The Army is ready to begin strenuous turret testing of the Future Combat Systems (FCS) Manned Ground Vehicle (MGV) Mounted Combat System, marking a major milestone in hardware development for the next generation of combat vehicles.

BAE Systems is partnered with General Dynamics [GD] in developing the FCS MGVs. Lead System Integrator Boeing [BA] and SAIC [SAI] manage the FCS program of 14 systems and a network tying systems to each other and to soldiers.

Part of the FCS MGV family, the Mounted Combat System (MCS) provides tank- like capabilities, including the ability for soldiers to engage enemy targets from a greater distance than today’s technology allows.

The MCS turret, unlike today’s tank turret, is completely automated with a lightweight 120mm cannon, advanced stability controls and an automatic loader capable of loading shells in a matter of seconds, the Army said. The MCS supports networked fires with precision accuracy and rapidly engages targets with information provided by the FCS network.

"By automating the loading feature we were able to reduce the vehicle’s crew size from four soldiers to three and also reduce crew fatigue and human error," Lt. Col. Robert Hannah, product manager for MCS, said.

The recently prototyped MCS turret, called a Firing Platform, is beginning system level testing at the Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center near Detroit, Mich. The engineering center is home to the Army’s only Turret Motion Based Simulator–a device that will put stress and strain on the MCS turret during simulated road conditions.

Maj. Dean Wiley, MGV Test and Evaluation officer, said: "Since the MCS Firing Platform is automated there are many components that have never been tested in this fashion before. At TARDEC we are conducting several months of rigorous simulations to reduce risk, improve data, and demonstrate that the several fire control systems and electric gun- turret drive system have reached technological maturity."

The evaluations at TARDEC will be followed by, "a second phase of testing that will be conducted at Aberdeen Test Center (ATC) starting in late 2008. During this phase, the complete Firing Platform will fire live ammunition. This will mark the first time that the complete MCS turret has been put through live fire tests," Wiley said.

The complete MCS vehicle will be prototyped in 2011 and debut with the first FCS Brigade Combat Team now planned for 2015.

The first of the MGVs, the Non-Line-of-Sight Cannon, was unveiled for the public in Washington, D.C., June 11 (Defense Daily, June 12).