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,
“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
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
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.
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,”
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
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,
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
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.