliation and increases American reach by removing barriers to engagement.
"The safty and speed of an ICBM, the descretion of a soldier." (I should TM this and have the military pay me a few million).
How long did it take to develop the field artillery's communication system for faster round on target? I can see this moving along with the same enthusiasm.
Battlefield advantage forever has started from the high ground downward. Today's high ground is outer space. Don't control that and you soon don't control anything.
The UAV Class 1 as Hover looks impressive but it seems to be easy recognized/identidied by the enemy per the picture with Hover parked on the wall outside the building. This is similar to the platform moving on the battlefield which builds with very height multibands antennas to support COTM, what happens if the enemy shoot down or disrupt the device or platform as mentioned? They are easy target recognized/identified by the enemy.
Re: oakspar77777 commentary, to wit:
I dunno, sounds a lil' too George Orwell to me.
Since when did modern day warfare become a videogame
my kid could play from his bedroom.
Anyone else disturbed by this trend? Or am I the
only one who remembers Mathew Broderick in "War Games"?
By the way, what's new on the cyber terror front?
Anyone paying attention?
I'm just sayin'.
I thought it was pretty cool that they took WALL-E from the movie and put him out in real life in the Army.
think the enemy could only listen in only if we were doing a mission anywhere near them
the ds has wiifi and you can only be 30ft away fro;m the host but if their is another berson between you and the host then u can be 30ft away from them and be well out of the host range and still be able to talk on pictochat
so maybe the army should widen the length of hte wyfiee conection ar somthing maybe encrypt it