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SSC-Natick Press Release

U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center-Natick
Public Affairs Office
Kansas Street
Natick, MA 01760-5012

Contact: Chief, Public Affairs Office
(508) 233-5340

Date: April 4, 2007
No: 07-09

Notes from the Program Manager: Future Force Warrior leaps ahead

By Carol Fitzgerald, Natick Soldier RD&E Center, Future Force Warrior Technology Program Office

Soldiers evaluate Future Force Warrior program equipment at Fort Benning, Ga. (Photo by Sarah Underhill)
Click for Larger Photo

NATICK, Mass. -- As the Future Force Warrior Advanced Technology Demonstration (FFW ATD) enters its final year, our team has made major strides towards our objectives, proven through successful field experimentation with Soldiers.

We are progressing towards accomplishing our primary ATD goal: integrating and demonstrating advanced technologies into a Soldier/Small Combat Unit (SCU) system of systems that will significantly enhance the combat effectiveness of the SCU and will be interoperable with the Future Combat Systems (FCS) and the future force.

Recently, we participated in some Army-sponsored programs and experimentation venues that for a few years have been developing the future force network, to conduct our own FFW experimentation and demonstrations. This opportunity has allowed us to have Soldiers look at our many technologies, and answer the questions "Do these technologies work?" and "How will the capabilities help me do my job better?" We were also able to start evaluating how to distribute the capabilities across the SCU.

This summer we participated in the U.S. Army Communications Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center's (CERDEC) Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (C4ISR) On the Move (OTM) at Fort Dix, N.J. OTM is focused on the technical and engineering aspects of establishing the future force network and making it work in a field environment. OTM provided us the ability to meet our Increment 1 top level goal -- initial network interoperability, and integrating the Soldier/SCU into the future force network for the first time -- three months early.

In November, we participated in the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command's (TRADOC) Air Assault Expeditionary Force (AAEF) Spiral C at Fort Benning, Ga. AAEF is about exploring how the network enhances operational effectiveness.

AAEF/C provided a fantastic opportunity to experiment with Soldiers in the field to get feedback on Soldier acceptability of the equipment and to gain insights on the tactical utility of the FFW capabilities. It also provided a venue to determine what system refinements are necessary (and desired) for OTM 07 and AAEF/D-the events that will culminate the FFW ATD next summer and fall.

Air Assault Expeditionary Force/Spiral C (AAEF/C)

We participated in AAEF/C with a squad of FFW-equipped Soldiers within the experimental force (EXFOR) platoon, with Leaders and Soldiers Command and Control (C2)-enabled. Combat veteran noncommissioned officers (NCOs), who are members of the FFW team, conducted training of the FFW EXFOR squad. They conducted both

operator training and individual and collective tactical training using the Tactics, Techniques and Procedures (TTPs) our team developed to employ the myriad FFW capabilities.

The prototypes we took to AAEF/C were based on all our previous FFW work, coupled with key leveraged technologies, and included an ergonomically designed advanced combat ensemble with stand-off, integrated body armor/load bearing (the "chassis"), passive cooling from the chassis stand-off coupled with a wicking combat shirt and integrated electronics (e.g., the computer, navigation, power and Personal Area Network (PAN).

The communications and networking integration was via a Wearable Soldier Radio Terminal hosting the Soldier Radio Waveform version 2.1 (from CERDEC), which is one of the primary waveforms used in the future force network. The FFW Leader system also included mapping and situational awareness software called FalconView (being used in theatre today) and targeting software called BareBones (a spin-off of Air Force software), viewed in a goggle-mounted "look down" display and manipulated by the Soldier using system voice control.

A Battlefield Renewable Integrated Tactical Energy System (BRITES) power manager allowed any power source to be used as input power to the system. Some Soldiers had an FFW-modified XM-104 fire control target engagement system and some had a Multi-Function Laser.

Soldier level situational awareness was via CERDEC's C2 Mobile Intelligent Net-Centric Computing System (C2MINCS) and provided basic position/location and mapping functions appropriate to a rifleman's needs.

We also had memory joggers integrated in the Leader and Soldier software systems for quick recall of complex and/or infrequently used tasks.

Our FFW engineers on sight at Fort Benning also integrated the iRobot PackBot with our system for use by a Robotics NCO. The benefits of our participation in OTM and AAEF/C have been significant.

Our three combat veteran NCOs, Sgt. 1st Class Rick Haddad, Staff Sgt. Stephan Simmins and Sgt. Josh Deveraux, captured the capability benefits of FFW as follows:

Soldiers at OTM and AAEF were able to operate tactically with the FFW systems, FalconView and C2MINCS in a matter of hours. The user friendly applications in the areas of navigation and firesplanning allowed for quick route and target planning.

o Soldiers responded quickly to the Windows-based software that made the training much quicker than expected. Young Soldiers already having a foundation of basic computer skills made the learning curve small.

o The Soldier system (C2MINCS) was learned by most Soldiers in half an hour.

o FFW could assist Soldiers in the prevention of potential fratricide situations in combat; the Support by Fire leader can track all movement of the assault element by icon in the event of normal fire control standard operating procedures failing. Icon tracking by all allows Soldiers to know the location of squad members.

o Multi-Function Laser (MFL) with use of FalconView or C2MINCS software provides the Soldier the ability to transmit locations of hostile targets by lazing, eliminating the need to estimate distance, elevation and direction to the target. This method allows the Soldier to transmit the enemy location immediately without unnecessary movement or the use of voice that may compromise the Soldier's position, thus maintaining the initiative on making first contact when fires are authorized.

o The FFW system allows all Soldiers to participate in the command and control of all missions by having the ability to listen to all traffic and view icons of sub-tasks being conducted within the squad. This allows less dissemination by team leaders which equals less unnecessary movement and quick, more fluid patrols.

o Ease of route planning by use of FalconView allows for more rehearsal and time for mission prep. All Soldiers have the ability to navigate using either the Leader or Soldier system; this results in reduction of breaks in contact during movement and allows for any Soldier to lead the movement if needed.

o Normal movements to the objective were almost cut in half because the Soldiers did not have to stop for map checks. Team leaders did not have to continuously look for others in their team because they had their icon present and could talk to all of them.

o Use of the Goggle-Mounted Display and FalconView mapping software makes long map checks a thing of the past.

o The durability of the Soldier Protective Integrated Ensemble System (SPIES) trousers provided much more protection while negotiating thick foliage and wire obstacles. The integrated knee pads allowed for the Soldiers to take a knee, regardless of the terrain below.

o The SPIES chassis provided ease of movement during operations and distributed the fighting load evenly; Soldiers liked the fit and ventilation capabilities.

o The Boneknockers allowed for easy listening while being able to wear hearing protection.

o BareBones application allows for Soldiers to pre-plan targets that can be shared by all prior to movement to the objective.

o Cooperative engagement with the use of MFL and XM-104 allowed the Squad Leader to use his M203 (grenade launcher) in engagement of targets without line of sight. Target data received from the MFL was sent immediately to the M203 with the XM104 and the target could be engaged.

o The Soldiers said they were less likely to "drone" during defensive operations because they could all listen to what was going on. They could also watch the movement of supporting tasks being conducted either with the leader goggle or Soldier PDA.

Linking FFW to Air Power, Future Combat System

Our other major technical advancement this year was the move from closed, proprietary architectures to truly open hardware and software architectures. This move started early in 2006 with our fruitful partnership with the U.S. Air Force Research Lab and leverage of their Battefield Air Operations Kit, which is used primarily by ground personnel who control the Air Force's "fast movers."

This year, our engineers successfully demonstrated linkage of an FFW Soldier to an FFW leader to USAF Tactical Air Control Personnel to fast movers (A-10 and F-16), accurately and rapidly moving targeting data digitally, machine-to-machine, from Soldier to joint platforms.

This innovative hardware and software integration approach and use of open architectures will allow the Soldier and SCU to link to any platform, with potential for Soldiers in the network to significantly contribute to higher level force effectiveness.

Next year our plan is to integrate to Army rotary aircraft (Apache) to demonstrate this Soldier-to-platform linkage.

Also next year, we will participate in the Future Combat Systems Experiment 1.1, their first significant field experiment. Their goal is to be able to pass data via the network all the way down to the Soldier/SCU level.

"One of the biggest benefits to FFW will be demonstrating the FFW architecture is interoperable in any network environment. Based on our work to date, the integration with FCS will be more straightforward than we originally thought," said Andy Taylor, FFW chief engineer.

The Next Steps

A major program execution change was also recently implemented because of the need for greater flexibility and return on the investment of FFW program funds and to achieve greater innovation through leverage of "best in class" technologies that are being developed across DoD. The FFW Technology Program Office is leading all technical development and integration for the remainder of the program, with support from numerous contractors to bring the FFW Increment 2 vision to fruition.

We are working on further capability enhancements beyond the systems at AAEF/C and Experiment 1.1 including: precise positioning system, low power flex display, headgear sensor fusion, wireless Personal Area Network, wireless weapons interface, unmanned ground vehicles and unattended ground sensors (UGS) integration, enhanced computer and software upgrades and rotary wing connectivity.

In addition, we are making progress in reducing size and weight of key components: most notably the Panasonic Toughbook surrogate we used this year for the Leader computer will be replaced with a "hand-top" class computer, which is about one quarter of the volume and weight of the Toughbook and at least as capable.

To conclude the ATD in 2007, we will equip a light infantry platoon, approximately 35 Soldiers, with Increment 2 systems at OTM 07 and AAEF/D to determine if we have met our ATD exit criteria and to answer our essential elements of analysis-the real input for Army decision makers about the value of FFW capabilities.

As the early design phase of the Ground Soldier System (GSS), FFW will transition to Program Executive Office (PEO) Soldier/Project Manager (PM) Soldier Warrior in the first quarter of fiscal year 2008 for them to conduct the System Development and Demonstration program and field GSS.

Upon conclusion of the ATD, we will undertake follow-on science and technology efforts on capability enhancements at the component level that can be inserted later into GSS and the other Soldier as a System warrior programs such as Mounted Soldier and Air Soldier.

"The reason FFW was so well received by the AAEF/C EXFOR was because Soldiers recognized that we are trying to focus the system's battle management and situational awareness to meet the needs of the members of the SCU by skill level, rather than forcing on them something designed for Battalion and Company level," said Command Sgt. Maj. (retired) Sam Spears, FFW's senior operational advisor.

We are making outstanding technical progress, and in concert with our team's guiding principles, we are making great strides in achieving high levels of Soldier acceptance and meaningful SCU capabilities. We are poised to bring the FFW ATD to a stellar conclusion.

This page last updated on 10 May 2006.