Dashboard PCs display real-time troop movements

Since the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Army, Marine Corps and allied ground forces in Kuwait and Iraq have used the Force XXI Battle Command Brigade and Below tactical communications system to track enemy and friendly forces and to obtain terrain data.

Soldiers 'can also communicate with each other and commanders through radio and e-mail sent by a satellite, which also provides global positioning information,' said George Brady, chief of the Project Design and Development Division of the Production Engineering Directorate at Tobyhanna Army Depot, Pa.

Installed in ground vehicles like Humvees, FBCB2 includes a PC with keyboard and monitor, satellite antennas and a Position Location Ground Radio. The antenna transmits data via satellite and provides Global Positioning System data about troop movements.

FBCB2, which runs the Sun Microsystems Solaris operating system, features an e-mail application that ties into the Army's higher-level tactical comm systems, letting soldiers send out mass messages and digital spot reports to theater commanders, who can then reposition troops.

As part of the system, Blue Force Tracking software lets users visually observe troop locations on the system's monitors, displaying on a map the locations of friendly, or blue, forces and enemy, or red, forces.

Tim Ryder, a spokesman for the Army's Communications and Electronics Command who is currently in Kuwait with soldiers, said he has seen the FBCB2 system in action. Ryder said the graphics and maps that commanders send over to troops are giving soldiers better situational awareness than in previous military deployments.

'The graphics allow a commander to say, 'Here's a territory you don't enter. Don't cross this line.' or, 'Here's a path I want you to follow. Follow the blue line on the screen,' ' Ryder said.

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