FORT SILL, Okla. -- Artillery troops here are testing updates to the Advanced Field Artillery Tactical Data System (AFATDS), while providing feedback on what works and what does not on the sophisticated fire support system.

AFATDS provides fully automated support for planning, coordinating, controlling and executing fires and effects such as mortars, field artillery cannons, rockets and missiles, close air support, attack aviation and naval surface fire-support systems.

"While interoperating with Marine, Navy and Air Force command and control systems, as well as NATO artillery systems," explained Maj. Rachel Mullholland, AFATDS test officer, "AFATDS pairs targets to other weapons to deliver best use of fire-support assets and execution of fire missions."

Mullholland said other artillery weapon systems such as Paladins, Triple-7 towed cannons, and Multiple Launch Rocket Systems are able to communicate with AFATDs, receiving and reacting in dry fire modes to missions directed via AFATDS.

"The updates use situational awareness, intelligence and targeting data in near real-time to make targeting decisions that align with Mission Command guidance," she said.

During testing, various other systems used by the Marine Corps, Air Force, and Navy will interact with AFATDS to provide it with a realistic mission load to process.

"The primary driver for this software intensive exercise will be the Extensible Command, Control, Communications, and Computers Integrated (C4I) Instrumentation Suite known as ExCIS," said Mr. Jeff Long, instrumentation specialist at FSTD.

"ExCIS will run a scenario to provide a realistic workload on the AFATDS and supporting systems, and then collect all digital data between the systems and reduce the data into reports for the Army Evaluation Center to analyze."

"Testing gives a program manager the answers they need to make this advanced software work the way Soldiers expect it to on the battlefield," Mullholland said.

"We have the world's finest artillery Soldiers and they should have equipment that quickly processes the enemy's activities and provides solutions so Soldiers can win wars."

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About the U.S. Army Operational Test Command:

Operational testing began Oct. 1, 1969, and as the Army's only independent operational tester, OTC is celebrating "50 Years of Operational Testing." The unit taps the "Total Army" (Active, National Guard, and Reserve) when testing Army, joint, and multi-service warfighting systems in realistic operational environments, using typical Soldiers to determine whether the systems are effective, suitable, and survivable. OTC is required by public law to test major systems before they are fielded to its ultimate customer -- the American Soldier.

The Fire Support Test Directorate -- the longest standing test directorate of OTC -- prides itself in being a part of the Army's operational testers since 1902. FSTD conducts tests of current and future artillery systems in realistic environments, using representative Soldiers and/or Marines to provide Program Managers the necessary information to make informed decisions on those programs.