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June 09, 2005

FCS. Allies. Trust. Money.

Reader Alert - Boring Geeky Army Stuff Ahead.

Graphic depicts how the network will link different Future Combat Systems. All pics in this post are from the US. Army.

Torgau-05. Ry sent me a an article showing a different take on Torgau-05 than the Armed Forces News Service article I linked to two days ago.

The reason I like the article Ry sent is it gives me a platform to discuss aspects of how Transformation is affecting our ability to operate with allies.

It's not a matter of standardizing military manuals. This was done 10 years ago in preparation for joint peacekeeping operations in Bosnia, where a Russian brigade was part of a joint U.S.-Russian division. But its operations in Afghanistan and Iraq have made clear that the U.S. Army is conducting a new kind of war in which the main weapon is information, an area where the United States is the uncontested leader. Interoperability no longer means that Russian tank crews can operate an Abrams tank, but that they can access the information network used to direct operations. This means having communications systems and computer technology for receiving intelligence and orders from satellites and unmanned spy planes and specialists capable of evaluating the data in real time. Without this, you stand a good chance of being hit by "friendly fire."

As I've mentioned before, a couple of years ago I worked ABCA exercises (the America-Britain-Canada-Australia Alliance). One thing about the Brit Army - they were far more comfortable working with the Marines than they were with the US Army - and while some of that was driven by cultural issues - the Brits are organized and used a lot like we do the Marines, and, well, they have some aspects of seeing themselves as peers to the Marines while the Army are slighty retarded younger brothers striving to show that we are too grown up (heh, let the snarks begin)... but the real issue is one of the US Army is so automated vice the Marines. The Brits are frankly just more comfortable hooking into Marines than they are the Army. They are (justly) concerned that the Army is so wired and used to being wired that, in effect, we are actually possibly *more* likely to engage a Brit formation in the wrong place at the wrong time because we are so used to the situational awareness we have from our systems they are concerned we will shoot first and ask questions later.

An artist's drawing of the FCS command and control vehicle.

Another problem comes from the difference in battlefield perception. These are legitimate concerns (and the Army has not yet fully mastered the vast volume of information we have access to).

It's even worse with nations that have little to no, or, if they have it - incompatible systems. The huge breadth and scope of what the US is trying to do, coupled with our development cycle (and, frankly, abysmal configuration management) makes it very difficult for other nations to keep up. Which nicely brings us to *this* piece of information.

We may open the FCS system to Britain and Australia (and I bet Canada, too).

Artists drawing of the FCS Infantry Fighting Vehicle.

If you aren't stunned by boredom or a huge attack of giveashititis - the rest (with more pics) is in the Flash Traffic/Extended Entry.

This is more than just cost-sharing (though lord knows the system could use it) - it also lets them in on the architecture and protocol development on the NetCentric piece, which is the core of the overall concept - without it, these systems will be very vulnerable tin cans with big stingers rattling around the battlefield looking for a place to die gloriously.

One problem we struggle with anytime we do a combined (coalition) operation, is level of access we allow allies to information - and how to push the information we are willing to share. We have few restrictions on ABCA nations, their core interests being aligned very closely to ours (they really are, at the core level, despite what the politicos are up to at any given moment) but the farther out from the core you get, the more problematic access becomes. The current C4ISR (command and control and intel systems) set-up already has access to the most sensitive forms of national intelligence - and let's face it - if we let Allies into our Intranet, they are potentially going to have access to the most sensitve intel we have - firewalls and subscriber tables or no. That's the bogeyman in the system.

Artist's drawing of the FCS howitzer vehicle. The crew will be reduced from four to two soldiers with advanced fire control and loading technology.

The fact that we are considering opening up FCS to Allies is an implicit admission that not only is this thing damned expensive - but we are in danger of building a system so complex, so integrated into what we call 'national assets', and so integrated throughout our combat and command & control systems down to the individual Crunchy-on-Patrol - that we actually *can't* work with anyone else, even if we wanted to - absent a whole large structure of liaison teams to provide nodes in coalition operations centers... and there are honest-to-goodness issues of mutual trust that rear their heads there. It just wouldn't be safe.

For you Desert Storm vets - remember the Syrians and Egyptians? Who we put on the other side of the French... because they used Soviet equipment, 7th (US) Corps had been training for decades to blow up Warsaw Pact stuff... and the Iraqis were using Pact and Chinese analogues - and we weren't sure we were going to be able to manage the liaison... and the Arabs didn't even want to try! Like that - only worse with FCS. We'd have to bring another whole Army's worth of the equivalent of Blue Force Tracker whereever we went... and hope we could fit it into their gear.

UPDATE: While I still contend my point is valid in the way I intended it - my example sucked and my memory is waning. As Dave points out in his comment:

"For you Desert Storm vets - remember the Syrians and Egyptians? Who we put on the other side of the French..."

I think you need to go back and review those deployments. The French
division, the Division Daguet (6th Light Armored Division) was
located on the extreme left flank. No one was "the other side of the
French." They were a light armored division, heavily equipped with wheeled
vehicles, and served as a cavalry screen for XVIII Airborne Corps, and,
essentially all of ARCENT.

The Egyptians and Syrians were under Joint Forces Command-North,
sandwiched between the Marines to their right and VII Corps to their left.
The Egyptians participated in the invasion, but the Syrian 9th Armored
Division stayed in the rear and the bulk of the division did not cross
the border until G+2. The Syrians stayed behind the Egyptians and never
directly confronted the Iraqis.

The fratricide problem was mitigated mainly by (i) extensive
pre-invasion training, (ii) posting of ARCENT liaison teams with the allied
commands, and (iii) the efforts of 2nd Battalion, 5th SFG(A), which was
responsible for working with the Egyptians and Syrians. Also, the Egyptian
units at the tip of the spear were, I believe, mainly equipped with US
equipment (tanks and engineer equipment, I'm not sure about APCs;
artillery was mostly ComBloc).

The Syrians were kept in the rear not just because of fratricide fears,
but also because of politics. They had initially ruled out
participating in offensive operations; by the time they changed their mind,
planning had pretty much left them behind.

Sigh, given what happened with a post up higher in the stream, a steady diet of crow this week is getting annoying!

To continue:

Not easy - but this little bit here indicates we're starting to accept the scope of the issue and address it.

Which is a Good Thing.

If this seems a bit disjoint - I'm dancing around talking true "shop" and being faithlful to my client and my employer!

Artists drawing of the Future Combat Systems (FCS) Multifunctional Utility/Logistics and Equipment (MULE) Vehicle.

BTW - for those of you who have been following the FCS saga... there is a Grognard geek question buried in plain view in this post. Lets see who is enough of a scattered thinker to pick up on it!

If you really want to geek-up on FCS, go here.

John | Permalink | Comments (12) | Observations on things Military
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