ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (Feb. 15, 2018) -- Dismounted Field Artillery Soldiers will soon begin receiving significantly enhanced fire-support capabilities that are lighter, faster and more lethal.
The Army approved fielding the Precision Fires-Dismounted system via a full deployment decision in January. The 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division at Fort Carson, Colorado, will be the first unit equipped in March 2018.
The PF-D holds a myriad of improvements compared with its predecessor, said Lt. Col. Chris Anderson, product manager for Fire Support Command and Control, assigned to Project Manager Mission Command.
"Forward observers will now be able to view live-streaming full-motion video from unmanned aerial vehicles through their handheld devices," Anderson said. "It's a significant improvement for situational awareness and targeting capability for dismounted Soldiers. They'll get digital maps and the ability to send precision target coordinates."
The new system's benefits also include a revamped user interface, technological enhancements, reduced training required for Soldiers, and cost savings associated with sustainment and maintenance.
PF-D has transitioned to a software application hosted on the Nett Warrior End User Device, an Android-enabled smartphone managed by Project Manager Soldier Warrior. Nett Warrior is smaller, lighter and less expensive than the previous system used by Field Artillery Soldiers. In addition, PF-D's software has been developed as hardware agnostic, meaning PM Mission Command is not locked into one platform solution.
"As a product office, we're transitioning to software-only programs by using common Army hardware," Anderson said. "While it's a challenge to build software that's flexible enough to work on different hardware platforms, it's the right way to go for the Army."
Moving toward common hardware will save a significant amount of money in sustainment because the Army will not have to maintain stovepiped, proprietary hardware systems, Anderson said. Also, it will be easier for units to sustain fewer hardware platforms, and the training burden will lessen because Soldiers will not have to learn new hardware for individual software packages.
The 1st BCT, 82nd Airborne Division conducted the PF-D's first operational test in January 2017 at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. However, the brigade deployed to the Middle East before PF-D fielding could take place. A year of additional PF-D software development and updates, interoperability certifications, and testing continued through 2017.
Approximately 2,700 PF-D systems will be deployed across the Army by September 2020.
For additional time and cost savings, PM Mission Command has embedded a PF-D new equipment training application within the software, similar to those found on a commercial smartphone. Soldiers will be able to learn on their own how to operate the capability, just as they are used to doing with their personal electronic devices.
Classroom training led by an instructor has been reduced from 40 hours to 24 for the 1st BCT, 101st Airborne. In 2019, training hours are anticipated to decrease again to 16 or 12.
"The PF-D will modernize mission command for our Field Artillery forward observers," Anderson said. "It's enabling speed, precision and simplicity on the battlefield."
The U.S. Army Program Executive Office Command, Control and Communications-Tactical develops, acquires, fields and supports the Army's mission command network to ensure force readiness. This critical Army modernization priority delivers tactical communications so commanders and Soldiers can stay connected and informed at all times, even in the most austere and hostile environments. PEO C3T is delivering the network to regions around the globe, enabling high-speed, high-capacity voice, data and video communications to a user base that includes the Army's joint, coalition and other mission partners.