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Thread: Our Future Combat Systems?

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    Small Wars Journal SWJED's Avatar
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    Default Our Future Combat Systems?

    Today's Washington Post provides an update on the U.S. Army's Future Combat Systems - The Army's $200 Billion Makeover by Alec Klein.

    ... In the Army's vision, the war of the future is increasingly combat by mouse clicks. It's as networked as the Internet, as mobile as a cellphone, as intuitive as a video game. The Army has a name for this vision: Future Combat Systems, or FCS. The project involves creating a family of 14 weapons, drones, robots, sensors and hybrid-electric combat vehicles connected by a wireless network. It has turned into the most ambitious modernization of the Army since World War II and the most expensive Army weapons program ever, military officials say.

    It's also one of the most controversial. Even as some early versions of these weapons make their way onto the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan, members of Congress, government investigators and military observers question whether the Defense Department has set the stage for one of its biggest and costliest failures. At risk, they say, are billions of taxpayer dollars spent on exotic technology that may never come to fruition, leaving the Army little time and few resources to prepare for new threats...

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    Council Member Abu Suleyman's Avatar
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    Default War is political

    This is a classic problem in military history. The rubbish bins of history are filled with nations that trusted in the "magic bullet" of technology rather than sound military practice. Technology is important. If it weren't there would probably still be a Zulu Nation. Nevertheless war is political above all else. Wars stop and end because of some political objective (I mean international political objective: One country wants another country to do or stop doing something, not a 'wag the dog' scenario). Technology is only a lubricant that helps war to run more smoothly.

    If the FCS becomes reality it will make war so expensive that we cannot even afford to win! Right now if we were to suffer the kinds of losses that we suffered in victories in World War II the cost would overwhelm us. We must always maintain technology, but I ask how is having a PDA in the hands of every soldier going to help us achieve the objectives of war? It sure isn't communication. Aren't radios good enough? And it isn't survivability if we can believe the preliminary reports about FCS.

    It is time to admit that the Army is not the Navy or Air Force. Soldiers are not platforms, they are soldiers, and they need training and equipment not systems.
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    Council Member wm's Avatar
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    In a world where we have an apparent interest in keeping the number of people serving in uniform as small as possilbe, the easy alternative to being able to acomplish missions is to have machines do it instead. I suspect that part of the motivation for FCS was a way of coping with the "do more with less" attitiude that came with the "peace dividend." It is like the Edsel--the market wanted something else by the time the car hit the dealerships.

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    It's always struck me....Why do we never have simple "Technology Maturation" projects?

    "Because that's DARPA's job", I'm going to hear, I suppose.

    I always thought DARPA's job was the really far out research - then, once you have something that may actually have applications, it transitions to the services.

    Yet there's no tolerance anywhere to say that "No, the <F-22/V-22/Pick-your-project> is probably not ready for primetime...And that's okay, because even if this project is a failure or has issues, we have knowledge that we can immediately pile into the "Son of" project and thereby get to a version that reduces the risks".

    Yes, projects will fail. My dad worked for 33 years for US Army CECOM, so I know what the Acquisition picture is like - I grew up with it. I know that failures are seen as inevitably bad, inevitably the result of someone's malice or incompetence.

    Which makes no sense to me. Projects will fail. That's life, and so long as the Project Manager has the courage to look at his project and recognize when that's the case (and actually call for the plug to be pulled) while a project is in SDD (rather than sending it inexorably to EMD and then fielding), why should they be given a black mark for it?

    Is there no place for us to say "Okay, V-22 may not be combat-ready; But that's fine, it's meant to test the technologies in a semi-operational form. Now we move on to the next iteration, incorporating everything from V-22." (for example)? None at all?

    (GAO beats on DOD, rightly, for moving forward with projects before the technologies involved are mature, and it's one of the big reasons they've found for why DOD acquisitions projects go haywire so often.)

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    Council Member Cavguy's Avatar
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    We ought to get Kreker on here - he works with FCS.

    My major problem on it is barely mentioned in the article - lack of powerful direct fire systems (based off the idea that future war was to be OTH), lack of armor to defeat 4GW threats, and a belief that "sensors" will detect everything. The UAV example was great, but the UAV can't see inside buildings or fly in bad weather.

    While commanding in Tal Afar we were fielded a "TacMAV" UAV, which is essentially a model airplane with a camera and a laptop to receive the feed. It promptly crashed, and I got in trouble for losing an expensive "disposable" UAV. Also loss of a UAV at that time was reportable to Corps, so it was deluged with a "why were they doing that" RFI's from higher. Then our Air Officer reminded me that I needed to have done airspace deconfliction 24h out as well.

    Great tech. Guess what I never used again. (BTW, I got the $20k+ UAV back by offering a $50 reward to anyone who returned it.)
    Last edited by Cavguy; 12-07-2007 at 05:53 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cavguy View Post
    We ought to get Kreker on here - he works with FCS.
    In the PM office? For contractor?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cavguy View Post
    We ought to get Kreker on here - he works with FCS.

    My major problem on it is barely mentioned in the article - lack of powerful direct fire systems (based off the idea that future war was to be OTH), lack of armor to defeat 4GW threats, and a belief that "sensors" will detect everything. The UAV example was great, but the UAV can't see inside buildings or fly in bad weather.
    It's funny, but just about every Army in the Western world that has engaged in COIN in the last 40 or so years has gone in thinking that they don't need tanks - Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq to name the bigger ones - and they all end up having to drag out the big boys to take care of business, cause the light stuff just doesn't work all the time. The Army had to restore the Tank Battalion to each of the Infantry Divisions in Vietnam (they deployed without them thinking they werren't needed), and the Australians sent a Tank Squadron (company) to reinforce their Task Force there as well. The US Army had to provide the Marines (didn't have their own on scene) with heavy armour in Fallujah, et al., and both the Canadians and the Danes have each sent a Tank Squadron (company) to support their Infantry Battalions in Afghanistan.

    It seems that the myth of Armour not being suited for COIN has yet to die a hard, yet deserved, death.

    And as for the FCS, well, the proposed replacement for the MBT part of it, even it was affordable, might give up too much protection for "deployability", at least as I understand it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Norfolk View Post
    It seems that the myth of Armour not being suited for COIN has yet to die a hard, yet deserved, death.
    Perhaps because it depends on which aspect of COIN one speaks of.

    Building a rapport with the population? Intelligence gathering? There's such a thing as too much protection. Whether that protection is tank armor or hiding in FOBs and only going out in force. And tanks tend to make civilians feel repressed - that's before said tanks crush cars, either.

    Urban combat? Tanks have a limited use, I'd imagine.

    However, for when the other fellow is putting up a determined, stand-up fight, then tanks are really useful.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Penta View Post
    Perhaps because it depends on which aspect of COIN one speaks of.

    Building a rapport with the population? Intelligence gathering? There's such a thing as too much protection. Whether that protection is tank armor or hiding in FOBs and only going out in force. And tanks tend to make civilians feel repressed - that's before said tanks crush cars, either.

    Urban combat? Tanks have a limited use, I'd imagine.

    However, for when the other fellow is putting up a determined, stand-up fight, then tanks are really useful.
    Actually you'd be surprised. Armor (to include tanks) has been shown to have a significant impact in many areas. Armor isn't necessarily destructive, and it brings in a presence factor that can intimidate (or make people feel more secure...including locals who seek government protection) without using its weapons. Should fire support or any sort of reaction force be required, armor is especially hard to replace. Many of the arguments you're mentioning were touted as reasons not to send armor to Vietnam.

    To take one point: building rapport. The presence of armor can deter insurgent forces from moving into a village, and also can have the effect of making local populations feel more secure. Protection provided by armored elements can then allow more civic action elements to operate in the village, improving the quality of life in the area. And if the armor's held nearby, it can serve as a reaction force that's harder to stop than a leg or airmobile element.

    Tanks don't always have to park on people's cars or vegetable patches.
    "On the plains and mountains of the American West, the United States Army had once learned everything there was to learn about hit-and-run tactics and guerrilla warfare."
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    Default Heading over same ground .....

    Quote Originally Posted by Penta View Post

    Urban combat? Tanks have a limited use, I'd imagine.

    However, for when the other fellow is putting up a determined, stand-up fight, then tanks are really useful.
    Check out previous SWJ Threads here and here for discussion/debate on Armor in COIN. My perspective is pretty clear. Steve summarized it above - it's not the tool, it's the mindset when you're using it.
    Last edited by Cavguy; 12-07-2007 at 06:11 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cavguy View Post
    Check out previous SWJ Threads here and here for discussion/debate on Armor in COIN. My perspective is pretty clear. Steve summarized it above - it's not the tool, it's the mindset when you're using it.
    Eee, thanks for the links, cavguy. More reading material! (It's a really slow Friday at work.)

    John

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    i pwnd ur ooda loop selil's Avatar
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    Future technology

    When we talk about security we often talk about defense in depth. In computers it is a series of rings which become more robust and also restrictive as you move towards the kernel of the operating system. Armies work on a different model but all the same similar. The outer rings (farthest from the populace) have got to be hard and they have to be powerful. Force projection through big bombs carried by bigger bombers, and rapid response like armor and mechanized infantry. You need the outer ring to be the chainsaw in the forest. As you move closer to the populace you are protecting to step down through infantry and the power requirements finally end up being Officer Barney and one bullet for his well shined never shot gun.

    Technology has a tendency to unbalance these characteristics. We use technology to get Barney Fife on the highly mobile battlefield, or use the strategic air-bomber to monitor traffic patterns downtown Mayberry. Much of this has to do with a misunderstanding of what technology is about, or what appropriate technology means. Sure you can do something with technology but should you do something with technology is rarely asked. Whether it is replacing and displacing hundreds of factory workers with automation that results in an economic slump that closes the factory for lack of customers, or it is the infantry man replaced by a wandering robot who becomes the ultimate private snuffy no brain. The relationship between man and technology is fraught with issues.

    The act of infantry combat in several thousand years across the world has not significantly changed. Actual ground pounders don’t move much faster today then did their Roman forebears. We’ve mechanized them and upped the speed to 15 or 18 mph (as long as fuel and mechanical failures are kept to a minimum). The 21 foot active defense radius of the infantry man circa 2000 years ago has been extended to about 250 yards in modern day combat. The technology to reach out that far hasn’t really changed that much in the last 50 years since John Browning made the first repeating rifle. The close in weapon of the Marine is still a fighting knife. Strategic air or technological warfare has a place on the modern battlefield much like the archer became the sniper. Each new technology has to be adapted to duty without laying off the infantry. When I look at the combat robots I see technology grasping for purpose and the design is the portent of failure. In many ways UAV’s are replacing highly trained redundant on the ground reconnaissance with single points of failure, highly vulnerable, resource intensive and moderately effective drones. Further until the robots take on organic form and don’t look like some kids erector set the technology is a failure as function over form is valid but function without form is invalid. Form has a way of telling us that something that has been designed is done.

    Technology has a place on the battlefield whether it by the mythical dragon skin armor, truly functional heads up displays, prosthetic breathing apparatus for working in hostile atmospheres, exo-skeletal body support mechanisms, or refined “smart” communications each technology doesn’t replace the infantryman but makes the infantryman smarter and better. Like it or not the Air Force role is to prepare a battle field for the infantry as at some point we are going to hold and maintain that ground. Clearing IED’s is part of the EOD job category and using robots to facilitate that mission is perfectly fine, but removing the EOD technician from the task completely creates some concern over losing that specialty and the ability to extend upon the knowledge. Which is a key concern. When you replace individuals and either out source or automate a task you effectively stop the internal process refinement and adaptation elements of that task. A robot is not capable of making refinements outside of the programming it has. An analyst in a vacuum is one person looking at a task not 100’s or 1000’s of infantryman making lessons learned across the organization. When you replace the “do’er” of the task you replace the learning and refinement phase of the process and are stuck on implement.

    There is a sincere and substantial risk of technology run amok. Not that I think the robots will go “Terminator” on us, but that cost and return on investment will not be aligned with realizable goals. The technology purchased must meet the needs of the military now and the future soldiers who take the battlefield. There is also the resource and manning issue. With some of these combat system the human capital required to keep a specific technology running can be enormous. When every soldier is an investment the impact of a technology must be substantial or be accused of squandering a resource. We must maintain a fully functional military and not “rob Peter to pay Paul” with technology, COIN or capability. That the United States has the most expensive military is easily proven, but that the United States is the most powerful and no other nation can stand is a bit of a misnomer. Technology does not mean invulnerability and as we see now with the current operational tempo the largest military can rapidly become the tiredest. When you look at the political landscape that was designed by treaty to promote wars of nation-state versus nation-state, and now that battlefield is morphing to non-state actors versus the nation state, the infantry becomes the scalpel of diplomacy.

    The budgetary wrangling and gadget envy of the forces is pathetic. A unit commander does not need his own UAV. What he needs in unencumbered access to the ones already in the air. A valid area of study for DARPA is how to make the barriers to the needy and between collection mechanisms gateways to information. Let the Air Force have all the UAV’s as long as they provide raw available data and proper support to the military members on the ground as 100 percent available and sustainable. Otherwise they are expensive toys and those who are selfish get no more toys.

    DARPA has always been about the absolute future, but there is traction in DARPA and the National Science Foundation, to fund only working near term concepts. That means some of the really cool technologies we’ve gotten in the past aren’t replicated in the future pipeline. There is no really cool “gee whiz” technology hiding in a DARPA project. The UAV concept is really nothing more than a highly refined children’s radio control toy. Also, the scope of the implemented technologies seem to mix between some ultra strategic bomber and giving Barney Fife a new way to polish his bullet. There are some neat projects but they seem to be “safe” rather than mind boggling. Toss into this mix of convolutions the political process and what we will accept as risk and you end up with techno-fascism and anarchy.

    If we wanted to answer some very specific technology issue questions we could start thinking about these:
    1) Why does an infantryman carry as much stuff as he weighs?
    2) Why haven’t we gotten cartridgeless bullets yet?
    3) Ablative and thicker is better armor slows everybody down where are the new materials?
    4) Why do any LAV’s still have wheels?
    5) Why are most of the materials in a soldiers uniform based on 18th century era materials?
    6) Why can a low level manager in a multinational call home to his kids from the streets of Baghdad with one touch dialing and a soldier has to be patched in through numerous operators to talk to his battlefield commander?
    7) Why would anybody compare the volatile insecure Internet with highly available secure communications?

    These are all simple questions. When the basic infantryman no longer looks like a two legged pack mule, and the number of support personnel to front line fighters is reversed as a ratio then we can look at gee-whiz gadgets. Then again in COIN everybody is on the front line.

    COIN is the interesting intersection of the technologies where more can create a drag. To often technology is a barrier to the “touchy feely” side of COIN. A tablet voice translation system is a great gadget but what does it say about the cultural sensitivities of the soldiers? What is the unintended message when using such a device? When the soldier looks like a walking arsenal and can be identified by the ever-present packhorse gate as they walk how can the true mission objectives be met? I believe that the highly trained, exceptionally educated, superior morality of the volunteer soldier is being ripped off in an effort to create unsustainable technologies at the cost of research into making the infantryman a more effective soldier.
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    Thumbs up Marius' Mules Redux

    Quote Originally Posted by selil View Post
    Future technology

    These are all simple questions. When the basic infantryman no longer looks like a two legged pack mule, and the number of support personnel to front line fighters is reversed as a ratio then we can look at gee-whiz gadgets. Then again in COIN everybody is on the front line.

    COIN is the interesting intersection of the technologies where more can create a drag. To often technology is a barrier to the ďtouchy feelyĒ side of COIN. A tablet voice translation system is a great gadget but what does it say about the cultural sensitivities of the soldiers? What is the unintended message when using such a device? When the soldier looks like a walking arsenal and can be identified by the ever-present packhorse gate as they walk how can the true mission objectives be met? I believe that the highly trained, exceptionally educated, superior morality of the volunteer soldier is being ripped off in an effort to create unsustainable technologies at the cost of research into making the infantryman a more effective soldier.
    All too true selil. Maybe before the Army decides to spend $200 billion or so bucks on tunring the Infantryman into a High-Tech descendant of Marius' Mules, they should spend a mere fraction of that on dealing with the various matters you listed above^(and including those that I deleted from the quote for the sake of space). Of course many, many billions of dollars need to be spent to acquire the next generation of combat systems (in their various forms and for their various roles) to replace current stuff which is, well, either or just plain worn-out or wearing-out.

    But if the Army would like to solve some of the problem that you identified, it could save a lot of money by letting Infantrymen buy most of their own kit and giving them a proper Army allowance for said; you'd get much better kit for a lot less money overall, and the grunts would be carrying a lot less weight. And that's a quick and cheap solution to about a third of the list right there.

    Very good post selil.

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    Council Member Kreker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cavguy View Post
    We ought to get Kreker on here - he works with FCS.
    Believe it or not I was just attending an AUSA sponsored Shaping the Force symposium in El Paso, where Army modernization was the main thrust, shapped around FCS. I would invite those council members that have commented to check out the FCS thread, where there is some good discussion.

    The comments on this tread are good ones and valid from the perspectives given. But here are some questions to mull over: Without a major modernization effort (FCS) can the Army continue to afford upgrading the Abrams and Bradleys for the next 30-40 years, not to mention over systems, Paladin, SINCGARS, BCOTM, etc. There comes a point in a systems life-cycle where continued upgrades are not cost effective based on technology maturation (there is only so much you can 'hang' on an M1 before weight becomes an issue). Look at the weight increases that have come to the M1 thus far in it's life. FCS has a family of system (FoS) within a systems of sytems (SoS) tied to a common network. What would be the costs to the Army to develop the 14 systems separately?

    UAVs are somewhat expensive, but have proven that they can save lives. So the question is would you rather spend the $s on a UAV that can detect an insurgent implacing an IED or have a Soldier find an IED by giving his life? Remember FCS BCTs are not totally replacing HBCTs. Current plans have only15 FBCTs out of a total of 76 MBCTs.

    I look forward to additional dialogue on this subject, becaause we all need to be aware of how our Army is going to deal with Persistent Conflict in the coming years.

    Best--
    Kreker

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    Default What I learned working FCS as a green suiter

    I read the article this morning, and I figured I might comment on it, particularly as someone who worked on FCS from 2004-2006 as the FCS BCT Experimental Element CAB (Combined Arms BN) Ops guy in Mobile Command Group 1 (that’s just the name for the Ops guy in the BN CDR’s track) and as the same for BDE CDR later on. Given, the tracks were mock ups in a high speed simulations bay, but we nugged out some hard tactical and to a lesser degree operational problems. We did so by a variety of experiments throughout the spectrum of operations, and in varying conditions. Basically the experimental element was a reduced BCT Staff, with very reduced HQs for the CABs and supporting BNs (such as NLOS – or the FA, the FSB, and the RSTA). We were to the point where we had operators/crews for various platforms and UMS (unmanned systems). It was a very ambitious program, and one where we as COL Roy Waggoner’s (an Infantryman who really has just about done it all & has the T-Shirt) thin green line to inject reality into it – we kept up with ongoing Army operations by bringing in guys from the SBCTs, modular forces, OIF, OEF and SOF, as well as some sharp contractors with Vietnam, ODS, Balkan, and Panama experiences. We also went out with DARPA and Industry as system leads to explain the TTP we were developing (mostly adopting from solid tactics) so the people making the “stuff” would not get “Buck Rogers” syndromes. I was the Unmanned Ground Vehicle guy – but I touched most everything else as we figured out how this stuff would work together and how to keep it focused on the soldier employing it. I’ll also say here before I forget that COL Schaill is the right guy to head the EBCT out at Bliss – he stood firm and gave the suits and the geeks the Heisman more then once while being my BN CDR out at 1-24 IN during the SBCT IOT&E – he and COL Bob Brown also underwrote the risks we took to really find out what the organization(s) could do – not the equipment – the unit as outfitted with the equipment! Both went to OIF in 04 (as the DCO and CDR of 1/25th SBCT) and brought back those experiences to shape the way they see the future.

    What I thought might be good so that we don’t get wrapped around what the press says about FCS, or how Industry thinks they should sell it to politicians is ask a few questions about different systems within FCS – because these systems are going to make it out in the spiral – the end result will be units with real people with better stuff to do the tactical tasks they need to do – technology is at its most useful on the tactical end – regardless of if you are doing COIN or a conventional fight – or something in between:

    Would it be good if you could emplace a sensor at a tier 1 IED site that you could leave unattended that would alert you and give you indicators of somebody trying to emplace and IED?

    Would it be good if you could then put up a small UAV that could perch or hover with IR capability that could either target that activity with a BLOS round (beyond line of sight as targeted by the operator through the Class One UAV? Or follow that team out back to the house it came out of – the whole time being watched from within the PL or PSGs track – not as its viewed back in the TOC and then relayed to the patrol?

    How about for a squad setting in a point ambush as part of a larger platoon area ambush in an urban environment and wants to do a quick R&S but can’t move – so they call up the PLT HQs and they do an R&S over the platoon area – then parks it on some piece of high terrain that overwatches where the 2 Opals and Bongo truck have been seen before?
    How about the use of the crew of the MGV being able to track the movements of the squad after they dismount? Could this quicken the response for evacuation or for direct fire support? Could it lessen the chances of fratricide?

    How about a UGV ARV-Light (Armed Robotic Vehicle) that can be programmed to recon a route through restrictive terrain – and actually think it’s the same size and weight as a the MGVs (manned ground vehicles) you are going to bring through there and send back updated info on the route and everything about it – how about the information goes directly into your BFT or EPLRS FBCB2 and all you do is notice the new options you’ve got?

    How about that same robot carrying a modular mission payload (might be lethal or non-lethal- but we’ll say lethal) of a M240, or maybe something heavier with over 10,000 rounds – lets say it has articulated suspension that allows it to climb (it exists y the way – thanks to DARPA) and keep up with the dismounted patrol. Lets say it also carries better comms because it has a Power Amp that you can access from your own MBITR sized radio, and has powerful optics on it that you can use and see through something smaller then a lap top?

    How about a vehicle that has the capability to tell you when something important might break – and alert the maintenance contact team – or at least tell the Maint Contact team what is broke and what to bring out.

    What if you and all the vehicles in your element could rehearse a mission on the digital terrain that except for the friction of real life was almost exactly as it was going to look when you actually drove it? Kind of like a mission fly through – hell just getting people into the right spots and down the right roads is pain in the butt – would if you could make it just a little better?

    What if before you took your informant on the raid to nab a tier 1 personality that you’d been tracking for weeks, you as the PL or CO CDR could have him look through the robots sensors (optics) and tell you “yes, that is the house” in real time as opposed to hitting the wrong house a block away because the informant pointed to the wrong house picked off the overflight photo of the OH-58D? How about just prior to the assault as the outer cordon went in the 1 or more small UAVs and perched them on various roof tops or high ground overwatching the most likely exfil routes and then you could have somebody move in and either kill them or pick them up – vs. finding an empty hole?

    What if you could use a SUGV (Small Unmanned Ground Vehicle to go in a cave or crawl space and check for trip wires or other hazards – and it let you control the tempo better?

    What if you could access a HN, OGA or International Data base on the biometrics of a guy at a TCP and then you found out this guy was the no #### baddest MF on the planet – and by nabbing him you just put a major crimp in international terrorist group as well as shutting off support for the local group that has moved into your AO?
    How about accessing all the known demographic and infrastructure of a new area for a host of missions? How about the name of a doctor working at a local hospital?

    If you like any of that – its all FCS like stuff. FCS, although most often identified with the now 27 ton MGV, is really about stuff that lets us, the soldier – do tasks better and seize faster, then retain initiative longer to let us do unto them before they do unto us.

    I’ve also included a link from an article I wrote back in 2005 called The Case for Robots in the SBCT Now. It’s a little dated – but it gives you the basics of UMS. What is changed is I’ve thought allot about how robotics might have been useful to me in Iraq. I also know that the tech has actually matured allot – Spinner (the DARPA project Mike Perschbacher headed is now Crusher – and it rocks) – BTW anyone having an opportunity to work with DARPA should jump on it – those guys are not afraid to break stuff right in front of you, and they listen better then any Industry guys when you tell them how you are or would tactically employ something.

    I had my heartburn with some of the Industry folks as well - but I trust leaders like COL Schaill to provide push back to anyone who'd try to sell us down the river. The important things as I see them are to provide the soldiers the best tools and tech available - we'll put it to good use, we will not be constrained by how the marketing campaign said it'd be used; the second thing is focus on stuff that will help us do the same tasks better - don't try and replace us - people are the decision makers and in the fog, friction and chance of war - good leaders are what make the difference - in other words - focus on effectivness, not efficiency. If FCS continues to do those two things (and I think with leaders like COL Schaill it will) then we'll continue to be the best equipped Army on the battlefied.


    ref. the M1 - I think it was not too long ago that the Armor Chief said it would be around until like 2050 - so plenty of time to recognize and evaluate - its a good piece of equipment - and it makes you feel good when it shows up on your side.
    Best, Rob
    Last edited by Rob Thornton; 12-07-2007 at 11:59 PM.

  16. #16
    Council Member Rob Thornton's Avatar
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    Default I posted this over at the SWJ Blog as well (PT 1)

    Hey Sam,

    Of course I now have almost a couple of year's distance from the FCS program, but I might be able to help answer a couple of the questions you posed - they are good ones and I think underscore what focus FCS may have started with when it went on paper vs. how it evolved through testing with soldiers involved (on different levels) to where it is now with BCT doing the testing (I don't know the %, but I believe its a fair assumption that most of those in the EBCT are have operational experience - and since I know the atmosphere the EBCT CDR will create - I believe they will test it till it breaks, and offer frank assessments about its usefulness.)

    ref.
    1) Why does an infantryman carry as much stuff as he weighs?

    Is not always true anymore. Most of what I've seen recently is allowing small unit leaders to tailor the load to the mission at hand. Some of this has to do with operating out of fixed locations, some of this has to do with better LOG TTP and capability - i.e. technology has allowed us to better understand the environment we're operating in, forecast environmental changes, communicate changes and new requirements back to higher echelons, and then figure out ways to get that stuff forward in time to make a difference - ex. there is now a disposable parachute they are using in Afghanistan that combined with things like GPS and better air to ground comms allows better throughput. Another example is the "arms room concept" which is where id the Infantryman is operating out of a vehicle - he stows what he needs and when those needs change he comes back for more. Now you still have some folks who are going to go in "heavy" - a SF buddy of mne told me his team's load when they went into Afghanistan the first time - most of the things that go with operating as they did drove them to bring more stuff. Turns out, the OGA rep and locals they hooked up with were already pretty well resourced - but because of inter-agency comms friction they did not know it. The key I think ultimately in tailoring soldiers' loads is leader appreciation for METT-TC, and an enforcement of unit discipline through the NCOs. I'd have to say we're allot better overall now then we were when I did my first pump in 1986.

    2) Why haven’t we gotten cartridge less bullets yet? I think that is a good question. Speculating, I'd say it has allot to do with coming up with a reliable rifle to fire it, and a ammunition logistics system that could produce it and sustain it and deliver it - the SWC member that has probably thought more on this is 120mm - has that come up on the "Better then your M4, but you can't have it thread"? 210 rounds of 5.56 ways a significant amount, when you add it up with body armor, a couple of smokes and a couple of frags, along with an MBITR and a tricked out M4 - I'd mentioned in another thread I slimmed down allot working with indigenous forces - and went with what I knew I needed after an incident that convinced me that at 40 I was no longer quite the physical guy I was at 20 (or 30 for that matter) - again being conscious of what my role was, and what support I had around me led me to that decision.

    3) Ablative and thicker is better armor slows everybody down where are the new materials? That was one of the things that made the original folks believe that you could get the same level of protection with a 17t C-130 transportable platform. There was a sincere belief as I understand it that the RHA (rolled homogenous armor) levels of MBT standards could be reached with light weight materials by 2010ish when they pitched FCS back in 95/96 (I only go back to there because that was the earliest O&O I found for FCS. As the tech to produce light weight armor became more appreciative of reality, the protection pieces were mitigated by other technologies - such as technology to see, understand and shoot first, then the APS (Active Protection System) which is a kinetic projectile and radar based system to defeat RPGs and maybe other kinetic threats. Overtime and experimentation it was realized the 17t was 17t no matter how much SA/SU you had and the any vehicle that worked closely with Infantry might have issues with APS (you won't catch me standing too close when it goes off). At first they tried a ECC (Essential Combat Configuration) vs. a FCC (Full Combat Configuration) load out so that you could get it into a C-130. Again Army experimentation proved that by the time you got the vehicle, its additional armor and the MHE (Material Handling Equipment) needed to bring it up to FCC you lost any advantages of doing so in terms of numbers of turns of the air frames, additional personnel required to go from ECC to FCC, the time required to do it etc. In parallel with this, the technology to produce much of the "innards" of the vehicle had also not allowed for miniaturization and as such to meet other requirements, it meant more weight. Again, I think here is a case where experimentation allowed us green suiter input and saved us from getting something down the road that would be a "SGT YORK".

    4) Why do any LAV’s still have wheels? Because tracks are not always the answer. What happens when you break track? Its an emotional moment. Banded track technology is progressing, but its not quite there yet in terms of meeting military standards. I think it will get there, just not yet. Second, tire technology has gotten much better - there is actually a honeycombed tire that came out a while back that is more resistant to IEDs- I've lost the bubble on that, but I know its there. LOG and other operating considerations were also a factor in going with wheels over tracks - I was one of the OCs for a buddy CO CDR who did the MAV-CE between the M113(Extended model) and the Stryker - prior to the IOT&E. There were some good things about both platforms. The 113 offered overall better mobility - but not by too much. It was however damned loud, and after long road marches the squad in the back were in worse shape when it came time to get out and go directly into action. Having ridden in both, I like the Stryker better, but you have to plan around mobility limitations - with the amount of dismounted Infantry you get ready to go into action - you can overcome it.

    5) Why are most of the materials in a soldiers uniform based on 18th century era materials?

    I think they are making good headway here. Check out the Soldier as a System / Land Warrior / whatever we are calling it now - they are looking to develop and implement new materials that better sustain and environmentally protect the soldier - Popular Science and Popular Mechanics do regular updates. The challenges are meeting the rigorous requirements demanded by the environment of sustained combat. What we don't want to do is invest and field uniforms that hinder vs. help. I have a couple of Acquisition Corps buddies who are working hard on this - I'll add that our Acquisition Corps guys are doing good work both here and into the various theaters to test new stuff in the worst conditions - combat. They go over and attach themselves to units in the fight and try all this new stuff out on a smaller scale - then comeback, refine it, and go back - until we get the product to meet the need and the requirements.

    6) Why can a low level manager in a multinational call home to his kids from the streets of Baghdad with one touch dialing and a soldier has to be patched in through numerous operators to talk to his battlefield commander?

    This is also changing. I had VOIP on a commercial satellite and a Asia Cell phone - I think I spoke to my wife everyday. The Google Talk over a commercial ISP was a bit different since as a TT we had a different set up then the line units working out of the FOBs. The big issue is sustainability and security. Secure comms are a must for mission type traffic, fielding that stuff and sustaining it on the scale needed by deployed BCTs, and higher echelons while maintaining interoperability is hard - we're getting better with the putting up and sustaining various wave forms, and we're getting better at interoperability. MWRs have really changed - when we did go into the big FOB - I no longer had to dial in through a post operator. Bottom line - this is a something we're getting better at, but we have to maintain a level of security for a number of reasons - ex - when a soldier dies their is a commercial comms blackout until that soldiers family has been notified by a leader with the details - this is a good thing given the types of rumors that occur between theater and the community back home - imagine if the news gets ahold of it and the first time a spouse hears of it is via the news, or speculation as to who was injured and how bad changes the truth several times and before the real story makes it back to the family a neighbor's kid tells the soldier's kid that their Daddy is dead - when they might not really be. We want to do everything we can to notify the family with the real story first.

  17. #17
    Council Member Rob Thornton's Avatar
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    Default Part 2

    7) Why would anybody compare the volatile insecure Internet with highly available secure communications? I'm not completely sure what you are asking - but it originally the idea of BCOTM (Battle Command on the Move) was done to facilitate the operational concepts and tech required to support a networked force on the offense. Most people have a hard time imagining how much data actually has to flow to support some of this. We looked at building the network (like EPLRs where you seed nodes forward with airborne CRPs on UAVs, lead ground elements extending the network and other ways of making the bubble bigger and stronger), borrowing the network (using Joint and strategic assets to extend and thicken the bubble) and staling the network (subverting existing infrastructure in the operating environment to do the same) - all had pluses and minuses, but all had limitations - I think what has happened (like I said I've been out of the net for a couple of years) is that some of the requirements were scaled back to what was most important.

    Bottom line I think is that "soldier" reality has been injected from the start, and continues to be - not just in FCS, but all our acquisition operations. FCS, as Ken has said is not a panacea - nobody realizes that more then the uniformed soldiers and leaders who have been to OIF and OEF - and we are shaping drawing board concepts with operational realities. FCS may be described a system of systems, but its really a way to manage military evolution by allowing soldiers and units to touch and use evolving technologies in an operational context that permits integrating this stuff towards accomplishing missions and tasks - this identifies and fosters interoperability - and makes it easier for us to take advantage of those new techs under the adverse conditions associated with full spectrum operations in foreign lands. It is not a people replacement - no matter how hard civilian leaders might wish to mitigate political risk by replacing soldiers we continue to relearn that ground combat in war is full of fog, friction and chance, and the best weapon in war is the thinking man on the ground with the best "stuff" we can equip them with to better disadvantage the enemy - particularly when operating in his back yard.

    The fact that we have integrated leaders and units throughout this process shows the emphasis the Army has placed in getting it right. Taking a BCT offline (and manning it with some of our best leaders) to test this stuff is a huge commitment to getting it right - I think we see it as an investment in our future.

    Best, Rob

  18. #18
    Council Member wm's Avatar
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    Default

    Some follow ups to Rob's response to Sam's questions, based on my recent/current work experience with Army and AF R&D and acquistion programs.
    1) Why does an infantryman carry as much stuff as he weighs?
    2) Why havenít we gotten cartridgeless bullets yet?
    3) Ablative and thicker is better armor slows everybody down where are the new materials?
    4) Why do any LAVís still have wheels?
    5) Why are most of the materials in a soldiers uniform based on 18th century era materials?
    6) Why can a low level manager in a multinational call home to his kids from the streets of Baghdad with one touch dialing and a soldier has to be patched in through numerous operators to talk to his battlefield commander?
    7) Why would anybody compare the volatile insecure Internet with highly available secure communications?
    1.) Check out the results of equiping that comes out of the MOUT ACTD and other programs like Rapid Fielding Initiative--a lot of light, COTS stuff is now availalble or soon will be. Visit the Army Soldier Systems Center website for more info.
    2.) So much to research, so little money to do so.
    3.) Research is on-going on newer materials. (See 1, above)
    4.) Can you spell "Goodyear'? --I think we need to remember that current industrial powerhouses have a lot of clout in political decision-making.
    5.) Check out what's happening at the MIT Nanotechnologies Lab. (also, 1 above)
    6.) Stovepipe development programs from days past and significant concerns about information assurance (I have so many IA related scripts on my DoD issued computer that it takes 5-10 minutes to boot). I don't really want to get started on the current software defined radios that make up Joint Tactical Radio System initiatives and all the new waveforms that folks want to put in them. Just think of the problems with making an old Oracle DB progeram written in PL/SQL interact with DBase III or Access data apps using Visual Basic, why Java Virtual Machine establishment often seems to be problematic, or trying to make .Net work with SOX versions of XML--middleware and APIs are all nice, but the integration efforts are still really hard to do and don't always guarantee success. (I must admit I stoppped doing this kind of work about 5 years ago, so things may be better, but I doubt it). (BTW, Radio SCA still uses CORBA.)
    7.) Can you spell IPv6, VoIP and other transmission using IP packets? Their promises have a lot of people snookered. I routinely talk to a guy who has a VoIP connection--he drops out at least three times in each 5 minute call we have. (Remember, Skype rhymes with hype . )

  19. #19
    i pwnd ur ooda loop selil's Avatar
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    Default

    So let me clarify a few points:

    4) Why do any LAVís still have wheels?

    I was watching a Discovery or Travel Channel show awhile back where they were riding in a hovercraft. It was a commercial model and they flew across water, bog, sand and kept on going right into the place where you got on the ride.

    Now I'm not willing to base the future heavy transport system of the Marines on a television show but the LCAC1 is nothing compared to the China version. It seems like this is a technology that increases speed without decreasing capability. If it works for heavy transport why not personnel carriers and LAV's? I don't claim to be an expert I'm just looking for the perceived gaps.






    7) Why would anybody compare the volatile insecure Internet with highly available secure communications?

    WM got it. There seems to be a big push in DHS and DOD to push communications to the Internet or that type of infrastructure. One of the problems is that there is no embedded security in Internet protocols and as a system it requires consistency to be functional (drop a segment and wait minutes or hours to have it return) and the combat/emergency environment is anything but consistent.
    Sam Liles
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  20. #20
    Council Member Rob Thornton's Avatar
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    Default

    Hi Sam,

    Rgr - on #7 - that is something they are working through - there are also issues with roles and security (at least there were) - ex. who do you want to have access to what and where does that reside - how do you reconfigure. You're all over some of the challenges the network faces - but there were (and I assume are) some really talented people working them, so I suspect that where no answers or work arounds can be found, reality will interject itself and we;ll except the limitations of tech and change requirements.

    On the LCAC - I suspect JCUSTIS or one of our green amphib brethren could better describe the limitations of that tech, but I'll give it a try - but first a quick anecdote - in the 2000 Armor Conference - back when we were calling it the Objective Force - there was an intro video preceding the Armor School Commandant - I think it was General Bell back then (I was an Infantryman in tanker country attending ACCC), the video showed "hover tanks descending out of a large airborne transport vehicle. The purpose I think was not to put us at odds with reality, or sell us a bill of goods; I think it was to get us thinking - to consider the possibilities of how new technologies "could change" things.

    Even when I left Lewis for Knox in Spring 2004, the computer generated images of the FCS MGVs looked like "pontoon" tanks that could hover. Within a year, Industry had come forward with something that although still looked futuristic - it also looked like an evolution of existing combat vehicles - the roles of the vehicles were pretty obvious.

    Back to the "hover" tank. I think there is thrust to weight issue primarily. LCACs are pretty much light weight aluminum - I think 1 LCAC can only carry 1 M1A1 tank (60+t). So it takes about that much thrust - look at the size of the fans - for that weight. There is also the distribution of that weight to consider. Now if your MGV was 27t or about 1/2 of a M1A1, it stands that you'd need about 50% of the thrust to move it around. That aslo would not take into account maintaining the mobility provided by the curtain of air in an increasingly dirty battlefield.

    An existing (related) technology that is useful on the battlefield is the aerostat or blimp. The JLENS (you can Google this for a better description) which fly high over many a FOB or forward base these days offer allot of capability in terms of hanging all types of sensor (radar, optics, etc.) as well as CRPs (Comms Relay) at a low cost (there is no thrust to maintain altitude as in a UAV for example) - so you can afford a "bigger is better" outlook - because physics still apply. These have the added benefit of sending their data via secure fiber optics. And since they reside in a protected node, they are reasonably secure (AIF have tried to bring down the ones over BALAD/BIAP and elsewhere, but the altitude is too great and they don't seem to provide good target acquisition. Now the penalty for this is also the selling point - its not a technology that lends itself to fast paced operational and tactical maneuver covering deep lines of operation and rearward reaching lines of communication - but it does work for steady state ops like COIN where units manage a set AO.

    Also of interest would be the DARPA blimp for strategic mobility (you'll have to Google that one as well). While this may seem like a bad idea - remember its not to tactical or even operational mobility - its strategic and assumes a degree of permissiveness - perhaps over a SEA LOC from CONUS to partner state in an area that we control with respect to the capabilities of our enemy. If you were able to move a large unit set of equipment, or bulk LOG faster then say on a Ro/Ro (roll on/roll off ship), you might free up up your strat air to do other things besides theater to theater moves - particularly if that air was C-17s capable of doing operational (theater) air.

    All of the things involve moving stuff quickly, effectively and efficiently to build and sustain combat power, or the stuff needed to work through the rest of the spectrum.

    Best, Rob
    Last edited by Rob Thornton; 12-08-2007 at 06:44 PM.

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