ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (May 31, 2018) -- The Army is using developmental operations to explore potential improvements to the service's critical friendly force tracking system Joint Battle Command-Platform, known as JBC-P.

Responding to units' requests to take JBC-P features outside their mounted platforms, Army researchers are prototyping options for experimentation. The project, known as Expeditionary JBC-P, or X JBC-P, aims to inform future decisions to deliver the vehicle-based Blue Force Tracking system's capabilities to dismounted Soldiers.

JBC-P equips Soldiers with a satellite network, secure data encryption, a common map, intuitive interface, chat and logistics information. JBC-P and its associated Mounted Family of Computer Systems are part of a large-scale Army effort to standardize all Active, Reserve and National Guard units with the latest software and hardware by 2022.

To meet user needs, the dismounted kit must be light and compact enough to carry in a rucksack for extended missions as well as easy to use and set up. Reducing the size, weight and power, commonly known as SWaP, is a critical objective, said Brendan Schafer, a computer scientist with the Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center -- the Army science and technology organization spearheading the effort, with resourcing from Project Manager Mission Command.

UNITS SEARCHING FOR NEW CAPABILITIES

The team is incorporating components that will reduce the overall SWaP requirements while maintaining core tenants of the system currently used across the Army and Marine Corps in tens of thousands of vehicles.

Gaining unit feedback is a key part of the R&D work as incremental modifications are made, said Ifeanyi Igwulu, future initiatives project officer for Product Manager JBC-P. The team has provided X JBC-P iterations over the past year to the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division; 173rd Airborne Brigade; and 3rd BCT, 101st Airborne Division. The system was also recently evaluated during the month-long Army Expeditionary Warrior Experiment at Fort Benning, Georgia.

"Units are going places where they can't take a vehicle with the current mounted JBC-P," Igwulu said. "They want a mobile solution for Airborne operations, long-range reconnaissance patrol or going through mountainous or jungle terrain."

As Soldiers connect to the BFT network, X JBC-P would achieve units' needs for beyond line-of-sight mission command for company and above echelons. They could connect with a vehicle-based JBC-P system and then to command posts.

R&D FOR LIGHTER SOLDIER KIT

The goal is to develop a kit that is lighter and smaller, has a longer battery life, and is safe for Soldiers to use while dismounted. Using the components taken from the currently fielded mounted JBC-P system is too cumbersome and heavy for a Soldier to carry for long distances in a rucksack.

Thus far, the R&D team is making progress on reducing SWaP of each component of X JBC-P prototypes through both government-developed and commercial technologies. One version under assessment consists of a commercial-off-the-shelf tablet loaded with the JBC-P software that is coupled with an Iridium network device the size and weight of a smartphone.

The partnership between CERDEC and PM Mission Command is yielding significant results for DevOps assessments, said J. Tyler Barton, science and technology demonstration-objective manager for expeditionary mission command with CERDEC's Command, Power and Integration Directorate.

"Working on this project with PM Mission Command and tactical units has enabled CERDEC to rapidly provide operational capability to the Warfighter, successively providing improvements over a four-month sprint," Barton said. "It's been incredibly rewarding to see our concepts, analysis, designs and adaptations go so quickly from the whiteboard into the hands of Soldiers."

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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.