But What About The Network?
With such noble goals, why does FCS have so many doubters in Washington? Paul Francis, who authored the GAO's March 2008 report to Congress, describes the fundamental problem as one of putting the cart before the horse. The network is the key to FCS, and yet the Army dove into building every piece of equipment before proving the core network technologies that would connect them. If some of these don't pan out, major aspects of FCS may have to be scrapped and rethought.
The fate of the network and, therefore, of FCS, hangs principally on those JTRS radios, which will serve as the primary means of connection. But the JTRS program, launched in 1997, has been so plagued by delays and cost overruns that some components were nearly canceled before the program was reorganized and transferred from Army to Department of Defense oversight in 2005. To be sure, the technological challenges are significant. Features like the ability for the radios to assemble themselves into ad-hoc networks have little precedent, even in the civilian world. The JTRS radios must be compatible with all preexisting military radio systems, adding to the complexity of the software needed to run them. Because they can't rely on cell towers to pick up and relay signals, they must radiate 10 to 20 times the energy of a cellphone and have bigger antennas. All these attributes must be crammed into packages small and light enough so that overburdened soldiers can carry them or fit them into cramped vehicles and robots. Yet the cost per unit must be relatively low because they will be widely deployed.
Since JTRS management was reorganized, the program has met its deadlines and the radios have passed limited field tests, says Ralph Moslener, the JTRS program manager for Boeing, which is manufacturing one version of the radios. The open question is whether they will function adequately once scaled up to a much larger system.
FCS's manned vehicles are a case study of the promise and peril of relying on as-yet-unproven technologies -- the JTRS radios, as well as new, lightweight armor and a missile-detection system. The Army has long been confounded by the fact that its heavy brigades have battle-winning weaponry but take too long to deploy, while light brigades are fleet but firepower-light. FCS offers a solution in the form of vehicles that pack heavy-brigade punch with light-brigade speed, deployable to anywhere in the world in 96 hours or less. This is possible in part because each vehicle weighs as little as half that of similar previous vehicles.
I got to check out one of the FCS vehicles, the Non-Line-of-Sight Cannon (NLOS-C). The interior wasn't so different from that of the family minivan. After I lowered myself through a narrow hatch into the prototype, the first controls I noticed on the dash were those for the air conditioning and high beams. The gas and brake pedals were underfoot. I could just hit the power button, roll off the warehouse floor, and lay waste to the nearest Wal-Mart.
The NLOS-C, heir apparent to the Army's M109 Paladin -- a self-propelled howitzer widely deployed in armored divisions -- is one of the eight manned vehicles in FCS. Featuring the Army's first hybrid-electric drive, the NLOS-C is designed for a common counterinsurgency challenge: trying to attack foes who strike quickly and disappear. Col. Robert McVay, an Iraq veteran who is the NLOS-C's product manager, describes how "the insurgents would set up a 127-millimeter rocket launcher, fire on us, and then take off within two to three minutes." The Paladin takes that long just to get ready to fire. But the NLOS-C can get off a shot within 30 seconds of receiving coordinates because the fire system is automated; the vehicle needs a crew of two rather than the Paladin's five because soldiers don't have to manually hoist 100-pound shells into the breach. The weapon fires up to six rounds a minute -- three times as fast as the Paladin -- and can change the trajectory of each shell so that they all hit nearly simultaneously, depriving the enemy of the opportunity to take cover after the first shell strikes.
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