In-flight system to give rapid-response forces a good look ahead

Rapid response C17

Rapid-response forces headed for a mission aboard a transport aircraft will be better able to hit the ground running thanks to the Army’s new in-flight Internet and mission command system that will let commanders plan mission en route and give soldiers real-time video of the drop zones they’re approaching.

The Army is installing the Enroute Mission Command Capability, or EMC2, on C17 aircraft, and it is expected to pass the Air Force’s Safe to Fly Requirements this summer, the Army said. The system uses a Fixed Install Satellite Antenna, or FISA, to provide Internet access, full-motion video, collaboration and intelligence tools, mission command applications.

EMC2 is intended to support the Defense Department’s Global Response Force, a joint effort intended for rapid response and deployment. The new system will give forces better situational awareness by giving them a look at what’s ahead. "Instead of landing on the ground, analyzing the situation and developing execution plans, they can hit the ground executing," Lt. Col. Joel Babbitt, product manager for Warfighter Information Network-Tactical, Increment 1, which manages EMC2, said in an Army release.

The centerpiece of the system is the FISA, which could use both the commercial Ku and the military Ka satellite bands in a single antenna for better bandwidth and efficiency, the Army said. The system can receive video feeds from satellites, manned aircraft and drones and deliver them to those on board, allowing for in-flight planning. "Being able to see the airfield where you are going to be landing, to see that drop zone, helps soldiers get their heads fully into the operation so they are better prepared for the mission at hand," said Capt. Mindy Brown, EMC2 lead for the WIN-T  Increment 1 product manager.

The Global Response Force, or GRF, is a joint entity that includes Air Force C17 and C130 aircraft and the Army's XVIII Airborne Corps. The 82nd Airborne Division maintains the GRF.

The Army plans to start testing EMC2 systems installed on C17s this summer, and expects the system to pass the tests by the end of August. If all goes according to plan, the system will be issued to the XVIII Airborne Corps by the end of the year.

Babbit said the situational awareness the system supplies will greatly improve the force’s effectiveness. "For the GRF, EMC2 is an absolutely disruptive technology to the traditional way of doing business, and will transform operations," he said.


About the Author

Kevin McCaney is a former editor of Defense Systems and GCN.

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