Joint Army System Boasts Hybrid Network

January 15, 2010
By Amy Walker

Knowing the locations of friendly forces and enemy combatants can be the difference between life and death on the battlefield. The Joint Battle Command-Platform, or JBC-P, the second increment of the Force XXI Battle Command Brigade and Below (FBCB2), plots the participants of war for quick, precise identification. The JBC-P will employ both a celestial and terrestrial network to optimize bandwidth, efficiency and speed to adapt to various terrains and situations.

“JBC-P is one of the most relevant pieces of kit today,” Maj. Gen. Nickolas G. Justice, USA, the commanding general of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, says. He formerly served as the program executive officer for Program Executive Office Command, Control and Communications Tactical (PEO C3T), where he was the JBC-P Milestone B decision authority. “We are a ground-based force and everything we do, we do in the context of a map,” he states.

The FBCB2 tracks and displays friendly vehicles and aircraft that appear on a computer screen as blue icons over a geospatial imagery map. Users can manually add red icons that represent enemies on the screen and broadcast the locations simultaneously to all FBCB2 users on the battlefield. The system also can plot obstacles and hazards in the field. “We can check up on our route clearance teams to see where they are and if they are close to any IED [improvised explosive device] threats,” Pfc. Daniel Dutcher, USA, 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, says.

Bill Leonard, the acting product manager of the JBC-P, says the hybrid network is the biggest change from the previous increment of the FBCB2. Within the same platform, warfighters will have both the L-band satellite communications of the Blue Force Tracker (BFT) digital command and control system and the line-of-sight communications of Joint Tactical Radio System terrestrial radios to improve communication speed and reliability.

Terrestrial networks move directly from point to point—faster than satellite communications—but as users spread out geographically or their line of sight diminishes, they lose connectivity. Leonard says that a hybrid network enables users to choose the most effective way to communicate, depending on position and topography. “Our radio signal can cut out, but it doesn’t seem like our BFT cuts out at all, so it’s always nice to have a backup to radio,” Pfc. Dutcher emphasizes.

The Joint Capabilities Release (JCR) is part of Increment 1 of the FBCB2, which precedes the JBC-P. Currently, the JCR is being tested at the Central Technical Support Facility in Fort Hood, Texas, and fielding is expected to begin in October 2010. Meanwhile, the JBC-P received its Milestone B approval this fall.

Both the JCR and the JBC-P will leverage systems developed by other organizations to increase soldiers’ operational awareness while decreasing the footprint created by multiple systems. For example, the JCR will co-host the multimedia Tactical Ground Reporting (TIGR) system as a stand-alone application, and users will be able to toggle between the two. The TIGR system will be integrated into the JBC-P.

Initially the JBC-P will be fielded to the Army, Army Special Forces and Marine Corps. The Navy and Air Force are considering the solution as well.

Amy Walker is with
Symbolic Systems Inc. and supports PEO C3T milTech Solutions.

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