While the army is still slogging along to get the full FBCB2 system operational in the next two years, it is testing, this Summer, a bunch of upgrades to the still popular BFT system. For example, icons representing tanks, or other vehicles with large weapons, will momentarily become yellow if that vehicle fires its weapon, or identifies a target. So you will be able to see at a glance where combat or contact has broken out. Also, if a BFT equipped vehicle has not reported its location for a while, the icon will fade. If a BFT vehicle is destroyed, or its BFT gear no longer responds, the icon will go black. New symbols to show minefields, or areas targeted for artillery fire, will also be available. Users will be able to send longer IMs (Instant Messages.) The army is also working to get BFT to work with Marine Corps equipment, and to perfect a hand held (PDA based) version of BFT (for commandoes and light infantry.)
One of the more surprising leadership tools to appear in the past decade has been Blue Force Tracker (BFT). First used in Afghanistan, and then in the 2003 Iraq invasion, the BFT software used a laptop computer and a satellite phone connection to enable hundreds of American Army and Marine units to always know where everyone (or at least other BFT users) else was. But BFT was actually just part of the software developed for the more extensive Force XXI Battle Command Brigade and Below (or FBCB2) system. BFT was, as the saying goes, a runaway success. Not only were commanders and troops very happy with it, but the embedded journalists got a look at it, and were impressed as well. It was as if something long thought to be in the realm of science fiction, suddenly became real.