Electronic Weapons: December 18, 2003

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The BFT (Blue Force Tracker) was one of the more popular new electronic systems used in Iraq. It's an army system that uses satellite communications (sort of like a satellite phone) and GPS to show everyone on the BFT network where everyone else is. The marines had developed a similar system, MDACT, which relied on conventional radio signals. To keep everyone in touch, the army gave the marines 200 BFT systems. After using both systems, and experiencing the usual number of hassles with bad or missing radio signals, the marines decided to dump their MDACT system and adopt BFT. The army is equipping each of its divisions with 800-1,000 systems (each consisting of the communications gear for sending and receiving the satellite signal, and software that turns a laptop, or similar device, into a BFT terminal, showing where everyone is on the computer screen and allowing for instant messages or email between all BFT users on the network.) The marines will transfer a lot of their MDACT software to work with the BFT. What the marines really want is the reliability of the satellite communications, which was not available (at a price they could afford), when they began developing MDACT in the 1990s. MDACT software "talks marine" and does a lot of things differently than the army. However, the army is now working with the marines, and other services, to develop BFT software that everyone can use and understand.

 


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