Army improves battlefield command and control technologies

The Army is developing and improving a number of command and control technologies that are helping to make its warfighters more effective in the field, an Army leader in technology said Jan. 24

Speaking at the Network Enabled Operations Conference in Alexandria, Va., Army Brig. Gen. Lee Price, program executive officer for Command, Control, Communications-Tactical (PEO C3T) at the Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., described several major programs for which her command is responsible.

Price noted that the command oversees a variety of programs such as the Warfighter Information Network-Tactical (WIN-T) that provides Army forces with access to the Global Information Grid down to the battalion level.

Increment 1 of the WIN-T program, known as the Joint Network Node, is already deployed with Army forces. Upcoming evaluations at the Army’s Network Integration Evaluation (NIE) at Fort Bliss, Texas, and nearby White Sands Missile Range, N.M., will evaluate Increment 2 of the program, which is designed to provide Army units with high bandwidth communications on the move.

Price’s command also is overseeing upgrades to the Army’s Blue Force Tracking system, known as the Force Battle Command, Brigade and Below (FBCB2), that allows unit commanders to know the location of friendly forces. The Army is working on upgrades to FBCB2’s satellite communications uplinks to reduce latency. The improvements allow force tracking data to be updated up to ten times faster than the old version, Price said.

At the company and squad level, Price said PEO C3T is working on testing the Joint Battle Command Platform, which replaces the small computer used in the Nett Warrior program. The new replacement device, based on a commercial smart phone, is due to be deployed and evaluated in theater, she said.

PEO C3T also is responsible for the Army’s Mission Command Collapse effort that is consolidating and virtualizing a variety of command and control systems. These capabilities and software applications are being loaded into the Command Post of the Future (CPOF) system now being used in theater, Price said.

The Army also is beta testing the Command Web capability in Afghanistan. Command Web allows units that don’t normally have access to CPOF to access some of its capabilities and to share information with CPOF systems. Feedback from forces testing Command Web will allow the Army to make changes and improvements before it begins a full deployment of the system, Price said.

The command also is testing a variety of systems designed to support communications equipment in the field and to reduce the Army’s power and fuel requirements. One such system is the Advanced Medium Mobile Power Source (AMMPS) tactical generator. The AMMPS generators are lighter and more fuel efficient than previous generations of military generators, Price said. Currently being evaluated at Fort Bliss, the new generators are designed to greatly reduce man hours of maintenance and cut fuel costs by being able to detect and compensate for spikes in usage, she said.

Reader Comments

Fri, Feb 10, 2012 Giles Peeters Canada

Army Maj. Gen. Lee Price’s decision to trial the new commercial kit in Afghan gives her the perfect opportunity to put the new commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) Joint Battle Command Platform solution to the test. It’ll be interesting to see whether it really is fit for purpose, as more commercial devices are being adapted for battlefield use than ever before (and are coming with IP67 resilience gradings as standard, along with Suite B/AES-256 encryption).

Forces are increasingly turning to COTS solutions like the commercial smart phone mentioned in the article, in anticipation of future joint operations - they're quickly becoming invaluable to organisations like ISAF that need highly scalable, interoperable and flexible beyond line-of-sight (BLOS) solutions. A good example can be seen in the recent explosion of tablet computers and slates - these are being combined with commercial satellite bearers and then deployed as tactical platforms that allow soldiers in the field to form autonomous user groups. They can then be commanded and controlled using secure short burst data (SBD) - regardless of location. These systems aren’t based on large pipes designed to transmit voice data, but they don’t need to be – they concentrate on getting critical information to the right commander in near real time.

BLOS blue force tracking is invaluable to a force operating in austere conditions like the ones found in Army Maj. Gen. Lee Price’s test environment, but is this an appropriate setting for a tactical communications system which will be used in future joint ops? It could be argued that it’s equally important to test it alongside systems belonging to other military organisation such as the UK MOD, in order to establish its interoperability. Commercial data packet offers the flexibility, introperatbility and cost efficiencies that are commonly recognised as FBCB2’s Achilles heal.

Giles Peeters
Defence Sector Director
Track24 Defence

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