“Fog of war” has long frustrated even the most brilliant of military tacticians. Uncertainty on the field of battle brings dangerous risk to mission and the warfighter.
With the new fielding of the Joint Battle Command Platform, as part of ongoing modernization efforts, the U.S. Army looks to give commanders a more effective common operating picture on the modern battlefield and increase interoperability between joint forces.
2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, received and installed over 250 JBCP systems over the past several weeks, ending on March 4.
The JBCP is a branch non-specific system that allows the Army and sister services to see each other on the battlefield and communicate faster than with past systems, said Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Higgins, a signal support specialist with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd IBCT, 25th ID.
“Previously all we could see under the JCR was ourselves. So we could see friendly Army, but we couldn't see Air Force or Marine assets, which of course can create difficulties when conducting joint operations.” Higgins said. “You lose that situational awareness about where they are on the battlefield. You lose some of that instantaneous understanding that is so beneficial to command and control.”
The system hardware is also a significant upgrade on similar systems like the Blue Force Tracker, said Army civilian Adam Anderson, field execution lead with Project Manager Mission Command.
“Basically, the system runs a whole lot faster, there's better map imagery, and the messaging from one platform to another is extremely fast,” Anderson said. “It gives the commander on the battlefield a better real time picture of what's going on so they can better plan their fight.”
The JBCP system also enables commanders to use up-to-date joint satellite imagery for mapping routes and obstacles, providing a more clear and accurate depiction of the battlefield.
“JBCP being a joint system means we can pull imagery from all military satellites, so now my visual of the ground is more accurate,” Higgins said. “And that's important because what you're going to discover is that on that tiny tank trail that goes through the woods, you're not going to see the downed tree or obstacle on an old map, if you even see that tank trail at all. On a more realistic view of the earth, you're going to see those kind of things.”
The new system has also received some significant upgrades to its user interface. Users can now add icons and obstacles directly on the touch screen display instead of typing in grid coordinates, and routes can now be drawn from freehand by the user instead of plotted by the software.
“Now, the soldiers that are privates and specialists grew up on video games, so they're a bit more computer savvy than my generation coming in the Army,” Higgins said. “This new interface is geared more toward the gaming generation so it's very easy to use.”
The system also allows for direct communication with the Command Post of the Future system, saving time and man hours on rebuilding products between systems. Soldiers in the field even have a software suite available to build operations orders or spreadsheet trackers while on mission.
Army Futures Command has stated that the modernization of Army network technologies is necessary to command and control forces distributed across vast terrain, converge effects from multiple domains, and maintain a common situational understanding. With the fielding of the JBCP, the Army has taken a significant step in giving commanders the newest tools they need to be successful on the modern battlefield.