The U.S. Army’s recent designation of its initial Early Infantry Brigade Combat Team (EIBCT) has helped to crystallize planning schedules for the first combat deployment of the service’s modernized capabilities.
The fielding of an initial set of modernized systems initially developed under the Future Combat Systems (FCS) program was reaffirmed in a late December 2009 Acquisition Decision Memorandum that gave approval to move into low rate initial production (LRIP) for one Brigade Combat Team set of the “Increment 1” EIBCT modernization program.
The initial increment includes the Small Unmanned Ground Vehicle (SUGV), the Class 1 Unmanned Aerial System (UAS), both Tactical and Urban versions of Unattended Ground Sensors (T-UGS/U-UGS), the Non-Line of Sight Launch System (NLOS-LS) and an early increment of the foundation network in the form of vehicle-mounted Network Integration Kits (NIK).
Developmental models of the “Increment 1” hardware initially entered testing by the Army’s 5th Brigade, 1st Armored Division, based at Fort Bliss, Texas. Also known as the Army Evaluation Task Force (AETF), the unit works to evaluate the equipment and to develop the early tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) necessary to optimize initial employment. That testing paved the way for the late December 2009 limited LRIP decision and ADM.
The Army has recently identified 3rd Brigade, 1st Armored Division, also based at Ft. Hood, Texas, as the initial EIBCT. That identification marks the beginning of some parallel test, development and fielding activities for the Army’s modernized brigade hardware.
As an example, along one path, the 5-1 AD (AETF) will continue its test efforts with program elements. Some of the activities may support near term decisions like the future of NLOS-LS as well as an expanded range of NIK integrated vehicle platforms that will now include three models of Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles.
Much of the AETF testing is being directed toward a “Limited User Test [LUT] ’10,” now planned for September of this year. LUT ’10 will reflect a number of changes from its LUT ’09 predecessor, including more developed/enhanced hardware and software, larger participating unit structure, significantly larger operational areas, and terrain/tactical scenarios that better reflect scenarios in Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, the 3-1 AD (initial EIBCT) will begin receiving some of the first items of its actual “Increment 1” hardware at the start of FY11. One developing plan reflects the arrival of both Class 1 UAS and Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS) Ground Mobile Radios (GMR), the critical enabler behind NIK, beginning in October of this year.
The arrival of the new equipment will pave the way for 3-1 AD to begin training by February 2011, followed by formalized New Equipment Training on the complete system, leading to a critical Initial Operational Test & Evaluation (IOT&E) during FY11.
3-1 AD will also use FY11 to perform other comparative evaluation tasks as directed in the ADM.
Finally, sources at the Army’s Future Force Integration Directorate (FFID) indicate that 3-1 AD will deploy to Afghanistan with its modernized equipment set in FY12.
During the latter stages of this timeline, the 5-1 AD/AETF is expected to move beyond the “Increment 1” equipment set to begin testing and field evaluations of additional technologies that could represent potential “Increment 2” capabilities.