Procurement: September 26, 2002

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The army is having a major problem with one of it's key procurement projects for warfare after 2008. The Future Combat System (FCS) is a number of new vehicles, weapons and equipment intended to replace the current heavy tank (the M-1). The FCS consists of 16-20 ton light armored vehicles (probably on wheels), for jobs like reconnaissance, carrying infantry, artillery or a new type anti-tank gun (using liquid fuel and new penetrators). In addition there would several types of smaller unmanned vehicles for scouting and carrying ammunition and supplies. There would also be several UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) for scouting. Everything would be networked so that everyone could see anything any of the systems in a unit was detecting. The army is spending about a billion dollars a year to develop this stuff, and science advisors have already warned that too many of the needed technologies are not nearly ready for prime time. So the current target date is 2010. But it's likely that even that will slip by a few years. The major problem is not with the technology, but how it actually works on a real battlefield. The lightly armored vehicles are vulnerable to all manner battlefield hazards, like troops with portable anti-tank rockets. Anti-vehicle mines have always been a hazard, and smaller (and lighter) mines will take out the FCS vehicles. It's more likely that those FCS components that are ready first will be put to use. It's likely that a decade or two will go by before the entire FCS is ready for prime time. 

 


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