FORT STEWART, Ga. (Feb. 27, 2015) -- The Army's next-generation mounted situational awareness capability is now officially in the hands of Soldiers.
Featuring satellite-linked situational awareness data and easy to use battlefield chat rooms, the Joint-Battle Command Platform, or JBC-P, system is taking part in a strenuous training exercise with Soldiers of the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, or 4IBCT, 3ID, which is the first unit equipped, or FUE, with this technology.
Soldiers participating in the Vanguard Focus event are using JBC-P to quickly establish situational awareness, as they endure 20 days of intense exercises that require them to conduct expeditionary and forced entry operations against a robust enemy.
"They had to come in, establish, and fight upon arrival," said Col. Thomas Gukeisen, brigade commander for 4IBCT, 3ID. "We wanted to challenge the mission command capabilities over long distances and JBC-P endured. No matter what the temperature, rain, the distance - that was one system that endured."
Gukeisen said the new technology supported the mission by providing reliable situational awareness and collaborative chat capabilities from the start of the fight, before his Soldiers had a chance to build up more robust command posts and other communications systems.
"We can quickly get on chat, so everyone can collaboratively see what we are doing, quickly gain situational awareness, and we can adjust decisions," he said. "I see this as a significant revolution in how we conduct our network-based operations."
JBC-P, part of the Army's Project Manager Mission Command, or PM MC, portfolio, efficiently upgrades Force XXI Battle Command Brigade and Below/Blue Force Tracking, or FBCB2/BCT, the widely fielded friendly force tracking system used in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom that is integrated on more than 130,000 platforms, fielded to every brigade combat team in the Army and resides in each tactical operations center.
With JBC-P, users now experience a highly intuitive Google-Earth like interface that allows units to zoom in to view precise locations, use icons to pinpoint improvised explosive devices on a map, and use instant messaging to call for medics.
"What we have now is more of a map function; we have multiple map layers so we can see the entire battlefield and all the icons on all the subordinate units," said Sgt. James Minnear, a battle systems operator for the 4IBCT, 3ID. "With situation and spot reports built into the software, Soldiers put in their small pieces of information so it's quicker to use and you can get to the fight quicker."
Minnear and his brethren in the 4IBCT are undergoing realistic training in harsh environments as part of the Vanguard Focus exercise, which is improving unit readiness while supporting Army network modernization efforts.
"Readiness and modernization are central to our ability to achieve the Army's operational 'win in a complex world' concept," said Brig. Gen. James R. Blackburn Jr., deputy commanding general - Maneuver, 3ID. "What you find here is a unit that is readying themselves using some of the most modern equipment we provide in the Army."
The modernization of JBC-P from FBCB2/BFT was assisted by recently deployed Soldiers who participated in user juries or the Network Integration Evaluation, or NIE, events held on Fort Bliss, Texas, and White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico. Their primary request was to make JBC-P more user friendly, specifically when messaging within and between units, which is why one of the most popular upgrades is JBC-P's chat function.
Soldiers of the 4 IBCT/3ID were also fielded next generation tactical computers installed in several of their vehicles, called the Mounted Family of Computer Systems, also known as MFoCS. MFoCS is a vehicle-mounted workstation that allows multiple mission command functions to be collapsed onto one screen. JBC-P operates on both the existing FBCB2 hardware and on MFoCS.
"MFoCS has improved functionality because the GPS has been built into larger transceiver on the front of the truck," Minnear said. "You have less hardware so it's easier to manipulate inside the vehicle."
Looking to the future, JBC-P will also serve as the foundation for the Mounted Computing Environment, or MCE, which will deliver Android-based warfighting apps as part of the Army's new Common Operating Environment, or COE.
"As Soldiers look at new capabilities, and ask for apps, it is critical for us to evolve the network continuously to meet these young Soldiers' expectations," said Maj. Gen. Daniel P. Hughes, Army program executive officer for Command, Control and Communications-Tactical. "As we move out of a static environment like we've seen in Iraq and Afghanistan to more mobile and expeditionary operations, these Soldiers' input into our future warfighting capabilities is critical."
Following Vanguard Focus, the unit will conduct its joint readiness training center rotation this summer on Fort Polk, Louisiana, and the JBC-P product team will be with them every step of the way to continue to obtain feedback.
JBC-P's simplified approach to communications at brigade and below is just one component of the Army's ongoing network modernization efforts.
"We live in a connected world, and it is becoming more and more connected every day," said Col. Mark Elliott, director of the Army's G-3/5/7 LandWarNet-Mission Command Directorate. "The Army is demanding that same kind of connectivity, and JBC-P is one of those technologies that allows us to connect and communicate to execute Mission Command."