Monday, August 1, 2011

U.S. Army Cancels MULE Unmanned Ground Vehicle

The U.S. Army has decided to cancel the Multi-Mission Unmanned Ground Vehicle, one of the few systems still remaining from the Future Combat Systems (FCS) program.
The 3.5-ton vehicle, which has been in development for years, is more commonly known by its FCS name, the Multi-Function Utility/Logistics and Equipment Vehicle (MULE).
Although a July 29 Acquisition Decision Memorandum formalized the decision, the Army determined it no longer needed the vehicle during a 2011 unmanned ground vehicle portfolio review.
"The Warfighter's requirements in the area of dismounted Soldier equipment transport have shifted to a vehicle with an expanded air assault capability," a July 29 letter to Congress says.
The original FCS MULE program had three different vehicle variants: transport, countermine and the Armed Robotic Vehicle.
In January 2010, the Army canceled the transport and countermine variants but said work would continue on the Armed Robotic Vehicle-Assault Light, being developed by Lockheed Martin.
At the time, the company said the Armed Robotic Vehicle consumed the bulk of MULE funding. Lockheed Martin first won the contract to develop the MULE program in 2003.
Now, the Army has concluded, "the system's Counter-Improvised Explosive Device focus and weight limited the platform's mobility.
The Army's decision formally halts development of the Autonomous Navigation System (ANS) and Common Mobility Platform (CMP), the vehicle's two major components.
The Army said it conducted a comparative assessment of existing autonomous navigation system technologies and determined that "ANS development progress did not warrant continued investment," according to the congressional letter.
All work on the program must stop by Sept. 30.
The MULE was one of the few FCS programs still kicking.
Since April 2009, a series of decisions from former Defense Secretary Robert Gates and the Army have led to the cancellation of the bulk of the program.
First, Gates made the most dramatic cut by canceling the manned ground vehicle portion of the program, which effectively brought an end to the FCS program as a whole.
However, several technologies were allowed to continue, including a handful of unmanned vehicles.
In January 2010, the Army canceled the Class IV UAV and the transport and countermine variants of the MULE. Later, it canceled the Non-Line of Sight Launch System.
Earlier this year, the Army canceled the Class I UAV and halted work on the unmanned ground sensors.
A recent internal Army study revealed exactly how much the Army has been spending on canceled programs over the past decade.
"The FCS termination casts an enormous shadow over any debate about challenges in the Army acquisition system," the report released in June said. But the Army's problems predate FCS.
Every year since 1996, before FCS was off and running, the Army spent more than $1 billion annually on programs that were ultimately canceled.
Since 2004, including FCS, the Army spent $3.3 billion to $3.8 billion on programs that were eventually canceled. This equates to 35 to 42 percent per year of Army Development Test and Evaluation funding being lost on canceled programs.

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