Leonardo DRS will deliver the first order of the Army’s new rugged tablets this October as the service looks to fully modernize its mounted computer fleet by 2024, while the company plans to explore technology upgrades to meet future autonomy and big data requirements.

Bill Guyan, vice president for Leonardo DRS’ land electronics division, told Defense Daily the new Mounted Family of Computing Systems (MFoCS) II provides enhanced processing speed and multi-touch display required to run the new Joint Battle Command-Platform (JBC-P) and will start to meet computing requirements for the Army’s next-generation vehicle fleet

Leonardo DRS’ MFoCS II tablet

“The MFoCS II program is meant to fulfill part of the Army’s network modernization objective of pure-fleeting to the MFoCS family of hardware,” Guyan said. “Our challenge is to make sure that the hardware is never the limiting constraint on the functionality that a soldier needs on the platform. So we always try to stay ahead of the demand and rapidly take the latest technology and deliver it out to the field.”

Paul Mehney, director of public communications for Program Executive Office Command, Control & Communications – Tactical (PEO C3T), told Defense Daily the Army plans to procure 13,200 MFoCS II systems in FY ’19, as officials look to replace the legacy mounted computers.

The Army will ultimately field 51,000 MFoCS II tablets through 2024 to meet its JBC-P acquisition objective and fully modernize its mounted computing environment, according to Mehney.

Leonardo DRS was awarded the 10-year, $842 million MFoCS II contract in May 2018, and earlier this month received a $132.1 million production order to deliver the first upgraded systems starting in October (Defense Daily, April 3).

Upgrades from the previous version of MFoCS include an enhanced processor speed, larger hard drive, smaller overall tablet size, improved cyber security measures and the upgrade from single-touch to multi-touch display.

“These improvements deliver a more robust, hardened and intuitive capability,” Mehney said.

Guyan said Leonardo DRS has discussed a “technology roadmap” with the Army that addresses big data requirements for future platforms and may eventually work towards an MFoCS III system.

“MFoCS III is something that has been discussed as a next-generation concept. When that happens will be determined by the modernization scheme of the Army,” Guyan said. “What is important for us is that we continue to stay on the leading edge with technology, and also that we embrace open standards so that rapid technology assertion and innovation can continue to be employed as needed.”

The Army’s increasing integration of next-generation sensors is also creating new technology opportunities needed to synthesize the vast amounts of data to be collected on next-generation platforms, like the Bradley-replacing Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle (OMFV) and Robotic Combat Vehicle programs.

“We’ve got to move to a point where systems provide an additive capability to the commander and take all the data to help move from just awareness to understanding,” Guyan said. “In the future vehicles, new types of computing technologies will be required that are heavily dependent upon machine learning and artificial intelligence. We’ll be monitoring and participating in that roadmap as well.”

Guyan said the Army is already planning to use MFoCS II as part of the technology package for its new ultra-light tank, Mobile Protected Firepower, as well as OMFV.