FORT HOOD -- Situational awareness on the battlefield is a fundamental key to warfighting success. But, the fog of war often clouds that awareness.

CECOM's Central Technical Support Facility (CTSF) is serving as the critical link in the development of a NATO software system that can cut through the "fog of war" on battlefields in Afghanistan and in Coalition actions around the globe by improving visibility of Allied (vehicle or unit) locations.

The CTSF's Coalition Interoperability Assurance and Validation team recently completed a joint integration and analysis event with NATO and several NATO member nations on an element of the Afghan Mission Network Ground Track Service. That element, known as the IFTS, short for the International Security Assistance Force Tracking System, is designed to support situational awareness and to reduce fratricide.

IFTS disseminates American ground tracks to Coalition command and control as well as vehicle tracking systems. It also provides Coalition ground platform position reports to American elements.

"We were working with multiple sites, including the NATO Communications and Information Agency at The Hague, the United Kingdom Battle Lab, the German Battle Lab, and the U.S. Joint Interoperability Test Command at Indian Head, Md.," said Robert Boerjan, chief of the CTSF team responsible for the software system.

IFTS, according to Boerjan, represents one of seven assurance and validation events conducted for and with NATO since mid-March.

Currently, CTSF is supporting the evaluation of NATO's Land Command and Control Information Services, a part of NATO's new, Multilateral Interoperability Programme which is intended to bridge an existing communication gap in the dissemination of battlespace objects from regional commands to the International Security Assistance Force Joint Command.

CTSF became involved in the system because of its history of working interoperability issues in networks of tactical software systems, such as the continuing development of the Coalition Afghan Mission Network.
"Our effort was aimed at alleviating operational problems and issues that were creating (battlefield) communication gaps between nations," Boerjan said. Almost from the start of work on the Afghan Mission Network, CTSF's lab began using chat and Voice Over Internet Protocol to work on a real-time basis with Coalition and NATO member counties including Canada, Sweden, The Netherlands, Germany, Norway, Italy, France, and the United Kingdom.
This Coalition interoperability assurance and validation teaming grew out of those early efforts.

"CECOM's CTSF is now the Army's site for coalition interoperability assurance and validation and operates under the oversight of the Department of the Army's CIO (Chief Information Officer)/G-6," Boerjan said.

Currently the CTSF team works with NATO and Coalition elements to create and maintain interoperability in the Afghan Mission Network; to recommend tactics, techniques and procedures; and to assess software versions and new capabilities as they impact coalition mission threads. CECOM's unique contribution to this effort, according to Boerjan, lies in the fact that it provides access to representative U.S. Army tactical software systems to include the Joint Capability Release Network Operations Center.

"And," he added, "we can represent the U.S. Army's regional command tactical operation centers."