June 2005 
Volume 04, Issue 2 
Special Features

Defining tomorrow’s battlespace

Future Combat Systems, the U.S. Army’s transformational program, is accelerating to deliver newfound capabilities


Defining tomorrow’s battlespaceImagine a battlefield where information plays a starring role, reducing the confusion and uncertainty that have historically characterized warfare. In this information-rich battlespace, threats will be identified more rapidly, understood more fully and targeted more precisely. As a result, friendly forces, vehicles and weaponry can be smaller and more agile, and collateral damage will be reduced.

That’s the concept behind Future Combat Systems, a $20.9 billion program that is the centerpiece of the U.S. Army’s ongoing modernization. By linking unmanned air vehicles with a suite of manned and unmanned ground vehicles and other assets via a distributed information network, FCS will deliver entirely new capabilities. The result: The Army can field future Units of Action that are more responsive, versatile, capable, survivable, deployable and supportable than today’s forces.

The FCS program includes 18 separate systems scheduled to be deployed beginning in 2014. Last summer, the Army said it was accelerating the development and maturation of some FCS technologies to permit earlier fielding. The Army, Boeing and its FCS program partners agreed on a schedule that will see new capabilities spiraled out for deployment beginning in 2008.

Dennis MuilenburgIn the FCS vision of near-future combat, human beings will still make the decisions—but those decisions will be better informed. Unmanned air vehicles, manned and robotic ground vehicles, unattended ground sensors, intelligent munitions and other FCS elements will communicate, coordinate and interact with each other, satellites, joint and coalition forces, and external knowledge centers via a network-centric system that provides information in a timely and usable fashion.

Led by Boeing and its partner Science Applications International Corporation, the FCS One Team has 23 first-tier suppliers. Each member of the One Team is an acknowledged leader in its field and brings unmatched resources and expertise, says Dennis Muilenburg, vice president and general manager of FCS. Together, the FCS team is the best that industry has to offer.

The scope and variety of FCS make it an exciting place to be from an engineering standpoint.

“This isn’t just one airplane or one vehicle,” says FCS Chief Engineer Ted Goetz. “It’s a system-of-systems with ground and air robotic vehicles, intelligent munitions, unattended ground sensor arrays with state-of-the-art detection capabilities, and manned vehicles that are armored and play many roles.”

FCS will work not just within the Army’s Unit of Action but also beyond with Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, and coalition forces. What makes all this possible is the network, built on the System of Systems Common Operating Environment, a software that allows information to be shared across platforms. So important is this network that FCS is often described as a program of 18+1+1: the platforms, the network and the soldier.

“Thanks to FCS, the Army will have faster, smarter, more agent-based decision aids built right into its command-and-control structure,” says Tim Peters, FCS senior program director for software and distributed systems. “Troops and field commanders will benefit from fuller, more accurate, more timely information that’s presented to them as a prioritized selection of options yielding the best results.”

The whole is significantly greater than the sum of the parts in FCS, which will fundamentally transform the way U.S. forces operate. Indeed, the Army is reinventing itself to take full advantage of its future force construct. When the spiraled FCS technologies begin deploying in 2008, they will provide the Army with needed increases in capability and give the FCS One Team valuable feedback that will help it maximize the effectiveness of this future fighting force.

Ted Goetz“We have a great relationship with the customer,” Peters says. “The U.S. Army has a very clear vision of where it needs to be. In addition to providing program oversight, Army experts are participating on our teams and helping us on a daily basis.”

The result of this close collaboration will be platforms with a spectrum of combat functions and capabilities designed into them. These FCS systems will be modular for easy repair, share common components for simplified logistical support, and come with built-in diagnostics and interactive technical manuals embedded in the equipment to ensure that it is never down for want of a paper manual.

“Imagine modeling all these individual platforms with their many roles and the many potential strategies for their real-world use,” says Goetz. “Once you do that, you’ll begin to appreciate this program’s breathtaking scope and demands.”

Like Tim Peters and so many others on this key program, Ted Goetz thrives on challenges. A 26-year Boeing veteran, he grew up wanting to build stadiums and bridges before choosing aerospace as a profession.

“I managed the systems engineering and integration for the 16-nation International Space Station,” he remarks, “and I can tell you FCS is an order of magnitude more complex than ISS.”


Front Page
Contact Us | Site Map| Site Terms | Privacy | Copyright
Copyright© Boeing. All rights reserved.