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System of Systems Integration Lab will test Future Combat Systems equipment

by Eric Cramer

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Jan. 26, 2005) -- When Boeing and U.S. Army officials cut the ribbon on the System of Systems integration laboratory in Huntingdon Beach, Calif., on Friday, it will be a sign that Future Combat Systems will be a real part of Soldiers lives in the future, officials say.

The SoSIL is a 140,000-square-foot testing and simulation lab that will allow Soldiers and civilian experts to work together to develop, test and evaluate the FCS network that connects vehicles and warfighters on the battlefield. The $35 million laboratory is part of the Army’s $21.4 billion FCS program to be fielded in its entirety by 2014.

Col. Charles Jorgenson, chief of staff for Program Manager, Unit of Action, said the facility is central to FCS development.

“It will allow us to test all 18 platforms in the network-centric warfare we’re trying to move to,” Jorgenson said.

He said the lab’s developments will begin to spiral out to units.

“We’ll move some of those capabilities to a test unit beginning in 2008,” Jorgenson said. “And we’re already using some of the technology.”

Frank DeMattia, senior program director and site leader for Boeing’s Southern California FCS program, said the new laboratory will allow full-scale testing of FCS equipment across all its platforms. The high-tech facility will also be able to link suppliers and subcontractors nationwide, in real time.

DeMattia said FCS will network the 18 new vehicles, including manned and unmanned ground vehicles and unmanned aerial vehicles. . He said FCS will integrate all the communications nodes in a brigade sized “unite of action.” It will be SoSIL’s job to make certain those vehicles, Soldiers individual equipment, and stationary sensors throughout the battlefield can work together

DeMattia said the goal is to have Soldiers directly involved with the system’s development, so that FCS will encounter few difficulties once it takes to the field.

“We’re brining the Army into a simulated battle very early in the process,” DeMattia said. ‘We want to get the warfighter involved in the developmental process, so if he’s looking at a display, for example, and it doesn’t look right to him, we can make changes before we’re fully committed to a design.”

DeMattia said that once the ribbon is cut, the facility will go to work almost immediately.

“Work has really already started – we’re receiving the first models of simulators for the 18 vehicles, and our first ‘full up’ integration test is set to begin in October, 2005, and end sometime in spring 2006,” DeMattia said. “That will culminate in a mission test in which we bring in Soldiers and have red and blue forces using the equipment in a simulated battle.”

DeMattia said SoSIL will allow the Army to being to spiral both hardware and software into the field gradually, with various components of FCS being fielded in 2008, 2010 and 2012 before the full system is in use in 2014.

When the full FCS system fields, Jorgenson said it will lift the “fog of war.”

“What it means to an Infantry Spc. 4 walking down the road is he isn’t there with just his own platoon – the whole network is supporting him,”
he said. “It allows him to see first and react. I’ve heard the analogy, ‘They won’t know we’re there, but we’ll know they’re there.”