FCS - goodbye


Enough Bundeswehr bashing for a while, the U.S.Americans are active as usual and provide more stories.
Danger Room covered the story of the FCS and its (alleged) end:

The Army made a decision with FCS to package all of its modernization projects into a single, massive program. Not just the new vehicles -- but new networks, new robots, too. Gates said today that was a mistake. Sure, "FCS was a revolutionary concept," he said. But "my experience in government is, when you want to change something all at once and create a whole new thing, you usually end up with an expensive disaster on your hands."
"They wanted to make it too big to fail, and in the process, made it a failure."

I see two major mistakes.
One mistake was about technology. I have the benefit of hindsight and concluded that it would be much better to begin with the foundation of a re-equipping program. The foundation for FCS was C4 - Command, Control, Communications and Computers. Everything had to connect to C4 and depended on C4 to fulfill the promises of FCS. Command and Control is mostly about technique, training, organization and software. Communications and Computers is about hardware. They should have developed communication standards/protocols and the communications hardware (software-defined radios that could also connect to computers (USB?) and establish communication by copper and fiber-optic cables).
The result of this step would have been known bandwidths and standards to plug in all the other hardware that would be developed in a later step.

The other mistake was the obvious one; the vehicle weight.
It began with a weight expectation that allowed airlift by C-130J - less than 20 tons. That creeped up to about 30 tons. The choice was apparently for an all-track family of vehicles. There was no integral attempt to design new trucks (which make up a huge portion of the lift requirements), just a few robot vehicles.
The tracked 25-30 ton AFVs were suitable for support and reconnaissance, but offered little advantages over traditional tanks - at obviously greater vulnerability.
The rules of thumbs given by tank design experts suggest a necessity for 40-50 ton weight to design a very survivable modern MBT. 30 ton tanks could be survivable against modern weapons, but would not be survivable against future systems that were designed to defeat them.

20+ tons is on the other hand probably heavier than necessary for many AFV functions. Armoured ambulances, ammunition carriers, mortar carriers and APCs weigh traditionally about 10-15 tons - 25 ton vehicles don't only cost more; they also consume much more fuel ceteris paribus. The additional protection was probably not worth the additional cost, weight and size.

A set of several families of vehicles might have been a better idea:
1) 40-50 tons and tracked.
2) 15-25 tons and tracked
3) 10-15 tons 6wd
4) 3-5 tons 4wd

FCS was simply too expensive and apparently too optimistic about possible R&D progress. The military-industrial complex was simply not fit enough to execute the program well enough and the concept for the family of vehicles was flawed.

On top of that doubts persist about the viability of network-centric warfare, the doctrinal base for FCS.

Sven Ortmann

P.S.: FCS is dead! Long live [insert next program names here]!
The show must go on.

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