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Future Force Warrior (FFW)

Extensive planning was conducted outlining the projected future for the Future Force Warrior (FFW) Program. Demonstrations and experimentation included FY06 participation in the C4ISR On The Move (OTM) experiment, and FY07 participation in the C4ISR OTM and Air Assault Expeditionary Force (AAEF) Spiral D experimentation venues. Key performance goals were to demonstrate a Soldier borne system with fighting load of no more than 70 lbs for the rifleman, the ability to operate for 24 hrs autonomously at the individual level and 72 hrs at the Brigade Combat Team level, integration of the Soldier Radio Waveform (SRW), and compatibility with Future Combat Systems (FCS). The FFW program worked closely with the Army's FCS and Squad Level Integrated Communications Environment (SLICE, developing SRW) programs, as well as other Army Science & Technology (S&T) and DoD programs, in order to ensure interoperability, prevent possible duplication of efforts, and maximize return on investment to the Army. As part of the FFW/LW consolidation effort, FFW was working directly with PEO Soldier to identify and transition early maturing technologies into ongoing PEO Soldier acquisition programs.

On 15 May 2001, journalists got a look at FFW. They described Army Sgt. Joseph Patterson as if he stepped from the pages of a science fiction book depicting future warfare. Patterson, part of the Soldier Support Center in Natick, Massachusetts, demonstrated some advanced concepts for outfitting infantrymen to members of Congress and their staffs. "This is the equivalent of a concept car for infantrymen," he said. "We're taking a look at every idea and asking, what possibly could make my life great?"

Do you want one uniform for all climates? The demonstrated prototype had a built-in heating or cooling system. The outfit had interlaced with tubes. "You cool the bodysuit or heat it depending on the core body temperature," Patterson said. Do you want a read-out on what your condition is? The outfit had built-in monitors that check heartbeat, breathing and hydration. It would also monitor sleep and gauge combat stress. Not only would the service member have the information, but the commander would also. Need an integrated communications and data system? "We're going to have body-borne antennas, so no more of those long antennas sticking up," he said.

"We're looking at a really visionary idea of being chameleons," he said. "We're going to have a chameleon uniform that changes color depending on where you are. It'll be an arctic uniform, a jungle uniform, a desert uniform as needed." Not having to carry extra gear, such as field jackets or rain gear, was expected to lighten the load. "Backpacks will no longer be needed except for food, extra ammo and water," he said. "We're actually going to carry just mission-specific items and none of what we call 'snivel gear.' So we don't have our cold weather gear, our wet weather suits, our chemical- biological protection -- it's all integrated into one suit." Patterson's black suit included body armor and integrated his weapon in a helmet-mounted heads-up display.

The Army's "Future Warrior" system, which features a sleek spandex bodysuit and helmet, is expected to be able to change color to match the environment and protect soldiers from chemical and biological threats. A soldier demonstrated the system, which featured a sleek spandex bodysuit and a motorcycle-style helmet with a "heads-up" display that uses visual, thermal, acoustic and radar sensors to offer "360-degree situational awareness," Coburn said. "The display is on the helmet visor. On the top, we'll have an embedded sensor suite with night vision and thermal sights," Patterson said. "We'll be able to see 360 degrees, everyone knows where each other is through combat identification, and you can link to everyone and transmit real-time data directly to their heads-up displays."

All of this had in the past sounded like a page out of the comic book "Starship Troopers," but now could happen. "We can't do these things now, but we should be able to make the technology work in the near future," Patterson said. "It's just a chance to push the envelope." Dubbed "Future Warrior," the concept has been designed to use cutting-edge nanotechnology that features integrated circuits smaller than the period at the end of this sentence. The system would be able to change color to match the environment, have the capability to be sealed off against chemical and biological threats, and feature an inner layer that can cool or warm. The whole outfit would be powered by the new microturbine engine that would last for up to six days. "Future combat will not be remote, bloodless or risk-free," Coburn said. "Our job is to give soldiers the equipment, technology and logistics they need for overmatch on the battlefield. They will get nothing less. They deserve nothing less."

As of 2003, Land Warrior and Objective Force Warrior programs, programs similar to Future Force Warrior, but intended to field systems in the near term, were slated to begin fielding in 2004 and 2010 respectively. On the other hand, Future Warrior was described as a notional systems concept for the year 2025.

The FY05 Defense Appropriations conferees directed the Secretary of the Army to submit to the congressional defense committees a plan, not later than 31 January 2005, to consolidate the Land Warrior and Future Force Warrior programs into a single program, benefiting from the efficiencies of each. The conferees also recommended a reduction to the Future Force Warrior program of $5,000,000 and a reduction to the Land Warrior program of $15,000,000, as a result of anticipated efficiencies gained through consolidation of these two programs. The consolidated program was expected to take on the focus of the Army's Future Combat System (FCS) and provide the Army with a FCS dismounted capability for the individual soldier. Further, the conferees understood that it was possible to field a dismounted capability immediately to the Stryker Brigades currently deployed in combat. Therefore, the conferees recommend that the combined program re-focus its procurement strategy to incorporate these emerging capabilities, such as the Commanders Digital Assistant (CDA) and hand-held EPLRS capabilities, into the Stryker brigades immediately.

In FY05, the program executed the consolidation of the FFW and LW programs per Congressional direction. Transitioned FFW Lead Technology Integrator (LTI) role from General Dynamics Robotics Systems to LW prime contractor (General Dynamics C4 Systems [GDC4S]). With PEO Soldier, GDC4S and TRADOC System Manager Soldier, developed a Ground Soldier System (GSS) modernization roadmap to achieve GSS requirements that was aligned with ongoing PEO-Soldier and FCS acquisition programs. FFW government/LTI team structures were redefined, and matrixed PEO Soldier personnel into FFW team structure. Program technical baselines were re-established based upon consolidated effort and initiated FFW Systems Engineering Synchronization Phase. Reassessed technical performance metrics for GSS and Small Combat Unit (SCU) were created to meet size/weight/power requirements. Lastly the roadmap completed prioritization of capability requirements.

In FY05, FFW Technology Development continued Soldier SoS M&S, concept and subsystem development including:

  • Headgear - fabricated breadboard sensors (fused visual/infrared) and assessed lightweight ballistic materials
  • Communications - conducted lab and limited field tests with prototype hardware to evaluate Soldier Radio Waveform for dismounted voice/data comms and modeled FFW network
  • Soldier Borne System (SBS) - fabricated six prototypes and performed technical evaluations and field assessments with soldiers to obtain feedback
  • Lethality - defined interfaces between SBS and weapon fire control; modified XM104 fire control to add Non Line of Sight capability
  • Processing and Power - developed proof-of-concept Soldier borne computer system, developed mission profiles and power duty cycles, and received prototype battery cells for lab evaluation
  • Personal Area Network (PAN) - defined body borne antennae interfaces and initiated integration of Warfighter Physiological Status Monitoring (WPSM) components into PAN
  • Software - initiated algorithm development for weapon target pairing, power management and graphical user interface
  • Soldier/platform interfaces - conducted demonstration of Soldier control of robotic platform; developed initial interface specifications for unmanned and manned vehicles.
  • Augmented Cognition- assessed the capability of real-time assessment of cognitive state of Soldiers in the field, including data collection of WPSM.
  • Systems Engineering - as part of LW/FFW consolidation, stabilized FFW architecture after assessing both LW and initial FFW systems, refined comms, lethality, security, software and physical architectures; validated trade studies and conducted new trades; analyzed distribution and resulting effectiveness of capabilities across the SCU; initiated Interface Control Documents and DOD compliant architecture documentation; initiated analysis of FCS SoS Common Operating Environment products for FFW re-use.

Body Borne System activities were focused on integrating technology in a lightweight, low power, ergonomically designed, integrated modular package to meet overall 70 lb weight threshold (rifleman) and 24 hr autonomous mission requirements. Included were systems engineering tasks to include development of architecture, metrics, requirements allocation, interoperability and supportability. In FY06 it was hoped that a complete design and development of Soldier-borne hardware architecture would be available for all Military Operational Specialty (MOS) specific configurations within the SCU. Integratation of hardware subsystems into the FFW Soldier Protection and Individual Equipment System was also planned. These subsystems included:

  • Stand off ballistic protection and load carriage chassis
  • Signature management
  • Semi-permeable membrane (chemical-biological protective) overgarment
  • Laser detectors for Tactical Engagement Sensor (TES)
  • Antennas
  • Power sources
  • Communications
  • Computer
  • Position/navigation
  • Fire control
  • Warfighter Physiological Status Monitoring-Initial Capability
  • PAN.

Also projected was the exploration of requirements for future integration of flexible panel display technology and development FCS-compatible interface(s) in areas of power and data (to share Situational Awareness/Common Operating Picture from higher echelons), as well as size/cube compatibility for Ground Soldier vehicle compartments. It was hoped that during FY06 12 integrated body borne systems would fabricated and tested. Engineering projections for fielded GSS and build 1 leader and 1 Soldier mockup were also to be developed. In FY07, complete final system development and integration, including addition of chem/bio protection using semi-permeable membrane and integration of PAN enhancements was hoped to be achieved. The program would also look to retrofit the hopefully existing 12 systems and fabricate and test 10 additional integrated body borne systems to support up to platoon level size field experiments and demonstrations. Specific goals were set out for major subsystems in the FY06-FY07 timeframe.

The Army's FFW system came one step closer to being fielded as the Ground Soldier System (GSS) following a successful demonstration in August 2006 of its electronic networking capability. This was the first of two incremental design phases. The Army successfully demonstrated network interoperability of the soldier/small combat unit with the future force network. This achievement satisfied the program's top level goal for its first incremental design and was completed three months ahead of schedule. The FFW Technology Program Office delivered early prototypes of the "Increment 2" design, enabling risk reduction of the system that continued to be enhanced throughout the remainder of the program, which was scheduled to conclude in late 2007.

To achieve this success, NSC worked with a number of its sister centers, including the Communications and Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center (CERDEC). Natick participated in CERDEC's Command, Control, Communication, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C4ISR) On-the-Move program. This allowed leveraging an important Army field experimentation venue to assess multiple developmental technologies addressing future force network integration, including FFW.

As the lead organization for the FFW ATD, NSC was responsible for the successful integration of all FFW-related technologies developed by government and non-government partners and ensuring that the final product seamlessly incorporates state-of-the-art technologies into one soldier-friendly package. Through NSC's participation in this experiment, the Army gained valuable soldier feedback on network/communications capabilities as well as soldier acceptance feedback regarding the many aspects of the advanced FFW combat ensemble.

The FFW Increment 1 capabilities demonstrated at the OTM included: SCU integration into the future force network via the Soldier Radio Waveform; demonstration of the Soldier Protective Individual Equipment System, an advanced body armor and load carriage system; demonstration of cooperative engagement/networked fires using digital target handoff and Non Line of Sight fire; demonstration of headgear thermal and Image-Intensification sensor fusion; demonstration of system voice control; and simulation of physiological status monitoring.

In addition, the FFW early Increment 2 capabilities demonstrated at OTM included: demonstration of Leader level Command and Control via FalconView (leveraged from the Air Force), system voice control, integrated Class I Unmanned Aerial Vehicle imagery, look-down display integrated into combat goggles, and advanced power management devices to extend mission duration; demonstration of Soldier-level Situational Awareness leveraged from CERDEC's Command and Control Mobile Intelligent Net-Centric Computing System program; Warrior Physiological Status Monitoring; and deeper integration of electronics into the FFW combat ensemble.

The FFW was spiraling mature components to enhance the Program Executive Office Soldier's Land Warrior system, designed for Stryker and current force interoperability. FFW transitioned to the PEO Soldier in FY08 to support the Army Requirements Oversight Council-approved Ground Soldier System, the follow on to the canceled Land Warrior program, which supported FCS and future force interoperability.

FFW participation in this major Army experimentation venue helped the FCS program address their risks of dismounted soldier integration into FCS. The FFW ATD was scheduled to conclude at the end of 2007, with participation in C4ISR OTM 07 and Air Assault Expeditionary Force/Spiral D serving as the culminating events.

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