Army Spearheads digital forces

The Army is equipping its first digitized division, the 4th Infantry

Division in Fort Hood, Texas, with critical battlefield awareness software

and Spearhead, a commercial tank combat computer game.

The software, Force XXI Battle Command Brigade and Below (FBCB2), is

the heart of the Army's effort to digitize its forces and provide soldiers

with vital battlefield information, especially their own location and the

location of friendly and enemy forces.

It is designed for use on the battlefield and displays data with icons on a

computerized map of the battlefield. Spearhead has 3-D graphics that enable

players to act as platoon leaders with the Army's 3rd Armored Division.

That division, formerly known as the Spearhead Division, no longer exists.

The combination of the two turns the 2-D FBCB2 display into a 3-D representation

of the battlefield situation, so enemy tanks look like enemy tanks rather

than red icons.

The Army's Simulation, Training and Instrumentation Command (Stricom)

has combined the two software packages so that soldiers can train on the

FBCB2 software before using it in the field and to keep their skills sharp

in the future. The service expects to complete fielding the combined package

to Fort Hood within 60 days and will equip the remaining force as FBCB2

continues to be fielded, according to a Stricom spokesman.

"The beauty of this is that instead of having to pick up and go through

[an FBCB2] manual page by page, you can actually create in a very low-cost

environment a scenario that will stress your digital skills, your ability

to create and send the appropriate digital messages based on this unfolding

scenario," the Stricom representative said. "This could be used for any

type of vehicle. The combinations really are pretty much infinite."

Army trainers teaching troops to use the FBCB2 software can use the

combined software package to change terrain, threat, time of day, or atmospheric

conditions. In addition, individual soldiers, squads or platoons can train

interactively from remote locations.

"It provides an anytime, anywhere training capability at extremely low

cost. This entire suite is under $10,000," the Stricom source said, adding

that the Spearhead game is available for less than $40.

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