Boeing’s FCS Spin-offs Faces Struggles

by: Matthew Potter
January 14, 2011

Category: Boeing, Business Line, Companies, Congress, Department of Defense, development program, Events, Federal Budget Process, IT, production program, Proposal, Restructuring, SAIC, Services, U.S. Army | RSS 2.0

The U.S. Army’s Future Combat System (FCS) was to be their next family of battlefield vehicles as well as different communication and data link systems supported by unmanned ground and aerial vehicles. It would ultimately replace the current M1/M2 heavy armored team in use since the Eighties. The program was led by a team of Boeing (BA) and SAIC (SAIC).

When the new Obama administration came in in 2008 one of its defense reforms led by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was to cancel the program. This was due to cost and schedule issues and the fact that the requirements did not reflect the current combat conditions in Iraq and Afghanistan. While the main program was canceled some of its components were continued including Boeing’s Network Integration Kit.

This system is a data link used to connect vehicles within the brigade to aid them in monitoring the tactical situation. One of the key parts of FCS was to use advanced communications and C4ISR systems to improve battlefield knowledge and the Kit was a component of that.

Unfortunately the Defense Department has released results of recent testing of the Kit and it has not performed as well as they hoped. Although to be fair to Boeing and the Project Office the testing is early in the program and finding out issues like this is why testing is done.

The systems tested cost on average close to $1 million a vehicle kit and each brigade is supposed to get 81 of them. The price goal is less then half that. The testing will be part of the consideration of the Pentagon’s Defense Acquisition Board (DAB) as it meets to consider continuing the program.

Boeing is continuing development of the NIK and is currently building systems to equip one brigade. The Army is deciding whether to begin production of the two more sets for another two brigades.

In the current budgetary situation where the Pentagon is being squeezed to reduce funding programs that are having cost, schedule or performance issues may be easy targets to get cut. At the same time as with the EFV there remains requirements for these programs and ending this attempt may just be one step on to starting up another one.

If the NIK is canceled then the Army and Boeing will have little left to show for all of the time, effort and money spend on FCS.

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