WHITE SANDS MISSILE RANGE, N.M., May 2, 2011 -- Soldiers preparing for this summer's Network Integration Evaluation at White Sands Missile Range are receiving training on the new Force XXI Battle Command Brigade and Below Joint Capabilities Release, or FBCB2.

The newest version of FBCB2 has a myriad of significant benefits over the one that the Army has been using, according to project managers and Soldiers of the Army Evaluation Task Force attending the training.

"It's much better than the previous version," said Staff Sgt. Tony B. Sosa, a military intelligence system maintainer integrator with A Company, Special Troops Battalion, 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division. "It is not only easier to navigate, but it is a lot faster. I think it will be an excellent tool to help save lives."

Throughout April, members of the 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 1st AD underwent FBCB2 JCR training in the form of two-day classes. The training was held by Project Manager FBCB2, to allow 2-1 AD Soldiers to effectively operate the new system when they field-test the equipment at White Sands this summer.

The training focused on the system's changes. It was designed for Soldiers who have previously used FBCB2 in theater and those Soldiers who have taken a course on its prior iterations.

"The FBCB2 is a satellite-based communication system," said William P. McLaughlin, a representative for Engineering Solutions and Products Incorporated, or ESP Inc., which is supporting the JCR training. "It is a computer that is hooked up to a global positioning system device. Fr us it is the DAGR (Defense Advanced Global Positioning System Receiver), and the DAGR provides us with our location. The satellite communications broadcasts our location to other friendly units that are using Blue Force Tracker."

The system also allows operators to send messages back and forth to one another. This includes basic emails or even pre-formatted messages, like a bridge report, to identify where a bridge, obstacle or enemy is located.

"The biggest thing that (The Army has) worked on has been the speed of the system," said McLaughlin. "We've introduced new hardware and new satellite infrastructure to actually make it a lot quicker."

That infrastructure is known as Blue Force Tracking 2, or BFT 2, a satellite communications network that can handle significantly more data than the existing BFT system.

"The new network increases the size of the pipe, which has a direct correlation to the system's ability to update and refresh information," said Lt. Col. Bryan Stephens, product manager for BFT. "In the end, this capacity increase allows for more frequent and larger message traffic and a change in many cases of refresh rates from minutes to seconds."

Other improvements include the capability to operate on a secret line, thereby improving security, mission effectiveness and reducing risk to Soldiers. It also will enhance communication between the Army and the Marine Corps because JCR will be fielded by both services, said Lt. Col. Mark Daniels, product manager for Joint Battle Command-Platform, or JBC-P, the future version of FBCB2 that will replace JCR beginning in fiscal year 2013.

"With these digital capabilities, you're able to see where all the friendly forces are, regardless of service or unit, and you're able to communicate with all of them via free text and graphics," said Maj. Shane Robb, assistant product manager for JBC-P.

A further upgrade is the clarity with which the battlefield can be seen.

"With the legacy software, which is what we normally call the previous generation of the software, we were able to use commercial satellite imagery that had a one-meter resolution," McLaughlin said. "Now we are able to go to sub-meter resolution which provides a much better picture. In other words we went from one-meter resolution maps to now, where we can use newer types of maps that may be as small as six-inch resolution."

JCR is one of several programs of record undergoing Limited User Tests this summer as part of the six-week Network Integration Evaluation at White Sands Missile Range.