Army works to meld battlefield IT apps

Overarching system has 5 key subsystems

Advanced Field Artillery Tactical Data System. This automated fire support system engages commanders in fire support planning. The system processes information for field artillery, missiles, attack helicopters and cannons. It is designed to reduce the time it takes to transmit information from sensors to shooters and improve targeting accuracy.

Force XXI Battle Command Brigade and Below. This system links mobile computers on the Army's tactical intranet to display where friendly forces and enemies are located. The system sends messages, orders, reports and warnings, and it can display battlefield pictures for nuclear, biological and chemical warfare.

Global Command and Control System-Army. This system connects the Army Battle Command System with the Defense Department's joint command and control system. It is a critical link to a coordinated DOD joint technical architecture, Army officials said.

All Source Analysis System. Intelligence gathered from ground and air-based sensors and by other means enters the system automatically, speeding analysis.

Combat Service Support Control System. This system collects, stores, analyzes and disseminates combat service support data, including supply, maintenance, ammunition, personnel, financial and medical data, to develop an integrated picture of Army logistics.

The Force XXI Battle Command Brigade and Below system uses mobile computers connected to the Army's tactical intranet to track friendly forces and enemies on the battlefield.

More than a dozen Army IT systems that handle a variety of functions are being managed as one system under the broad Army Battle Command Systems program.

For decades, command and control systems in the Army were developed separately, and commanders had to go several places if they wanted information on terrain, weather, intelligence, logistics or combat support planning.

But to consolidate such data, the Army has been working to integrate various stovepiped systems into a so-called system of systems that would share one common operational picture. It is part of the broad Army transformation initiative to help soldiers and commanders plan and fight smarter, officials said.

'This is how the Army is achieving network-centric warfare or digitization to the battlefield,' said John Perrapato, deputy program executive officer for command, control, communications and tactical at Fort Monmouth, N.J.

'It is key to the Army transformation initiative,' he added. 'These systems are command and control systems in a tactical environment.'

ABCS is an integrated battlefield information network made up of computers, software and databases, linked together by wireless communications. The system is made up of about a dozen subsystems that will be connected by the 15-year, $6.6 billion Warfighter Information Network-Tactical program.

Through WIN-T, the Army plans to build a high-speed, high-capacity network for wired and wireless voice, data and video communications for soldiers on the battlefield, whether they are riding in combat vehicles, manning radio systems or located at stationary command posts.

WIN-T will provide command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities that are mobile, secure, rugged and capable of supporting multimedia tactical systems that can be used on the battlefield, Army officials said.

Secure or nonsecure

WIN-T will use three terminal devices for communication. Some users will have secure wireless handheld computers to connect to the WIN-T network using radio and satellite links. Others will use secure or nonsecure wired voice terminals.

Teams led by Lockheed Martin Corp. and General Dynamics Corp. have been chosen for a yearlong fly-off competition to conduct WIN-T risk management, technology readiness and coordination plans. After that, the Army will pick one of them to build the WIN-T system.

One of the subsystems of ABCS is the Army Airborne Command and Control System, a mobile system that was on display at the Homeland Security and National Defense Symposium in Atlantic City in September.

The voice and data system is installed on Black Hawk helicopters and ground systems at command posts, allowing them to share information.

Raytheon Co. is the lead contractor.

Perrapato said the concept behind ABCS is to let battalion and brigade commanders, sometimes miles away from a battlefield, communicate with soldiers quicker. 'He is miles away, but all of this stuff is reporting back to him and he's giving orders,' he explained.

Several Army units are using the Army Airborne system to train for war, Perrapato said.

Other key components of the Army transformation initiative include the Future Combat System, Joint Tactical Radio System, a software-dependent radio program, and the Objective Force Warrior, the Army's high-tech vision for 21st-century combat forces.

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