Defense Media Network

Army Begins Limited User Test on FCS “Spin Out” Technologies

On Aug. 25, 2009, elements of the U.S. Army’s 5th Brigade, 1st Armored Division (Army Evaluation Task Force [AETF]) began Limited User Testing (LUT) on an initial “capabilities package” of “spin out” technologies originally developed under the Army’s Future Combat Systems (FCS) program.

The crucial LUT milestone reflects an execution of guidance received in the Acquisition Decision Memorandum, issued on June 23, 2009, by the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, which officially canceled the Future Combat Systems Brigade Combat Team (FCS BCT) program and in its place directed the Army “to transition to a modernization plan consisting of a number of separate but integrated acquisition programs to meet the secretary’s objectives.”

“Those integrated programs include one to spin out the initial increment of the FCS program to seven infantry brigades in the near term and additional programs for information and communications networks, unmanned ground and air vehicles and sensors, and an integration effort aimed at follow-on spinouts to all Army brigades,” it read.

Alternately described as either a “capabilities package” or a “spin out package,” the initial grouping of systems and technologies now incorporated in the LUT testing includes: Tactical Unattended Ground Sensors (T-UGS); Urban Unattended Ground Sensors (U-UGS); Class 1 Block 0 Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV); Small Unmanned Ground Vehicle (SUGV) Block 1; Network Integration Kit (NIK); and Non Line of Sight Launch System (NLOS-LS).

T-UGS, for example, consists of a family of sensors and communications links designed to provide situational awareness to protect the force in a field environment. U-UGS sensors, by comparison, are designed to serve as a leave-behind, network-enabled reporting system for situational awareness and force protection in an urban setting, as well as residual protection for previously cleared areas within urban environments.

Along with situational awareness and early warning capabilities, the sensor data also allows “cross-cueing” with other sensors and weapon systems, such as the Class 1 UAV.

LUT planners highlight the integrated nature of the testing, bringing the systems together as a true “system of systems” to work together in a simulated tactical environment, not only passing information over the network but also exhibiting the potential for tactical contributions that can be optimized through the development of new tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) by AETF Soldiers.

“In other words, how can they use the tools that they have in order to execute the tasks that they have individually but also to collectively execute the mission and achieve the objective,” noted Jerry Tyree, integration director at the AETF. “I believe that’s a very important point. And it’s something that’s somewhat unique to the paths that we’re taking within the Army, and certainly within this program, where we are looking at ‘capability packages’ as opposed to individual systems.”

Offering historical examples of “a new tank” that might have been developed and fielded in the past, he added, “The integration of that tank within a brigade would have really happened within the brigade itself. The same was true for a new radio. You just name the system. But what we’re really doing with the path that we’re going down within the Army now with these capability sets is to integrate these capabilities together; how you use them; and then provide that total package to a brigade that’s ready to go to war.”

Primary LUT participants were drawn from “Charlie Company” of the AETF’s 2nd Combined Arms Battalion. That company-sized element has been reinforced by a reconnaissance platoon from battalion headquarters as well as an NLOS-LS platoon from the AETF’s (brigade-level) fires battalion, resulting in a “battalion minus” structure optimized to test the broad range of spin out systems.

LUT opposing force (OPFOR) elements have been taken from the AETF’s 1st CAB. OPFOR capabilities range from traditional mechanized infantry and armor to the employment of supporting paramilitary forces. Nearly two dozen “role players” are also participating in the complex tactical environment.

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Scott Gourley is a former U.S. Army officer and the author of more than 1,500...