Web technologies converge to simplify the commander's battlespace landscape
April 10, 2013
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (April 11, 2013) -- Web applications, or apps, have revolutionized the way consumers connect to services that were traditionally accessed through desktop computers, and now the Army is using its own apps as an alternative way for commanders and Soldiers to collaborate.
Used inside command posts known as Tactical Operations Centers (TOCs), these apps provide real-time data on several warfighting function capabilities, displayed as layers on a common geospatial map to provide a comprehensive picture of the battlefield. The rich web-client solution enabling this collaboration is called Command Web, developed by Project Manager Mission Command (PM MC), assigned to Program Executive Office Command Control Communications-Tactical (PEO-C3T).
"We are addressing the commander's requirement to visually piece together the warfighting function capabilities of movement and maneuver, fires, sustainment, intelligence and protection," said Col. Jonas Vogelhut, Project Manager for Mission Command. "For example, rather than looking at four screens, or even walking to separate locations within a TOC, the commander can go to one screen to ensure the tanks and Bradleys are synchronized, the fires mission has pinpointed the target and will avoid a friendly fire incident, the equipment and supplies are on route to support the fight, and the intelligence on the ground is current."
Users access these apps, or widgets, via the Army's secure, tactical network, making Command Web hardware agnostic. In addition, the widgets provide a similar look and functionality of thick client systems, i.e., desktop computers connected to a network, resulting in a smaller learning curve for users.
Command Web's transformation from concept to reality has come quickly. It began with a beta fielding in September 2011 to Afghanistan and U.S. Army Europe (USAREUR), and has been both a demonstration and a System under Evaluation (SUE) at the last three consecutive Network Integration Evaluation (NIE) events. The NIEs are the Army's semi-annual exercises held to evaluate warfighting capabilities in a realistic operational environment for potential inclusion into the Army network architecture. This spring, PM Mission Command will field the latest version of Command Web and PM MC's core widgets to Afghanistan, Korea and U.S. Army Central Command (ARCENT).
"The successful beta tests and NIE evaluations have been the impetus to field Command Web and the Maneuver, 3D-Globe and Fires Widgets," said Lt. Col. Thomas Bentzel, Product Manager (PdM) for Tactical Mission Command (TMC) under PM MC.
The Maneuver Widget extends some of the Command Post of the Future (CPOF) capabilities to provide a view of the common operating picture (COP), allowing multiple warfighting functions to be displayed on a common 2-D map. The Maneuver Widget interfaces with CPOF, so users of both systems can exchange capabilities available to both, such as graphics, symbols and "stickies" shareable notes. CPOF is the primary common operational picture viewer used by the Army in all theaters, combining feeds from different mission command systems to provide a broad spectrum of information that commanders and Soldiers can use to collaborate.
"The great benefit to using the maneuver widget is that it provides sufficient CPOF functionality to those users who aren't provisioned with CPOF," said Bentzel.
The application that supports geospatial data visualization of all of the widgets is the 3-D Map Widget, which synchronizes with the Maneuver Widget's 2-D map. Users are already familiar with the Google-earth like interface and thus find it easy to manipulate, as it provides 360 degree views of the Earth, its terrain and structures.
The fires widget provides some of the functionality of Advanced Field Artillery Tactical Data System (AFATDS). While it does not replace the need for an authoritative call for fire, it does allow the user to view and create targets, watch targets executed, and collaborate or vote on targets amongst staff functions.
Additional widgets are being tested in 2013, including the Dynamic Air Collaboration Tool (DACT) Widget, which enables airspace coordination and is an extension of the Tactical Airspace Integration System (TAIS), and the Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear (CBRNE) Incident Reporting System (CIRS) Widget, which gives chemical Soldiers the ability to warn, report, correlate and analyze CBRN incidents. The sustainment or logistics widgets come as a suite to provide combat power, logistics reporting, in-transit visibility and asset visibility. The Intel widgets allow analysts to collaborate updated Priority Intelligence Requirements (PIRs) with the commander.
For the Army, the shift to making these applications available through the web simplifies the burden placed on Soldiers to train on new systems and reduces the time it takes them set up and tear down the command post, all while providing the robust capabilities required to for
commanders to safely execute the mission.
"By moving our capability development towards a web-based environment, we are matching where the commercial market has been, creating a very exciting future," said Vogelhut.