Twitter Facebook Google RSS

At Unit of Action Lab, Soldiers Determine Design of FCS 

11  2,003 

by Roxana Tiron 

Armed with three-dimensional goggles, or perhaps a computer mouse, soldiers at the Fort Knox Unit of Action Maneuver Battle Lab will be helping to determine the design of the U.S. Army’s Future Combat Systems.

FCS digital designs will arrive at the UAMBL in early 2004, with reviews continuing through 2005. According to Maj. Gen. Terry Tucker, who is both the commander of Fort Knox, Ky., and the director of UAMBL, the Army is going to start building FCS prototypes in roughly a year.

“When the time comes to [build] the vehicles, it is going to go from the drawing board to production in a matter of three or four years,” Jim Cook, the director of modeling and simulation at UAMBL, told National Defense. “Instead of soldiers going to the designers, they send [their] work to us to get our opinions.”

The soldiers use three-dimensional virtual environments to test the designs and suggest modifications. To analyze the operational capability of the FCS concept, soldiers will use virtual environments, called constructive simulations, said Cook.

“One of the big things that we are trying to do here is prove that we can accelerate the traditional process and do this much more timely and quicker than we have done in the past,” said Cook.

Before, the Army acquired systems in a “linear type process,” said Cook. It would take 10-15 years to field new systems. For FCS, the initial operational capability is scheduled for 2008, and equipment fielding is slated for 2010.

“In the past ... it was always platform-oriented,” he said. “When we built a new tank, it was a very structured process, and that does not work anymore.”

The UAMBL has been in place since January 2002. The Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) chartered the lab to take the lead in developing the FCS and “embed it in a fighting organization called Unit of Action,” Tucker said. A Unit of Action is a combined-arms, brigade-size organization that can sustain itself for 72 hours in a combat zone.

Fort Knox appeared a good fit for UAMBL, said Cook. The base already had facilities linking together various modeling and simulation capabilities. One of those facilities is the Mounted Warfare Test Bed, which was built in 1988.

“We have linked the key training facilities on Army installations, and have the capability to do this in a distributed fashion over wide area networks to other locations in TRADOC” and the Defense Department, explained Cook.

Experimentation with new acquisition programs is not unusual at the base. Fort Knox left its imprint on the design and employment of the Stryker armored vehicle, according to Joe Hughes, the deputy director of UAMBL. Now UAMBL runs more than 400 simulations for the Army.

The budget of UAMBL is “not enough,” said Tucker. However, UAMBL will get a share of the nearly $15 billion approved for the research and development of the FCS over the next five years, Tucker added.

UAMBL reports to TRADOC, but is teamed with every organization that has a stake in building the FCS Unit of Action, said Hughes. TRADOC has 12 of these organizations: the Armor Center at Fort Knox, Ky.; the Aviation Center at Fort Rucker, Ala.; the Chemical and Engineer Schools at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.; the Field Artillery Center at Fort Sill, Okla.; the Infantry Center at Fort Benning, Ga.; the Intelligence Center at Fort Huachuca, Ariz.; the Combined Arms Support Command, at Fort Lee, Va.; the Signal Center at Fort Gordon, Ga., and the Army Medical Department, at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. UAMBL works with the Battle Command Unit of Employment at Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., which is the main FCS proponent in TRADOC.

The lab also interacts with various programs that have application in the FCS, said Cook. The Lead Systems Integrator—the Boeing-SAIC team—connects directly to the UAMBL.

“We have tracks in the Army Systems and Evaluation Command that are all woven in our efforts,” said Cook.

Fourteen “integrated product teams” meet routinely to evaluate areas of the program. The testers, users and joint communities each own 51 percent of the vote in the design of the FCS.

The Army has assigned six colonels to UAMBL, said Hughes. “That is a heck of a resource commitment by the U.S. Army,” he said in a presentation to the National Defense Industrial Association’s Combat Vehicles conference at Fort Knox.

The colonels will represent the armor branch, artillery, military intelligence, infantry, aviation and a cadre element/unit of action, said Cook. They are going to be the subject matter experts and experimentation role players.

“We are focused on the network and the soldier,” said Hughes. The connection to the various players is necessary, “so we can be embedded in the unit of employment, into the greater battle command [structure] and into the joint battle command center.”

Through experimentation the Army can develop training and doctrine, and also determine which technologies are mature, Hughes added.

To enhance experimentation, UAMBL has created the Battle Lab Collaborative Simulation Environment, said Hughes. In April, UAMBL ran an experiment in which it linked with Fort Benning, Fort Huachuca and Fort Sill. Starting this fall, that experiment will keep expanding, according to Hughes.

UAMBL started another series of experiments in August called the Battle Command Study. The service looked at battle command issues, from a vehicle in a platoon to a platoon leader, said Cook.

In October, the lab was scheduled to test the battle command information process between a platoon and a company, said Cook.

In January, another distributed experiment will look at the communication from the company to battalion level. Between March and June, the Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth is sponsoring experiments to address the battle command relationships between the UA and the UE.

“All through this, sensors are linked from the lowest level to the highest joint level providing information,” he said. “We are looking at those information linkages [and] parcel them down to specific levels to look at each echelon.”

Based on lessons learned throughout the year, UAMBL will have another experiment next August to “somewhat refine” battle command procedures. That will lead to a joint experiment in the fall of 2004, said Cook. “That will give us the opportunity to portray the UA with the joint architecture and the joint forces in the same environment.”

The battle command experiments are going to “help us feed the ADM [the Acquisition Decision Memorandum]” for the Joint Requirements Oversight Council, said Hughes.

Additionally, UAMBL will conduct frequent experiments “to determine how the systems work individually and collectively and how we employ them into a tactical situation,” said Tucker. “We have a whole series of simulations—tactical simulations, development simulations and architecture simulations—that allow us to better understand the capabilities of the pieces and the parts.”

“Nobody has ever tried to build a force the way we are building FCS,” he said. “It is very complex. ... Our job is to represent the soldier and to make sure that the requirements that support the soldier are [endorsed] by the development and acquisition community.”

The hardest part is to ensure that the requirements and the soldiers continually are represented in the development and acquisition process, he explained, as opposed to having the developers and the acquisition community deciding what the soldiers need.

Core Simulations
UAMBL works with a series of constructive and joint conflict models, said Cook. For example, the Battlefield Environment Weapons Simulation system does environment modeling. “It was designed originally for precision guided weapons and the modeling of their sensors in a variety of environments,” said Cook. The lab also works with a system called Joint SAF, which is part of the same family of simulations that led to OneSAF (One Semi-Automated Forces).

For virtual simulations, UAMBL relies on the Advanced Concept Research Tool, a reconfigurable simulator, “in which you can plug various types of displays and controls to simulate operational capabilities of a manned platform,” Cook explained.

The simulators can be configured as a two-man crew of a potential FCS-type variant, he said. A surrogate communications system replicates a digital capability for map display, information processing and communication between vehicles.

In front of them, operators have a set of controls and a two-dimensional visual display that may replicate what they see with a direct view optic, or what, in the future, could be an electronic sighting system, explained Cook.

An operator at a different workstation can simulate the dismounted soldier in what Cook calls “a first person simulator.”

The various elements of the Advanced Concept Research Tool are networked in a constructive simulation. For this purpose, UAMBL uses computer- generated forces. “Those entities can represent individuals. They can represent weapons systems. They can represent munitions,” said Cook.”

Among the capabilities that can be shown on ACRT is how a dismounted soldier can lase a target, pass that information to a manned platform that may not even have line-of-sight targeting, and perform an indirect fire engagement or non-line-of-sight engagement.

The simulations at UAMBL, although somewhat different, capitalize on the same technology used in the video game and entertainment industry, said Cook.

“We can make adjustments to that synthetic environment to replicate what we think the future may be, whether it is the opposing forces we might face or differences in urban environment or even just differences in the space that we will occupy,” Cook said. “In the end, it comes down to playing out the analytical plan that most effectively allows you to analyze and get the performance data that you need to make the argument for the capability you are looking for.”

The goal is to make realistic assessments of what the capabilities should be. “We are not asking for anything more than we need, but we are not under-asking for the capability,” he said. “We have a much more rigorous capability definition than we have had in previous acquisitions.”

The simulation takes the operational perfor-mance parameters of systems that exist today and projects them into a capability envisioned for the future, explained Cook. “It gives us a good understanding of where we think we will be in five years from now. ... So, we can plug those parameters in the simulation, and we can gage its effects.”

The Advanced Concept Research Tool started out as a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency project called Simulation Networking Demonstration. Under that program, the Army started building the computer-generated forces.

While ACRT is instrumental in simulating operational capabilities of future weapons systems and concepts, another system, called CAVE, is paramount for the design of the FCS family of vehicles.

The CAVE automated virtual environment is a three-dimensional immersive environment that has been used by the commercial automotive community for several years, said Cook.

Developers can take engineering drawings, put them in 3-D and review the designs. “The user will review the design, interface back with the design engineers and provide them feedback before the actual platform is built,” he said.

It is up to industry to design proposals and bring those to the users at UAMBL, said Sgt. David Dockett, a training manager. “Using virtual environments we evaluate the integration of subsystems into the [FCS] vehicles. We add system functionality to enhance the design and view process. We model components and add motion to represent how they work.”

CAVE has the flexibility to evaluate multiple concepts and quickly integrate the changes, said Dockett. “It saves a lot of time, it saves a lot of resources, because you do not have to make a model to have it go into prototype vehicle, find it does not work, rip it out and fabricate a new one,” he said.

The CAVE system at Fort Knox belongs to the Army’s National Automotive Center, and is connected over secured internet with another CAVE facility in Warren, Mich., where the NAC is located.

“When they were thinking of the layout of the Stryker, they could bring people in here and put them inside the vehicle,” said Dockett.

There are a total of 300 CAVE systems around the world.

  Bookmark and Share