The U.S. Army’s Future Combat Systems (FCS) program, begun in 2003, carried with it the promise of a brand new fleet of manned ground vehicles; yet, due to economic and logistical difficulties and setbacks, FCS was cancelled in 2009.
In the spring of 2009, Pentagon and Army officials announced the cancellation of the FCS vehicle-development effort. Rather than providing new, future-proof vehicles able to support modern and future electronics and power systems designs, efforts and investments turned to modernizing current combat vehicles.
Geeks everywhere might have agreed at the time, siding with updating deployed vehicles rather than investing $340 billion over the life of the FCS program. Hindsight is 20/20, as they say, and now military commanders and soldiers are revealing the challenges they face in the field.
From a mechanical standpoint, one vehicle is often “cannibalized” to ensure the continued operation of others. (In the realm of aircraft, the term used is “hangar queen”, which refers to a downed aircraft that is systematically and over time stripped of its functional parts or used as a “parts car” to ensure other vehicles continue to function.)
From an electronics standpoint, updating vehicle-borne electronics presents the challenge of sufficient power to drive more and more powerful systems. For example, U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) officials soon found the need to equip ground combat vehicles deployed in the Middle East with counter-IED and other countermeasure equipment; yet, the onboard power electronics gained little or no modernization attention. Today, this geek is pleased to report that the power challenge in military ground combat vehicles is gaining much attention. Many manufacturers are turning to electronic design automation (EDA) tools not only to design power-efficient electronics and robust power electronics, but also to design and test electrical and wiring harness designs.