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 at

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

with vital battlefield information, especially 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 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

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

at Fort Hood within 60 days and eventually will equip the remaining force

with FBCB2, 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 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 spokesman said.

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

package to change terrain, threat, time of day or atmospheric conditions.

In addition, individual soldiers, squads or platoons can train interactively

from remote locations.

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