Support: August 17, 2004

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The US Army and Marine Corps will merge the two services separate force tracking systems over the next two years and also speed up efforts to have the unified system able to talk to over 20 systems used by other US forces and its allies. The Army and Marine Corps had independently built their systems with no plans for interoperability, but Operation Iraqi Freedom drove the need to improvise an ad hoc network capability,  put together with bubble gum and bailing wire. 

The Army will be the lead developer of the system and be responsible for system modules to be used by commanders at the brigade level and below, as well as for vehicle use. The Marines will develop modules for commanders at the battalion level and above, plus command post systems. The completed system should be available by March 2007. 

The Armys solution will be based on the Force XXI Battle Command Brigade-and-Below (FBCB2) Blue Force Tracking system a mouthful shortened to BFT and incorporate various features the Marines want. The Marines are using their existing Data Automated Control Terminal (DACT) and Command and Control Personal Computer (C2PC) equipment to put together the Joint Tactical Common Operating Picture Workstation for Command Posts (JTCOPWCP), another mouthful likely to be simplified to COP in the field. 

The Navy, Air Force, and Special Operations Command (SOCOM) are providing input on system development since they will eventually end up as system users. The Air Force wants to make sure that old information that hasnt been updated in a while is tagged as such, since they dont want to base targeting missions on outdated positional information. SOCOMs primary concern is data security so that an adversary cant intercept information or detect the network. They are also plugging their (usual) requests for a low-weight system with long battery life.

Security is a big issue. The US wants coalition forces to use the system but it wants to have the ability to restrict access to sensitive information. Further, capture of a unit would give an adversary access to a near-complete view of US force positions. The army is designing systems that would allow a commander to remotely shut down a system once he knew it had been compromised. And if that doesnt work, theres always the tried and true method of putting a GPS-guided weapon upon the compromised unit. 

Communications bandwidth is another concern. Currently, the underlying network architecture can track up to 10,000 units and will be expanded to 30,000 units in the future, but this is only a fraction of the total number of units that the various services plan to field. Doug Mohney

 


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