Blue Force Tracking system adds logistics capability to increase situational awareness picture
April 15, 2013
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ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (April 15, 2013) -- For the first time on the battlefield, maneuver and logistics forces will share situational awareness and messaging, forming a complete and seamless operational picture.
The new capability, delivered by integrating the vehicle-based Movement Tracking System, or MTS, into the Army's upgraded friendly force tracking system Joint Capabilities Release, known as JCR, provides two-way situational awareness and message exchange between convoys and the maneuver formations they are delivering goods to.
Known as JCR Logistics, the new tool is not only improving technology for Soldiers, but in today's fiscally constrained climate is also creating efficiencies as it streamlines services.
"This does a number of things on the battlefield, but increased situational awareness is key," said Lt. Col. Bryan "BJ" Stephens, product manager Blue Force Tracking for the Army's Program Manager Joint Battle Command-Platform, or PM JBC-P. "Before, MTS was a standalone network and separate software baseline. Now, logistics get the same mapping capability, the same operational picture and they pick up the same message sets as maneuver forces. On top of that, we've consolidated two field support processes, two training elements and two fielding teams into one operation."
Logistics vehicles including freight haulers, Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Trucks, or HEMTTs, and fuel tankers that transport goods on the battlefield to feed, fuel and arm maneuver formations will now be equipped with JCR Logistics.
JCR Logistics builds on the technology Soldiers have relied on for situational awareness in Iraq and Afghanistan, known as Force XXI Battle Command Brigade and Below/Blue Force Tracking, FBCB2/BFT. That system is integrated on more than 120,000 platforms and authorized or fielded to every brigade combat team in the Army.
Primarily used in military vehicles, FBCB2's display screen shows blue and red icons over a geospatial imagery map. It paints a complete picture of the battlefield - including friendly and enemy forces, as well as terrain hazards -- enabling units to synchronize operations and avoid friendly fire incidents. The JCR upgrade, the first of two planned upgrades, brings the implementation of a faster satellite network and Type 1 secure data encryption, as well as the improved capabilities to logistics platforms.
The MTS system, designed to track logistics formations, included a Radio Frequency Identification, or RFID, capability to provide in-transit, near-real time visibility of critical cargo. By integrating MTS into JCR Logistics, users can communicate with and track maneuver and logistics platforms together, enabling the safe and timely completion of distribution missions in support of full spectrum operations.
"This is a game-changer," said Thane C. St. Clair, chief of Product/Capabilities Distribution for PM JBC-P. "Before, MTS was a stand-alone system, using a separate network and different protocols that prevented the sharing of information. Now, JCR-equipped systems can communicate with and track maneuver and logistics platforms together for seamless situational awareness."
With JCR Logistics, Soldiers have improved visualization across the network, with the ability to locate and track not only friendly forces and the enemy, but also combat support and combat service support vehicles delivering necessary supplies.
JCR installation into logistics supporting platforms in Afghanistan was completed in March.
In 2006, the Department of the Army directed the use of the FBCB2 product line software to replace the MTS software. Then in 2010, the Army directed the transfer of MTS from the Program Executive Office for Enterprise Information Systems to PM JBC-P under the Program Executive Office for Command, Control and Communications-Tactical, known as PEO C3T, effective October 2, 2011.
These two directives aimed to eliminate the need for separate program management, contracts, satellite channels and operation elements which effectively duplicated costs. The directives greatly improved capabilities and interoperability provided to both MTS and FBCB2/BFT users.
The transition of the MTS program office into PM JBC-P also created new efficiencies in product support, fielding operations, sustainment and more. In fiscal year 2012, the transition showed an immediate cost avoidance of almost $20 million and is expected to total more than $30 million per year in cost avoidance through at least fiscal year 2016.
PM JBC-P also eliminated one fully-manned, 24 hours a day, seven days a week network operation center and its unmanned backup. The functions were consolidated into the two existing JBC-P operational sites that run 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
"For the Soldier, it's a single baseline for training, fielding and sustaining the unit," said Stephens. "So now, instead of two program managers initiating upgrades, as well as fielding and training on two separate systems, it's a consolidated, efficient effort that results in better service and an upgraded capability."
JCR is the first step of a two-prong upgrade of FBCB2/BFT. In testing is JBC-P, which offers enhanced blue force tracking capabilities through a new user interface and intuitive features like touch-to-zoom maps and drag-and-drop icons. The upgrade brings enhanced data encryption, improved maps, better collaboration tools and more precise location information for vehicles, aircraft and dismounted Soldiers.