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Tuesday, August 15, 2006 - Page updated at 01:53 PM

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Boeing Future Combat Systems gets go-ahead on weapons prototypes

Bloomberg News

Boeing's Future Combat Systems passed its most important milestone this year and can move into its next phase of development in which early prototypes are designed and tested, U.S. Army officials said today.

Almost five days of intense review by Army, Boeing and Defense Department officials show the key technologies are on track, Major General Charles Cartwright told reporters today during a telephone conference.

"We are done with PowerPoint charts," Cartwright said about a system that previously existed only on paper and in computerized models. "It's about building real stuff, not only for the current force but to build the equipment for the future brigades," he said.

The development program was reorganized in 2004 to add about four years and include five weapons systems that were originally deferred.

The program in inflation-adjusted dollars is estimated to cost $164 billion, the Pentagon's second-most-costly behind the Lockheed Martin Joint Strike Fighter.

The Future Combat Systems is a new family of manned and unmanned vehicles that are linked by high-speed, digital communications, unmanned drones and new combat radios. The system is organized into brigades that are lighter and faster than those in today's Army.

Boeing, the second-largest U.S. defense company, and Science Applications International co-manage the system for the Army under a $20.9 billion contract that extends to 2014. Cartwright said the companies are meeting their cost and schedule goals.

BAE System's North American unit and General Dynamics are the primary companies developing eight models of manned tactical and support vehicles.

Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, Textron and Computer Sciences are the other major subcontractors.

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