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[] WPO 25.2.02: Army To Pick Lead Developer Of Futuristic Combat System,

Washington Post
February 25, 2002
Pg. 21

Army To Pick Lead Developer Of Futuristic Combat System 

By Vernon Loeb, Washington Post Staff Writer

The U.S. Army expects to pick a contractor next week to develop the technology for a new ground combat network to replace tanks and other armored vehicles with manned and robotic land cruisers, directed-energy weapons and unmanned aerial vehicles, all linked by advanced intelligence sensors and data networks.

The concept behind the Army's "Future Combat Systems" is so dependent upon emerging technologies that Army officials, working in concert with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, have turned to the private sector to fully define what is being called a battlefield "system of systems."

"It is powerfully complex, because we're used to as a government defining everything at the beginning ­ it is to be so big, so wide, and run so fast," said Army Lt. Gen. John M. Riggs. He's the officer spearheading Army efforts to "transform" Cold War ground divisions into high-tech fighting units of the future ­ what the Army calls its "Objective Force."

"We're bringing industry in very early as partner with the government in order to go forward with the realization of the concepts, the requirements, the integration of the technologies," Riggs said. "The program then leads into the building of things, so that those things can be brought in starting this decade."

What those "things" will be remains to be seen: "I would not want to limit it at this point," Riggs said.

But he and other Army officials hope one will be a fighting vehicle as lethal as a 70-ton M-1 tank that weighs just a quarter of that and can roll off the back of a C-130 transport and open fire with a directed-energy weapon, perhaps a laser gun or a high-power microwave cannon.

The technologies needed to make Future Combat Systems work, the General Accounting Office said in a report last year, "include robotics, sensors, new fuel and power systems, advanced armor and command and control networks."

The Army is already at work on a 100-kilowatt solid state laser that would be light enough to go on the back of a Humvee. New unmanned aerial vehicles for surveillance and reconnaissance are on the drawing board, and the Army recently awarded a robotics contract with Future Combat Systems in mind.

Riggs said the Army plans to award a $154 million contract next week to a "lead systems integrator" whose job it will be to turn all this nascent technology into a battlefield package the Army will be able to quickly move ­ and then sustain ­ anywhere in the world.

While the size of the contract is small in Pentagon terms, three teams ­ led by Boeing Co., General Dynamics Corp. and Lockheed Martin Corp. and consisting of virtually every major defense contractor in the United States ­ have submitted bids. The winning bidder could get a leg up on multibillion-dollar awards in future years for actual development and production of whatever Future Combat Systems turns out to be.

Robert Mitchell, Boeing's director of strategic development for Future Combat Systems, said the Boeing team isn't interested in building the system and is presenting itself as pure "systems integrator," hoping to convince Army officials that it can pull difficult technologies together in the most innovative way.

"Our concept is to bring the Army the best of industry ­ not the best of what our team has to offer," Mitchell said. 

The General Dynamics team has already created a separate company, Eagle Enterprises Inc., based in Falls Church, that hopes to design and build Future Combat Systems.

Kendell Pease, a General Dynamics spokesman, said the team's package is "going to give the Army more pop and more lethality than anyone ever dreamed of."

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