US soldiers and civilians at White Sands Missile Range are preparing to test the army’s future combat systems (FCS) programme later this year.

Technicians have begun loading up vehicles with data collection equipment that will be used to test the systems later this year.

Armoured and unarmoured Humvees are getting network integrations kits and data recorders installed that will allow them to communicate with unmanned ground sensors, aircraft, and man-portable robots and record the data that the systems will share with each other.

Assistant programme manager for FCS spin out 1 programme, Marc Cervantes said that the test itself will have soldiers using FCS networked systems to share information.

“We’re taking all this data and information and putting it all together to create a common operating picture,” Cervantes said.

The systems that will be involved in the test include:

Tactical and urban unattended ground sensors: small easy-to-conceal pods loaded with various detection equipment, and wirelessly connected to the FCS network to allow soldiers to monitor large areas with fewer troops.

The class I UAV: a remotely operated flying vehicle smaller than a foot locker, equipped with various cameras and designators.

The small unmanned ground vehicle: a man-portable remote-controlled robot, also equipped with cameras and designators.

Though designed to connect and work together, many of FCS’s different systems are made by different companies, so preparing for tests requires coordination between the different military, government and civilian entities involved in the programme.

The intent of networking all the FCS systems together is to give the war fighter a better ability to communicate and share information. Providing soldiers with the ability to access multiple sources of information about the battlefield aims to give them an increased sense of situational awareness, or knowledge of where they are and what is around them.

“Anytime a soldier is in any environment, his life could be on the line, and a soldier is the greatest asset that the army has,” Cervantes said.

“To give the Soldier what he needs to be successful in peacetime and in wartime is what we’re working toward.”

Before testing on the new equipment can begin, soldiers will have to be trained to use it. Soldiers will begin training on the use of the unmanned systems and the control and networking equipment mounted in the Humvees so that they will be fully prepared to it in the test with the same level of proficiency they would in the field.

By Daniel Garrun.