The Mounted Family of Computer Systems includes 10-inch tablets attached to 25-foot tethers. (Audra Canestrari/DRS Technologies)
DRS Technologies is gearing up to test its new family of hardened, vehicle-mounted computers at the upcoming Network Integration Evaluation 14.1 at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico and Fort Bliss, Texas.
The company’s Mounted Family of Computer Systems (MFoCS), showcased for the first time at this week’s Association of the United States Army expo in Washington, D.C., will run the new Army-developed Joint Battle Command Platform situational awareness software as well as other C4ISR apps.
DRS was awarded a three-year $455 million contract for MFoCS by the U.S. Army in April.
As its name indicates, the MFoCS has a few configurations: the basic model is a 10-inch tablet, and things scale up from there. Still, all models share a common hard drive and compatible pieces.
“The beauty of this is, kind of like Lego blocks, you can mix and match the modules,” said Bill Guyan, vice president of DRS Network and Imaging Systems.
MFoCS follows on the heels of the Force XXI Battle Command Brigade and Below (FBCB2), or what the Marines call Blue Force Tracker. Currently on 40-plus ground platforms, the FBCB2 was deployed in the late 1990s and early 2000s as the first major effort to bring digital maps to the field.
For its time, FBCB2 was revolutionary, but it does have its limits.
“The system was hard-mounted into the platform,” Guyan said, “and particularly in armored vehicles that posed a challenge to commanders who wanted to share with their crew or their unit what’s on the map screen.”
By contrast, the MFoCS tablet comes with a 25-foot tether, and once the communications security issues are worked out, the device will go wireless. In the meantime, the tether allows the tablet to be removed from its mount and shown around to anyone who might want to look at the displayed data.
(Dismounted troops have begun using locational data apps displayed on Android-type devices tethered to software-defined handheld radios. But Guyan said such pocket-sized commercial gear would not be appropriate for soldiers who are driving or have to be conscious of electromagnetic interference.)
DRS officials expect to see deliveries of the MFoCS begin by the end of next year. “Over time, this will probably replace the systems already out there, but for a while, they will co-exist,” Guyan said.